Vegetable-based ingredients can come with their own set of flavor challenges, however. The Synergy Flavors application team used pea protein and starch to compensate for the egg removal in a vegan muffin. Oat milk was added for some color that would have been provided by milk or milk powder and egg in a conventional recipe. Descriptive sensory analysis conducted on the plant-based muffin revealed significant beany and starchy notes with a distinct lack of flavor delivery.

“Understanding the inherent flavor contributed by plant-based ingredients allowed our application teams to develop a solution that masks the undesirable flavor notes while building a rich creamy profile characteristic of dairy ingredients found in bakery products,” said Natalie Sheil, bakery category manager at Synergy Flavors.

Cheese flavors are a popular savory dairy flavor that bakers may want to replicate in vegan products. Ralf Tschenscher, baking business development manager at Lesaffre, suggested using vegan yeast extract to provide umami to vegan cheese flavors that may be used in breads, crackers and artisan rolls.

The Edlong Corp.’s focus rests on leveraging the taste and functionality of dairy. For vegan applications, where conventional dairy isn’t acceptable, that means the company creates authentic flavor profiles along with improving the overall mouthfeel of a finished product when necessary.

“In the case of sweet baked products, where you may be replacing dairy fat with vegetable fat, we would add a butter flavor to replicate the exact type of butter you want to replace, sweet butter, cultured butter or even brand-name butters,” said Anne Marie Butler, global director — strategic territories, Edlong. “Most of our butter flavors also do a great job improving the waxy mouthfeel that can often come from vegetable fats.”

She added that formulators often focus on creating a vegan product to match the non-vegan equivalent. Not every consumer wants this imitation, according to research from Edlong.

“We had a customer who was developing a croissant for the plant-based market,” Ms. Butler said. “Typically, a croissant has a strong butter taste, but in this case, their consumer focus group felt that this plant-based version should not be strong in butter taste but instead wanted to mask the vegetable fat taste, improve the mouthfeel and decrease the waxy vegetable aftertaste without giving an intense butter profile.”

Vegan formulating may seem daunting, but all it takes is a methodical approach and testing, like all reformulating.

“By taking it step-by-step, formulators can solve for one problem, see how it affects the rest of the formulation, then solve for the next,” said Hanna Santoro, senior bakery scientist, ADM. “By being more methodical about the recipe, product developers can deliver great-tasting vegan cakes and sweet baked goods each time.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on vegan formulation, click here.