Alex Woo, Ph.D., CEO and Founder, W2O Food Innovation
and a member of Global Food Forums’ Advisory Board
Alex Woo is the founder and CEO for W2O, a food technology firm for the past ten years. He specializes in applying niche expertise in taste and smell neuroscience and plant-based sweeteners & flavors to create “Better Food.”
Previous positions include Innovation Director, Global Science & Technology, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (Mars); Vice President Research and Regulatory Affairs with Degussa Food Ingredients (now part of Kerry Ingredients); and, Manager of Product Guidance and Director of R&D at the Starbucks Coffee Company. Earlier positions included Vice President R&D at Griffith Laboratories as well as various R&D leadership positions at Kraft Foods, Inc. and PepsiCo, Inc.
Global Food Forums Presentations by Speaker
Clean Label Bitterness Blockers: Neuroscience, Ingredient Technologies, Applications
Roughly 100 food substances including peptides, phenolics and high-potency sweeteners are known to be bitter to humans. “Bitterness blockers” is an ingredient technology space based on contemporary bitterness neuroscience. Mechanisms of action include TAS2R active site blocking, negative allosteric modulation, and calcium blocking in the bitter taste cells. Making better-for-you foods and beverages taste less bitter is possible with a short list of plant-based bitterness blockers all of them labeled as natural flavor including naringenin, sugar cane distillate, mushroom mycelia extract, and 1,3- propanediol. This presentation is indispensable for anyone formulating healthful foods and beverages with beneficial but often bitter-tasting ingredients.
Recreating Dairy Flavors in Plant-Based Milks
Formulating trending plant-based milks requires recreating the multisensory experience when drinking milk from cows. Understanding the underlying neuroscience and the potential of “stacking” multiple solutions can address flavor challenges in flavor, texture and appearance. Taste solutions include bitterness blockers, sweetness enhancers and umami modulators whenever needed. Natural off-flavor maskers and vegan milky flavor also can be used to close the aroma gap. Popular soy, oat, almond and pea protein-based milks will be examined as case studies.
Clean label taste modulation is a growing field. It involves changing and adjusting basic taste perceptions with plant-based or other ingredients considered clean label by consumers. This presentation begins with a look at saltiness modulation, which consists of four mechanisms including surface area alteration. Umami modulation also is accomplished by four different methods of which combining basal and synergistic umami is one example. Kokumi, the enhanced impression of richness and mouthfeel, comes from the potent tripeptide Glutamyl-Valyl-Glycine. The session concludes with Stacking, a clean label salt and MSG reduction strategy that blends these three types of savory ingredients to make foods salty, rich and delicious.
The Gold Standard in sugar reduction is a sweetener system that performs identically to sucrose. Even as the number of alternative sweeteners increases, taste remains a key challenge. Based on firsthand research, this presentation will provide advice on use of clean Label modulators with a focus on stevia- and monk fruit-derived high potency sweeteners as well as certain sugars. Results presented will generally be for beverage-type platforms. The presentation will also touch on reported findings by others regarding potential effectiveness of these modulators with erythritol, allulose and artificial high potency sweeteners like sucralose.
Second generation stevia extracts were all about high purity Rebaudioside-A (RA), the higher the purity the better the taste. Farm-based 3rd generation stevia extracts are the newer two and and three-way blends of Rebaudiosides (types A, B, C, D, and M) for even more sugar-like taste but at higher cost. Alternatively, fermentation or enzymology-based stevia already co-exist in 2018. Enzymatically modified stevia extracts are sweet taste enhancers that can be used as part of the “Stacking” strategy, together with monk fruit and erythritol, for clean label sugar reduction. This presentation provides insights into practical and economical approaches to decrease sugar through the use of emerging ingredients and optional ingredient blends.
Recent advances in understanding how humans use a multisensory approach in perceiving tastes points to new ways to enhance the perception of sweetness in foods. A look at current and emerging research on how smell, touch, sight and sound impact sweetness will be presented. Attendees will leave more knowledgeable about sensory integration and what it may mean for new ways to formulate foods and beverages, as well as practical insights in how to create sensory pleasing reduced sugar foods.
Sugar Reduction: How to Formulate with Less Sugar while Maintaining Sugar-like Properties
Despite their enviable position as “gold standards” and their technical advantages, caloric sweeteners have a fundamental drawback when used in weight control products… they contribute calories. Whether the formulation goal is to reduce overall calories or just lower the Glycemic Index of a food or beverage, a sophisticated approach is needed when the finished product’s quality is to be maximized. This presentation reviews the technical challenges of such product development efforts and presents carefully considered solutions including the use of emerging ingredients and recent advances in taste physiology and neuroscience.
2013 Clean Label Conference
Taste Physiology and Considerations in Sweetener Choices
The desire for sweetness is inborn in humans. The subject of label-friendly sweetness enhancement in food and beverage formulations is complex. An update will be given on the emerging understanding of taste perception and how it can assist in the design of clean-flavored, simple products. Insights will be provided into the use of sweetener and taste enhancer ingredients from thaumatin to stevia, from cane sugar to fruit concentrates and plant extracts.