The flavour and taste-providing ingredients always play a vital role in product acceptance. Yeast extract is one such ingredient with multiple uses in various food products. Suitable yeast extract can significantly improve food products’ taste and overall acceptability, observes Rajat K Baisya.

The quality of food ingredients used will invariably influence and determine the quality of the end product, which in turn will affect food products’ marketability and consumer acceptance and preference. Therefore, what goes into the product plays a very important role in product taste and overall acceptability? Food ingredients not only have to pass the technical as well as statutory standards and specifications for quality to be used in any food preparation.

But it also has to provide the right notes, flavours, looks in terms of colours, mouthfeel etc., collectively to influence product marketability and consumer preference. Food manufacturers, thus, take a lot of care to approve and select food ingredients suppliers. There are many food ingredients suppliers in the market, but not all of them will qualify to meet that stringent requirement. For some product categories, a few key ingredients will be the deciding factor for the product’s ultimate marketing success. For those product categories, food marketers have to exercise extreme care.

The flavour and taste providing ingredients always play a very important role in product acceptance in the marketplace. Yeast extract is one such ingredient with multiple uses in a wide range of food products. It plays an important role in improving food products’ marketability and consumer preference.

What is Yeast Extract

Yeast Extract is a versatile natural food ingredient. It is largely used to impart meat flavour to food and, more particularly, to processed food. Unlike most other food ingredients, yeast extract also has some nutritional value and has wide applications in food as well as savoury products by imparting desirable characteristics like flavour, mouthfeel, taste and overall acceptability of the food product. It is such a wonder food ingredient and plays a very important role in the food industry.

Yeast Extract is produced following three primary steps like production of yeast using a select strain of yeast like, say Saccharomyces cerevisiae, by aerobic fermentation of sugar or sugar substrate like molasses, and then by breaking down the monocellular yeast cells through autolysis followed by separation. During autolysis, yeast cells are broken down into smaller molecules containing smaller peptides and free amino acids such as glutamic acid, nucleic acids such as ribonucleic acid(RNA), oligonucleotides, nucleotides and polysaccharides like glucans.

This hydrolyzed yeast provides the natural and tasty components that help to make a wide range of food products better in terms of taste and mouthfeel. It also provides a natural flavour that improves the overall acceptance by the consumer. Autolysis is, therefore, an important step for the production of quality yeast extract. It is necessary to monitor the process to ensure that the lysis of the yeast cells is controlled to obtain the tasty and nutritional benefits of the components in tact as well as in correct ratio by monitoring the temperature and pH, which is crucial that influence the final tasting properties of the yeast extract. For specific applications, yeast extracts used are also different.

As such, large yeast extract manufacturers can supply application-specific yeast extract. In addition to Basic Yeast Extract, we can also get high Umami, Peptide rich and flavour rich yeast extracts. Umami is the fifth basic taste alongside sour, sweet, bitter and salty which translates to savoury.

Suppliers of Yeast Extract in India

Yeast extract is manufactured and supplied by a couple of domestic companies in India, and most of them are small. Globally, however, Angel Yeast, a Chinese company with a global presence and operations having manufacturing plants located in China, Egypt and Russia, is also operating in India through their appointed dealer-distribution network.

Angel Yeast is the leading producer of yeast extract, having 12 advanced factories and eight technical centres spread in various countries. Angel Yeast has their R&D facilities supporting its global clients. Over 590 qualified and experienced scientific staff are working on product and process development and formulation development, which are customer-specific efforts and services.

Angel Yeast has thus emerged as one of the major Yeast Extract suppliers globally and further expanding the production capacity. Angel’s outstanding R&D and Technical Application Centers have rich global experiences for providing their customers tailor-made food solutions according to different applications and customer preferences in various geographic locations worldwide. They are seen to be quite active in the Indian market now. Angel yeast products are available in bulk as well as in consumer packs, and these even can be customer-specific with respect to special applications and unique value propositions. 

Application of Yeast Extract in processed food products

Yeast Extract has a wide range of applications in processed food products. The most significant is for taste and savoury applications. In other countries, including countries in the Asia Pacific regions, Europe and US, yeast extract is used in a variety of food, savoury, sauces, soups and snack items, including instant noodles, soya sauce, soups, processed meat products, meat analogues, vegan meat and also in ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products.

Yeast extract also finds applications in a wide range of snack foods including potato chips, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, coated nuts as well as in extruded snack foods. However, in India, some of these applications have not yet been explored, and thus great opportunity exists for the quality yeast extract manufacturers to help it grow. In India, yeast extract is used by instant noodle manufacturers as well as by soya sauce manufacturers.

