Project Description

Tackling off-flavors in plant based protein foods and beverages using Magnasweet® masking agents

The interest in plant based protein foods and beverages is exploding. The sales of plant based food and beverage products grew 8.1% for a 52 week period ending August 12, 2017, surpassing $3.1 billion in sales for the US market1. Plant based foods are going increasingly mainstream. According to Nielsen, 39% of Americans are trying to incorporate more plant-based foods in their diets2.

Figure 1. The five year trend on Google for “plant based protein”, United States searches only. 100 represents the peak search activity and all other levels are relative to peak search activity.

Despite the strong consumer interest in plant proteins, formulators have challenges in that most of the plant proteins have intrinsic flavor and texture problems. Pea protein, for example, has been described as “earthy,” “grassy,” “beany” and “hay-like” due to residual volatile compounds3. Naturally occurring saponins in pea flours and protein products cause bitterness4, with some metallic and astringent notes also described. These characteristics are a barrier to greater consumer acceptance of products made with pea protein. An effective tool to overcome, or mask these off-flavors is the use of Magnasweet® when formulating.

Magnasweet® for managing off-flavors in plant protein foods and beverages

Magnasweet® is a unique ingredient that assists formulators of plant based protein foods to effectively mask the off-flavors characteristic of these proteins, while being label friendly. Magnasweet® has a characteristic linger and sweetness that has been proven effective in masking bitter, metallic, grassy, and beany off-flavors. It works exceptionally well in masking the residual off-flavors of plant proteins, stevia sweeteners, and vitamins. Magnasweet® is derived from natural licorice root, and can be labeled as “natural flavor” in the United States.

1Byrd, Emily. 2017. New Data: Sales Climbing for Plant-Based Foods. The Good Food Institute. September 17, 2017.
2Neilsen. 2017. Plant-based proteins are gaining dollar share among North Americans. The Nielsen Company (US). September 22, 2017.
3Roland, Wibke, S, Laurice Pouvreu, Julianne Curran, Fred van de Velde, and Peter M.T. de Kok. 2017. Flavor Aspects of Pulse
Ingredients. Cereal Chemistry 94(1):58-65.
4Heng, L. 2005. Aspects of Pea and Its Protein Preparations in Relation to Novel Protein Foods. PhD thesis. Wagingen
University; Wageningen, the Netherlands.

To give formulators more tools in tackling off-flavors of plant based protein shakes, the Mafco Magnasweet® application scientists developed the following formulation for a powdered pea protein shake:

Usage directions: 50 g of powder into 500 ml of water (a typical 16.9 fluid oz bottle of spring water).

Proposed ingredient statement: pea protein, alkalized cocoa powder, stevia extract, natural flavors, guar gum, ascorbic acid,
vitamin E acetate, vitamin A palmitate, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, vitamin D3, pyridoxine, riboflavin, vitamin K1,
thiamin mononitrate, vitamin B12, D-biotin. Note: Magnasweet® MM100 is listed as “natural flavor” in the United States and
Canada in ingredient statements.
Protein content: 40 g of protein when mixed with 500 ml of water.

Sensory Analysis of Plant Based Protein Shakes

The plant protein shakes described above were evaluated for preference and descriptive sensory analysis at the Kansas State University Sensory Analysis Center. The shake with Magnasweet® was preferred 65% to 35% with 109 participants and descriptive analysis showed sizable reductions in off- flavors typically attributed to plant proteins.

Figure 2. The plant protein shakes were subjected to descriptive sensory paneling at the Kansas State Sensory Analysis Center. The plant protein shake with Magnasweet® had a significant reduction in “green peapod” and “cardboard” notes, and a slight reduction in “overall grain”, based upon consensus scores in the trained panel.

For more information, samples, or applications support, please contact the Magnasweet® experts:
Syd Heese, Director of Magnasweet Sales at or 856-968-4011
Mark Hines, Global R&D Director, Magnasweet at or 856-968-4024

Or visit the Magnasweet® website at

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