Giving foods a boost of extra nutrition is known as fortification. This is not to be confused with enrichment, which refers to the addition of micronutrients depleted during processing. With both practices, bakers may encounter taste and stability challenges that need to be addressed early in the development process.

Fortification is increasingly fueled by efforts to improve the nutrition profile of a product or to have it complement a trending dietary lifestyle, such as gluten-free, keto-friendly and plant-based. The Food Marketing Institute, in collaboration with Hartman Group, fielded research in February through April 2020 for its annual US Grocery Shopper Trends. At the outset of 2020, a large majority of shoppers (82%) reported that they examine food and beverage packaging for specific properties they seek, similar findings to the prior year. Few shoppers in March or April indicated paying any more or less attention to labels than prior to the pandemic. The survey showed that 82% of shoppers look for at least one front-of-package claim, with online shoppers tending to examine package claims more carefully. They are also more likely to seek out products offering positive nutrition, such as the addition of vitamins or the delivery of fiber.

With consumers more in tune with food than ever before, bakers are starting to explore the toolbox of ingredients available to them to deliver nutrition, while also differentiating with flavor, texture and label call-outs. Often adding such ingredients leads to undesirable flavor development. This might be when fatty ingredients go rancid, minerals taste metallic or fiber is woodsy. That’s when masking flavors enter the formula.

“The use of masking flavors is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Carol McBride, senior director-sweet business unit, North America, Symrise. “A baker needs to look at their product, the brand and their end consumer to determine what is the best way to include them in each product formulation.”

As baked goods become more complex, with many delivering nutrients and compounds that do everything from wake you up to put you to sleep, formulators should familiarize themselves with the growing toolbox of masking flavors. These non-characterizing flavors are finding their way into doughs and batters with the sole purpose of modifying taste.

Falling under the umbrella of flavors recognized as modulators, these ingredients may or may not possess actual detectable flavor. Modulators are designed to control how characterizing flavors, as well as the basic tastes — bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami — and even sensations, such as cool and heat, are perceived during consumption.

These modulators may be used to complement characterizing notes, elevating them to their true potential. They may also enhance various tastes in a system, such as sweet, thereby allowing for a reduction of sugar. In fortified foods, modulators are typically added to subdue off-flavors from ingredients in the system,  allowing the characterizing flavor to shine. Their one and only goal is to deliver preferred taste.

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