Functional at Its Tastiest— Masking Solutions & Characterizing Flavors

There’s a good reason why everyone across the industry is constantly talking about functional food and beverages.

The promise and potential of these products are exciting for the future of food, and we are already seeing their impact on the market.

Yet, while functional ingredients can provide a wide array of tangible physiological benefits, they nearly always come with inherent off-notes and texture challenges.

Fortunately, with a mindful and holistic sensory and development approach, such issues won’t have to hamper your success.

Here are three things you can do today to overcome taste challenges in your next functional project.


1. Understanding Your Base: Being Mindful of Your Ingredients

With ingredients ranging from adaptogens and nootropics to biotics (pro/pre/post), vitamins, and beyond, addressing taste challenges demands more than a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, something universally applied is the need to understand your base really well.

This means developers always need to be mindful of the ingredients they choose.

Making a product functional isn’t as simple as adding a new component; just like making something better for you, it doesn’t mean simply removing something.

Each change made to your formulation can impact your product’s taste, texture, and even safety.

For example, something seemingly minor, like modifying acid levels, could negatively affect your pH, altering shelf stability.

Looking at flavor perception in particular, functional ingredients can often add bitterness, astringency, and other off-notes that may throw off the balance of your product.

Of course, flavor might play a significant role in your solution, but even then, other factors like your salt, sugar, and fat ratios can end up determining how that flavor is released.

Maybe the initial bite or sip of a product tastes great but then gives way to a lingering or intensifying off-note that leaves a customer feeling less than enthused.

By starting with the formulation, our team is able to understand the interaction between each ingredient and help you optimize your base.

Not only can this help improve a number of issues, but it also helps make flavor solutions even more effective.


2. Masking with Dairy & Congruent Flavors

I’ve previously discussed at length some of the reasons why dairy flavors make great masking solutions.

A large part of the reason has to do with complexity.

While flavors like fruit or vanilla are largely comprised of aromatic and basic taste components, authentic dairy flavors, on the other hand, can be much more complex.

This is because, besides aromatics, you also have to make up non-volatile components like fat and protein.

Accomplishing this creates the opportunity for better flavor release and advanced taste masking technology development.

In addition to dedicated maskers, utilizing “congruent flavors” can be a very effective masking option.


Congruent flavors are those that are expected to be already present in an application but are not intended to stand out.

Butter, milk, and cream, for example, are essential ingredients in many food and beverage products. That said, they are often there for function or as a compliment to the characterizing profiles.

Using such flavors allows us to work with the base to minimize or eliminate taste and textural challenges without drawing attention to the use of added “flavors”.

Still, there are other times when putting a flavor profile front and center could be the way to go.

3. Mask, Match, & Balance with Characterizing Flavors


Unlike dedicated masking or congruent flavors, a characterizing flavor is one that is supposed to be noticed.

There is a good chance it might even be the profile called out on the front of your pack.

Depending on the off-notes of your specific functional ingredient, these flavors may be a great way to work with your base instead of fighting against it.

What do I mean by that?

Where traditional masking looks to cover up unwanted taste distractions, characterizing profiles can act more as a camouflage.

Your functional ingredient may leave a bitter aftertaste. Using an Aged Cheddar or Parmesan with similarly expected bitter notes can provide balance. Or, let’s say you have an earthy or beany flavor coming through. We can use the natural mushroom-type notes of a Brie or Camembert to match that.

Bringing It All Together

Every product is unique, and so are the particular obstacles standing in the way of a successful sensory experience.

That’s how we approach each project that comes to us.

Whether it’s using one of these approaches or a combination of all three, our world-class sensory and R&D team will look to find a solution tailored to your needs.

So why wait?

Find out how getting started with our masking and flavor solutions early in your development process can make all the difference for your next functional food or beverage application.

About the Author: Julie Drainville, Manager – Global Sensory

Julie Drainville leads all sensory functions for Edlong globally, maintaining a trained employee panel for sensory testing, and also collaborating with applications scientists and customers to run testing to meet project needs. Julie has an extensive background in food science including over 15 years in the sensory field, a degree from Purdue University in Foods, Nutrition and Business/Dietetics, a Master of Science in Nutrition Education from Rosalind Franklin University, and completion of the UC Davis Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program.

Topics: Characterizing FlavorsDairy flavorsFunctional FoodsMasking & mouthfeel
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: US


Stay Connected

Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.