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Sensory enhancement of plant-based milk alternatives

Fermented ingredients as flavor boosters
Sensory enhancement of plant-based milk alternatives

The global market for plant-based dairy products has grown constantly over recent years. Products that are as close as possible to conventional dairy products sensorally are in demand. Fermentation-derived ingredients based on plant raw materials can help to meet consumers‘ expectations in terms of taste, texture and mouthfeel.

As more people eliminate dairy products from their diets, plant-based alternatives with similar flavor profiles and textures are becoming increasingly popular. They want to discover novel plant-based product categories with the reassurance of the same sensory experience that animal-based dairy products provide. Until now, it has been a challenge to create plant-based products that offer the complex taste demanded by today’s consumers. Increasing acceptance of plant-based variations within the different target groups is therefore key. This can be achieved by optimising the sensory profile of plant-based dairy recipes.

88% of buyers worldwide cite taste as the main reason for purchasing a product (source: Doehler Market Intelligence). This shows how vital sensory properties are in determining whether or not consumers choose plant-based dairy alternatives on a daily basis. Taste, texture and mouthfeel are decisive factors that influence purchase decisions.

Creamy mouthfeel

Ingredients manufacturer Doehler has developed customized solutions that enable food manufacturers to optimize the sensory quality of plant-based dairy products. Using fermentation processes, the ingredients specialist from Darmstadt extracts natural ingredients from raw materials such as oats or rice, which not only mask existing off-notes of the vegetable base, but also give the end product a creamy mouthfeel and a milk-like taste. Another important advantage of the product solutions is that they can be labeled as „fermented oats“ or „fermented rice extract,“ thus enabling a clean-label declaration.

Targeted taste control

Fermentation is a well-known process used, for example, to produce yogurt, beer and other products, and is therefore highly accepted by consumers. In addition to traditional processes, Doehler also uses targeted fermentation methods to achieve desired sensory properties in plant-based products. This technology is used to create new ingredients from selected plant-based raw materials such as oats and rice, which generate a complex and authentic flavor profile – allowing the typical freshness and creaminess of traditional dairy products to be recreated.

When it comes to product declaration, ingredients derived through fermentation processes can provide some benefits. The claim “fermented oat and/or rice extract” meets consumer demand for clean labelling. Fermentation is seen as the most natural way to create a rounded, harmonious profile. Ultimately, fermented ingredients can be considered a highly functional product solution for taste modulation and optimisation in various applications, such as plant-based drinks, yoghurt alternatives, desserts, ice cream, plant-based cheese and spreads etc.

From drinks to cheese substitutes

Considering the multitude of product applications and the complexity of product recipes, flexible solutions are vital in product development, especially for plant-based products. Fermented ingredients can be used to enhance all preferred sensory impressions, including taste, mouthfeel, acidity and top note.

Plant-based drinks are by far the largest segment on the plant-based market. The targeted use of ferments creates the sensory properties that consumers want, with optimised sensory profiles for greater consumer acceptance. In addition, fermented ingredients provide a balanced flavour profile and creamy mouthfeel reminiscent of conventional milk.

In the second largest category, plant-based yoghurt products, taste and mouthfeel can be improved significantly using fermented oat or rice extracts specially developed for those applications. These ingredients can also serve as natural, stable acidifiers for adjusting the pH value.

Interest in 100 % plant-based indulgence is also growing in the ice cream market. Nearly 8% of all ice cream products launched globally are already plant-based (source: Doehler Market Intelligence) – and that figure is growing all the time. When it comes to ice cream in particular, consumers value a delicious, creamy taste, and enjoyment is considered the top priority. Here, too, fermented ingredients ensure a perfect flavour profile, creamy mouthfeel and pleasant texture – for unique moments of indulgence.

Plant-based cheese sales are expanding steadily, with expected annual growth of 12% (source: Doehler Market Intelligence). The main challenges in plant-based cheese products are achieving an authentic taste impression and typification of different cheese profiles – from strong, mature taste varieties, to the mild tastes of hard and soft cheeses, and the creamy profiles expected of spreadable cream cheese alternatives.

Doehler GmbH, Darmstadt

Author: Agneta Hoffmann

Senior Market Segment Manager Food,


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