Recreating plant-based odor profiles for salmon to ‘turn the tide’ on damaging marine habitats

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November 22, 2022 — Researchers are developing the unique flavor of salmon using plants to support the development of sustainable seafood alternatives.

The work, led by Dr Rosenvald, head of protein research, sensomics and the development of meat alternatives at the Estonian Food and Fermentation Technology Center (TFTAK). The research aims to help reduce Europe’s dependence on imported seafood and meet growing demand without harming marine ecosystems.

Dr. Rosenvald’s team will take samples of the salmon and unravel the fish’s complex odor ‘molecule by molecule’.

The characteristic aroma of salmon
They will then identify which of these chemicals are associated with the distinctive aroma before creating a series of olfactory profiles – working with a panel of sensory experts who will decide which most closely resembles the tantalizing smell of salmon hitting the pan.

Since these molecules can be produced from natural fatty acids, the team will use this information to recreate the aroma using oils extracted from plants, algae and microbes.

The result will be an ingredient that food producers can add to plant-based or farm-raised fish, making these sustainable options smell and taste more authentic, according to Rosenvald.

The ingredient can be used by producers to add authentic smell and taste to cultured or plant-based fish.The results will also be made available to startups and established food companies – many of which are already using these fatty acids – providing information on how they can adapt their existing manufacturing processes to produce similar flavors.

“We’re going to work through the hundreds of molecules that make up the flavor and hopefully break them down into the 10 or 20 that are most crucial to the smell of the salmon,” says Rosenvald.

“Many alternative seafood products currently on the market need to be improved. To create more sustainable seafood, we need to make products that taste and smell like products people know.”

Global demand for seafood is growing
Wild Atlantic salmon stocks have fallen to lowest levels on record and are approaching crisis proportions, the Environment Agency’s (EA) latest stock assessment recently reported.

Europe imports three times more seafood than it produces and almost half of the EU’s marine habitats are now considered threatened or near threatened, mainly due to pollution, fishing and of aquaculture.

Global seafood demand is expected to increase by 5% this decade. Aquaculture is only expected to keep pace in 17 countries, with 800 million people at risk of malnutrition if local catches continue to fall.

In addition, fish populations are in much worse condition than expected, according to the Minderoo Foundation’s Global Fisheries Index, the most comprehensive independent assessment of global fish stocks to date. The report reveals that a tenth of the world’s fish stocks are now on the brink of collapse, reduced to just 10% of their original size.

Plant-based and cultured seafood can help meet growing demand, but manufacturers often struggle to mimic the flavors of conventional seafood. Recent examples in space include tomato-based tuna sushi and “no ocean” farmed oysters.

Overcoming Seafood Sourcing Challenges
The Good Food Institute (GFI), an international NGO working to advance new ways to make meat, seafood and dairy, has invited researchers to find ways to overcome this challenge in its grant program. 2022 competitions.

Rosenvalt was one of eight scientists in Europe and 21 worldwide to receive funding from the program, which supports innovative open-access research to develop sustainable proteins.

“Consumers around the world are looking for more sustainable options, but they don’t want to compromise on taste. This project will help deliver the familiar salmon flavor and aroma that people crave without causing further damage to our fragile marine ecosystems,” said Seren Kell, Head of Science and Technology at GFI Europe.

“Industrial fishing and aquaculture deplete species, pollute ecosystems and destroy important habitats. Plant-based and cultured seafood can help turn the tide, allowing us to meet growing demand without harming our oceans – but we urgently need companies and governments to invest in innovative research to make these products more attractive.

Edited by Elizabeth Green

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