Kikkoman Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, calls its new wheat gluten-derived flavor enhancer NFE-S. A company scientist in that country developed the product's process by employing Kikkoman's fermentation technology along with the microorganisms used to make its regular soy sauce. In doing so, a wheat gluten fermentation process was developed that results in a product extremely rich in naturally-occurring glutamic acid.
Rest assured, although the process is all-natural, the finished ingredient has a higher glutamic acid content than even traditional soy sauce.
A Bold New PotentiatorThe resulting product, manufactured in Japan by Kikkoman, is similar to the company's well-known soy sauce and has applications in any circumstances where soy sauce is used. However, NFE-S is particularly suitable for purposes where a savory flavor enhancement that is not soy sauce is desired. While typically a blander product, the wheat gluten-derived enhancer does not have the typical aroma and flavor of soy sauce but, according to Matt Hutchinson, manager of R&D, Kikkoman Marketing & Planning, Elgin, Ill., it still possesses all of the same flavor “potentiation” effects.
The product is available as a tan, off-white powder similar to many of the general hydrolized vegetable proteins (HVPs) on the market. It adds little color to the finished product. Further differentiating NFE-S from soy sauce, the ingredient is naturally lower in salt, although the level is still significant. Hutchinson says that the salt content of NFE-S is roughly 24% on a dry weight basis—as compared with around 32% salt content (on a dry weight basis) found in soy sauce.
Appealing to the NaturalsWhile the product does have the amino acid glutamate, it is naturally-occurring. No monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been added, and Hutchinson further notes there is no genetically modified content, which may prove one of the product's strongest selling points.
Joe Leslie, sales manager, Kikkoman International, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., says the greatest response has come from natural foods companies, who want a clean ingredient label that does not contain components such as HVPs, MSGs or certain other flavor enhancers. In addition, Leslie says, companies doing business internationally have expressed a great deal of interest, as the use of NFE-S would allow them to sell a standard production recipe for both domestic and international markets.
With a similar product experiencing strong success in Japan and in the E.U., Kikkoman believes the all-natural product may even be ahead of its time in the U.S., where it debuted at last year's IFT show. A number of companies and flavor houses have expressed interest. Additional applications for the ingredient includes processed meats and poultry, seafood, soups, dressings, marinades, dry mixes and seasoning blends, as well as 100%-natural products, which is where the flavoring may hold its strongest appeal.
Comparing the product with other flavor enhancers, Leslie says, NFE-S has a strong savory type of flavor and does not impart any type of an off note. Some have compared the wheat gluten flavor enhancer to yeast extracts, in that in solution it tends not to bubble or foam as much; however, it has no yeast-like flavor.