Man eating a snack bar while working out

Flavor Masking for Plant-Based Protein Products

While high demand for plant-based protein products has created new opportunities for many food manufacturers, it has also brought with it some challenges—particularly regarding flavor. Learn how protein flavor masking can be used to ensure your plant-based protein products are delicious as well as nutritious!

Flavor Challenges of Plant Proteins 

As any product developer who works with plant proteins can tell you, plant proteins tend to taste a lot like, well, plants. Pea, soy, rice, chia, and hemp proteins are all popular plant-based proteins with inherent off-flavors that run the gamut from beany to green to bitter. This can be especially challenging when the goal is to replace a dairy protein (like whey) with a plant-based protein. 

It’s not uncommon to find flavors that worked well in dairy protein products are not effective in plant-based protein products. This is because dairy proteins deliver a more neutral taste. The slight milky taste of dairy proteins is pleasant, familiar, and pairs well with flavors like vanilla and chocolate. If a vanilla flavor was added to pea-based protein powder without first masking the pea protein, the finished product would likely have a vegetable taste. 

Spoon with peanuts

Flavor Masking Products 

If the usual flavors don’t seem to be working in a plant-based protein product, a masking step may be all that’s missing. This step relies on adding notes that can neutralize the base—for example, a touch of sweetness or salt to round out a bitter note, followed by the right masking flavor. For plant-based products, neutralizing the base before adding the characterizing flavor can make all the difference. 

Plant-based protein products that can benefit from protein flavor masking include: 

  • Plant-based dairy alternative products (e.g., beverages, yogurts, and frozen desserts) 
  • Sports nutrition products (e.g., protein bars, powders, and RTD beverages) 
  • Protein-fortified cereals and snacks (e.g., breakfast cereals, crackers, chips, and extruded snacks) 

Creative Flavoring 

Protein flavor masking is often the key to toning down the specific off-notes associated with plant proteins, allowing the characterizing flavor to shine through. However, when protein percent targets are high, some adjustments to the characterizing flavor can also help achieve a more balanced flavor in the finished product. 

Woman pouring protein powder into drink

For example, brown flavors can be particularly effective at covering off-notes from pea protein. So for a chocolate-flavored protein bar, adding a fudge or caramel note can create a more complex, robust flavor that minimizes protein off-notes. Or for a fruit-flavored product like a strawberry plant-based yogurt, unwanted green notes from the plant-based protein can be compensated for by using a strawberry flavor with more jammy or cooked notes. 

Collaborate with Glanbia for Delicious Plant-Based Products 

Here at Glanbia Nutritionals, flavor masking is one of our specialties. After understanding the parameters of your product such as protein type, target grams of protein, sweetener system, and preferred flavor, we can make a base for you that’s optimized for flavor. We can also do the masking and flavoring of a base you provide. 

Since off-notes can come not only from plant proteins but also from ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, and high-intensity sweeteners, we are careful to identify the source or combination of sources causing the off-flavors so we can use a targeted masker that ensures a comprehensive solution. In addition to flavors and flavor masking products, we offer a wide range of plant-based proteins, as well as custom premix options. 

Plant proteins are often difficult to flavor due to their strong inherent flavors. Our team is experienced in handling the challenges of masking and flavoring nutritional ingredients in bars, protein beverages, powdered drink mixes, and more. Glanbia Nutritionals MaskWellTM Masking Solutions are designed to mask vitamins, minerals, proteins, and plant-based ingredients. 

Get in touch to learn how we can make your plant-based products as delicious as they are nutritious!