An olfactory stage for alternative seafood…


Estonian researchers aim to decode and recreate the complex aroma of salmon, with the aim of providing alternative seafood companies with a way to create more authentic products.

Dr Sirli Rosenvald from the Estonian Food and Fermentation Technology Center (TFTAK)

If successful, Dr. Rosenvlad and his team will create an ingredient that food producers can add to plant-based or cell-cultured fish.

Researchers aim to recreate the unique flavor of salmon by using plants to support the development of sustainable seafood alternatives – whether cell-based or plant-based.

The work, led by Dr Sirli Rosenvald from Estonia Food and Fermentation Technology Center (TFTAK)will take samples of salmon and unravel “molecule by molecule” the complex smell of the fish.

They will then identify which of these chemicals are associated with the distinctive aroma, before creating a series of scent profiles – working with a panel of sensory experts who will decide which most closely resembles the tantalizing smell of salmon hitting the pan. .

Since these molecules can be produced from natural fatty acids, the team will use this information to recreate the aroma using oils extracted from plants, algae and microbes.

The end result will be an ingredient that food producers can add to plant-based or farmed fish, making these sustainable options smell and taste more authentic. The results will also be made available to startups and established food companies – many of which are already using these fatty acids – providing information on how they can adapt their existing manufacturing processes to produce similar flavors.

Dr Sirli Rosenvald, head of protein research, sensomics and meat alternatives development at TFTAK, said in a press release: “We will be working on the hundreds of molecules that make up the flavor and hopefully break that down into 10 or 20 that are most crucial to the smell of salmon, which is closely tied to taste and the overall dining experience.

“Many alternative seafood products currently on the market need to be improved. If we want to create more sustainable seafood, we need to make products that taste and smell like the products people know.”

laboratory research
Researchers will take salmon samples and decipher the fish’s complex odor “molecule by molecule”

Many alternative seafood products cannot offer the same taste and texture as conventional seafood

European imports thrice more seafood than it produces. While global demand for seafood is expected increase by 5 percent in this decade, aquaculture is expected to keep pace in only 17 countries, with 800 million people risk of malnutrition if local catches continue to decline.

Plant-based and cultured seafood can help meet growing demand, but manufacturers often struggle to mimic the flavors of conventional seafood.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), an international NGO working to advance new ways to make meat, seafood and dairy products, called on researchers to find ways to overcome this challenge in its 2022 Competitive Grants Program.

Dr Rosenvalt was one of eight European scientists and 21 scientists from around the world to receive funding from the programme, which supports innovative open-access research to develop sustainable proteins.

With very little government funding dedicated to sustainable protein research and development, GFI set up the program with the support of philanthropic donors to help bridge the funding gap.

Seren Kell, Head of Science and Technology at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “Consumers around the world are looking for more sustainable options, but they don’t want to compromise on taste. This fascinating project will help deliver the familiar salmon flavor and aroma that people crave, without causing further damage to our fragile marine ecosystems.

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