Readers will recollect the much talked about, and publicized case of Nestle India for their very successful product Maggi Noodles, a category they have developed in India. Others have entered the category seeing its growth and market size. Now we have many brands in this segment, including SunfeastYipee, Knorr Soupy, Top-Ramen, Nissin Scoopie, Wai Wai, Patanjali, Ching Secret, and Saffola Oodles, Horlicks Foodles, which is now in HUL fold. In addition, there are many regional brands of instant noodles operating in their own niches exploiting local and regional opportunities.

The category has witnessed about 15% growth in volume terms, while the food industry has seen about 10% growth. All large players in the processed food sector have introduced their brands of instant noodles, and their collective marketing and promotional efforts have accelerated the category’s growth. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), which was earlier permitted to be used as meat flavouring agent, has been banned.

Now all of them have switched over to yeast extract. A couple of brands are still using MSG, which has been included as a permitted flavour enhancer (EEC no 627-631). Manufacturers have to declare on the label that the product is not suitable for children and pregnant women.

Soya sauce is another product where yeast extract is used as one of the major ingredients. In this product category, all players are small, and their market is targeted at the restaurants and foodservice market segments. In-home consumption of soya sauce is still relatively low. Ching soya sauce has an all India presence.

Yeast extract is used in vegan meat, a category now being developed and as such small. A few products in this segment are already launched, and their performance in the marketplace is encouraging. However, large processors like ITC Agro have announced their intention to get into vegan foods in a big way, and they are making a big investment which can catalyze the consumption of yeast extract. Soya chunks and meat analogues like Nutri Nuggets don’t use yeast extract in the current format.

However, as meat analogue consumption is huge in the country with a very large vegetarian population and use of yeast extract can significantly improve the market acceptance, which can push the volume further. Soya chunks are also sold in the bulk pack for the restaurant, hotel and catering segments. However, this requires a different approach to build the market, which large producers of yeast extract like Angel Yeast could exploit.

Yeast extract can be used to reduce the salt requirement

FSSAI recently announced that they are considering introducing star ratings for food products containing natural ingredients, green packaging, the low salt level in the product formulation. Yeast extract can be used to reduce the salt requirement in a food formulation.

Yeast extract can be used to reduce the salt requirement in a food formulation. FSSAI recently announced that they are considering introducing star ratings for food products containing natural ingredients, green packaging, the low salt level in the product formulation, environment-friendly processing, and sustainable practices like waste disposal and recycling. Large processors are welcoming this idea, but small processors are opposing as they will have some disadvantages in terms of adhering to the stipulations to qualify for getting star ratings.

Even trade association like AIFPA, representing small F&V product manufacturers, is also not supportive of this move of FSSAI. Consumers are now more conscious about the health, hygiene and nutrition of the processed food that they consume. Suitable yeast extract, in that sense, will significantly improve the taste and overall acceptability of the food products and, at the same time, will reduce the sodium level of the food, which marketers can leverage to promote their products in the market. The other use of yeast extract is in microbiology research, as a substrate in food and fermentation industries, and in biotechnology research work.

Yeast Extract to Catalyze the Growth of Processed Food Industry in India

To help accelerate the growth of this segment of the processed food market in India, large players like Angel Yeast will have a distinctive advantage both in terms of their acceptability by large food processors for their quality and service level. To capitalize on this opportunity, yeast extract manufacturers must have the research capabilities and infrastructure to provide development support to the processors for various food products and ensure the service delivery for each identified sub-segments, as discussed here.

Angel Yeast seems to have those capabilities. Yeast extract is a versatile food ingredient which can help the growth of the many food products and formulations in the Indian food market. A close cooperation between the processors and vendors would be desirable in this regard.

Angel Yeast has globally positioned itself as a biotechnology company with a wide range of product categories, including food yeast, bakers’ yeast, distillers yeast, brewers’ yeast, enzymes, and animal nutrition products. It appears that to exploit the opportunities in this sector, Angel Yeast is intensifying their activities to ensure a dominant presence. Angel Yeast is a company poised to make a significant impact in the yeast extract market and should be watched.

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Author is the chairman of Strategic Consulting Group and served as Professor and Head of the Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi. His research areas are marketing, strategy, project management and international business and he is an internationally well known consultant in these areas. Prof Baisya is also the president of Project & Technology Management Foundation.