What is Umami? The most important factors in determining the concept of flavour are the basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. The term umami refers to a delicious taste from glutamate and ribonucleotides found in many foods such as meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.
Solutions to improve the taste of food
Ajinomoto has been in existence for over 100 years. During this time, the Ajinomoto Group has discovered and developed many technologies. Ajinomoto means “the essence of taste”. Everything is based on these few words. Ajinomoto’s goal is to provide solutions that improve the taste of food. We call these technologies: UMAMI and KOKUMI.
What is Umami and how it became the key to improve the taste of food?
UMAMI was discovered by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese scientist in 1909. While tasting a bowl of kelp broth called kombu dashi, he noticed that there was a distinct flavour, different from the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. He named this additional taste “umami”, which literally means “essence of deliciousness” in Japanese. After much research, Dr Ikeda finally discovered that the umami taste was attributed to glutamate. It is thanks to Dr. Ikeda’s discoveries that today Ajinomoto Foods Europe solutions and ingredients offer solutions to improve the taste of food.
It is difficult to describe the definition of UMAMI in one word, as there is no direct translation of the Japanese word. We have many receptors on our tongue to identify the different tastes. Like the other four basic tastes, scientists have identified receptors for the umami taste. This discovery was made official in 2002 and means that umami is an inherent taste that is universally appreciated.
Umami taste is often described as the meaty, salty delight that deepens the flavour but the best way to discover the taste of umami is to taste it and learn to recognise it to create your own experience.
How Ajinomoto can help improve global health?
This solution to improve the taste of food may also be the key to reducing sodium content and thus contribute to the WHO (World Health Organisation) target of reducing average salt consumption by 30%. The main component of umami seasonings called AJI-NO-MOTO® is Monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Glutamate is an amino acid that is used to make proteins in food and in our bodies. MSG contains about 12% sodium, while table salt contains 39% sodium. Therefore, umami helps to reduce salt consumption while at the same time being a solution to improve the taste of food.
KOKUMI : A solution to increase the taste of food
The second Ajinomoto Group technology is KOKUMI, “Koku” is a Japanese term used to describe the rich, strong taste and mouthfeel of a food. “Mi” means “taste” in Japanese. ”Kokumi” is not only found in Japanese dishes, but all over the world. “Kokumi” is a universal experience.
Indeed, KOKUMI is a relatively new concept, developed through years of research by the Ajinomoto Group. The Kokumi molecule interacts with the calcium sensing receptor which in turn will increase the signal to basic taste receptors such as Umami or sweet. Kokumi masks the bitterness and undesirable flavours common in low sodium foods and improves the perception of mouthfeel. This solution to improve the taste of food does not have a taste of its own, it improves the harmony of a product.