• Professor Ian Fisk demonstrating the MS-Nose.
    Professor Ian Fisk demonstrating the MS-Nose.

A $2.5 million lab to improve the taste of plant-based foods and ingredients has opened in Adelaide. The facility is an extension of the University of Nottingham’s International Flavour Research Centre (IFRC) and will be based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

Australia’s leading plant-based meat company v2food is a major investor in the project along with the two universities and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. 

The facility will utilise innovative flavour chemistry technology to help food manufacturers develop better tasting plant-based foods. Scientists who specialise in flavour chemistry, food and agriculture will be able to work together under one roof. The project will also include a new post-doctoral and PhD position. 

Alternative proteins, meat free substitutes and healthier iterations of existing plant-based products will be the focus. 

Professor of food chemistry and IRFC academic lead Ian Fisk said the global connectedness of the food supply chain requires everyone to collaborate to design sustainable alternatives. 

“Sustainable healthy diets require a rethink of food ingredients and crops, new agricultural and food production processes and novel packaging systems and new routes to market. 

“Ultimately this is how we go about a step change for diets and more sustainable eating habits,” said Fisk. 

The laboratories will be able to track flavour development and analyse the role of food ingredients in flavour perception through its range of bespoke interfaces and flavour chemistry tools.

Developed in the Nottingham laboratory, the MS-Nose will be one of the critical analytical tools used in the research. The team will utilise its artificial nose features to measure aromas while eating in real-time. 

The facility's main focus is to create better tasting plant-based food.

Professor Rachel Burton from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine said the project will increase the university’s research capabilities. 

Burton, who is also the University’s head of department of food science, added: “We are excited to be part of this global approach to the challenge of producing food that is healthy, delicious and is part of the solution to a more sustainable approach to feeding future populations.” 

Fisk said that the team will be exploring many challenges regarding food compositions. 

“When you interchange food ingredients or materials such as reducing fat, sugar and salt or replacing meat proteins with plant proteins, there are a series of highly complex flavour questions that need to be answered. 

“These include how to ensure that nutritious plant-based meat alternatives generate an equally appealing flavour during cooking, and how to ensure that when part of a complete meal, they are a viable alternative for those who regularly consume meat,” he said.

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