What is off-note masking and how is yeast extract used in this?


As more of us turn to healthier food options, such as plant-based meals and low-sugar products, it can be tricky for manufacturers to maintain an enjoyable taste.

Off-note masking is an effective way to mask unwanted flavours and improve the overall taste of a product. But how exactly does off-note masking work and how do yeast extracts help?

What are off-notes and what causes them?

Off-notes are undesirable or unpleasant flavours, aromas, or tastes in food products. Plant-based and dairy-free products, for example, can often have bitter, earthy or beany off-notes, whilst sweeteners used in low-sugar products can create metallic or astringent off-notes. These undesirable flavours can negatively impact the consumer experience, making it difficult for them to enjoy the product and make repeat purchases.

There are a number of factors that can lead to the development of off-notes which include:

  • Varying amino acid profiles
  • The types of protein used
  • The addition of certain additives and preservatives
  • Protein extraction, processing and drying methods
  • Naturally occurring or induced chemical reactions

What is off-note masking and why is it important in the food processing industry?

In recent years, the demand for successful off-note masking solutions has increased. With plant-based and low-sugar food options increasing in popularity, manufacturers need to ensure that these products don’t compromise on taste.

To maximise customer satisfaction, an authentic taste and texture needs to be achieved, whilst also distracting the taste buds from unwanted flavours.

The process of off-note masking begins with identifying any off-flavours or undesirable notes during the development or quality control process. Food scientists and flavourists then select specific compounds or ingredients known as masking agents.

These masking agents are carefully integrated into the formulation to distract the taste buds and provide a well-rounded, palatable flavour profile.

How is yeast extract used in off-note masking?

Yeast extract, a versatile ingredient extracted from fresh yeast, is commonly used to mask off-notes and provide a more palatable taste. Due to its robust and complex flavour profile, including umami and savoury notes, yeast extract is an effective masking agent and can be used in a wide variety of food products.

Plant-based food

Yeast extract offers a number of benefits for the plant-based food industry. Not only is yeast extract low in fat and high in essential nutrients, it also helps manufacturers achieve authentic and satisfying flavour profiles.

Plant-based meat and dairy products can often cause unappealing earthy, beany, bitter and metallic tastes. The rich umami and savoury profile of yeast extract is ideal for masking off-motes and delivering a more authentic meaty or dairy flavour. Since it contains glutamic acid like meat and cheese, yeast extract in meat alternatives helps to imitate the rich, juicy and savoury taste of animal products.

Salt reduction

It’s no secret that too much salt isn’t good for our health, with links being made to increased blood pressure and greater risk of heart disease. For this reason, manufacturers must look to reduce the amount of salt within food whilst maintaining an appealing taste.

That’s where yeast extract can help. Incorporating yeast offers a complex, rich and savoury taste, even when salt is reduced by up to 50%. Low-sodium formulations can often lead to bitter off-notes, but yeast extracts can help mask those bitter notes, ensuring a more pleasant flavour experience.

Explore our salt reduction products, including OHLY® FLAV-R-MAX for healthier options whilst maintaining a great taste.

Sugar reduction

Reducing the sugar content in food is often achieved by using high-intensity sweeteners, such as Stevia sweeteners, in order to retain the desirable level of sweetness. However, these sweeteners can have unpleasant metallic and bitter off-notes which then need to be masked to maintain customer satisfaction.

Yeast extract offers the ideal solution. The unique composition of nucleotides, peptides and amino acids found in products such as OHLY® SAV-R-SEL are effective at neutralising bitter and metallic notes caused by sweeteners, without compromising on taste.

What are the benefits of using yeast extract for off-note masking?

Yeast extracts are natural and label-friendly in line with the current clean label trend in the food industry, where consumers prefer natural and recognisable ingredients.

Yeast extract is also incredibly versatile. Whether used for sugar reduction, plant-based products or salt-reduction, this ingredient can mask off-notes whilst providing a complex, savoury taste of its own. Yeast extracts have a unique ability to replicate a range of flavours and textures, even providing meat-free products with a meaty and juicy taste and mouthfeel.

Finally, yeast is a healthy source of amino acids, proteins and vitamins which also enables manufacturers to cut down on the salt and sugar content within their products.

If you’d like to find out more about our yeast-based ingredients and how they can be used as an effective solution for off-note masking, get in touch with our team today.