Synergy has primarily focused on sweet flavors for the beverage, nutrition, confection, dairy and plant-based categories, making its acquisition of savory flavor specialist Innova a way to round out its offerings.
“This acquisition offers significant benefits to Synergy customers by providing them access to a proven range of flavors to meet the growing demand for natural flavorings and savory ingredients,” said Synergy President and CEO Rod Sowders in a statement. “In addition, these products complement Synergy’s current offerings for rapidly growing plant-based alternative food and beverages globally.”
Consumers are showing an increasing appetite for plant-based foods even during the pandemic, according to Nielsen data, prompting food manufactures to explore reformulations and new product launches.
Finding the right flavors for plant-based foods has posed serious challenges for many food manufacturers. Roughly 89% of plant-based food consumers eat meat, according to research from The NPD Group, making for a discerning audience. Both taste and texture must hit the mark in order for a product to make the cut.
About one-third of consumers who try plant-based meat do so out of curiosity, according to a survey by the International Food Information Council. While consumers may be drawn to the category partly over environmental and personal health concerns, taste and flavor determine if a consumer will try the product again. Adding to the complexity of the challenge is that some plants used as a basis for protein alternatives like peas have a strong taste, requiring food manufacturers to come up with flavor formulations that can mask it.
Synergy already offers yeast extracts derived from the fermentation of cheese whey, giving it a natural taste enhancement option for plant-based applications. Innova brings a line of custom vegetarian and vegan flavors that are designed to mimic the taste of meats such as beef, chicken, turkey and pork in meat substitutes and plant-based offers.
Innova’s customers would benefit from Synergy’s expertise in the sweet space. The company brings a portfolio of sweet flavors for confections and baked goods, as well as pure vanilla extracts and clean-label and organic flavorings.
A number of other flavor companies are positioning themselves to meet the needs of plant-based product manufacturers. Players like ADM hunt for the perfect ingredients by breaking down each component of a burger, for example. Aspects like meaty and fatty notes are taken into consideration, along with seasonings a consumer may add. Swiss flavor company Firmenich is even using artificial intelligence in partnership with Microsoft to create flavor combinations that mimic the lightly grilled taste of beef and more quickly identify flavors that meet consumers’ desire for clean label, organic, natural and non-GMO products.