How cheese can promote a green eating behaviour

Sustainable and healthy eating has become a key issue on the global scene with focus on a green transition involving eating more plant-based foods. The question then arises if such foods are sufficiently palatable for humans whose evolution has been driven by meat-eating and a craving for umami and kokumi taste for more than two million years. Umami is a basic taste, while kukomi can rather be seen as a form of flavor enhancer. Cheese, being a fermented product, can be very rich in free amino acids, peptides, nucleotides, and free fatty acids, and even in moderate amounts can add umami, kokumi and flavour to greens. This project aims at investigating how the naturally occurring umami- and kokumi components and free fatty acids in cheese can be used to promote a sustainable plant-based eating behavior.

By: Grith Mortensen

Umami is one of the five basic tastes, along with sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Kokumi, conventionally described by terms like continuity and mouthfullness, is elicited by certain kokumi substances that have no taste but act to enhance sweetness, reduce bitterness, and lead to a prolonged, lingering, and enhanced savoury perception. Since greens typically lack umami and kokumi we may ask if plant-based products are sufficiently delicious for us to eat more of them? With a solid background in the science of umami and kokumi taste sensation, concrete mapping of umami and kokumi substances (free amino acids, small peptides and nucleotides), free fatty acids, and aroma compounds in selected cheeses is performed.

This project will map umami and kokumi components in cheeses and in natural cheese flavor enhancers, followed by screening for free fatty acids in the cheeses, and an assessment of what they mean for the sensory expression. Finally, the effect of umami/kokumi compounds and free fatty acids from cheese on the taste of plant-based meals is investigated. This work is carried out in the laboratory while assessments of the sensory qualities is carried out by a trained taste panel. The project will provide a solid scientific background to assess the possibilities of using cheese and cheese products to provide desirable taste qualities to plant-based foods.

Project period: January 2023 - December 2025

Budget: 3,067,269 DKK

Financing: Danish Dairy Research Foundation, in-kind from the participating companies and self-financing from University of Copenhagen

Project manager: Karsten Olsen

Institution: Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen

Participants: Department of Food Science, University of Copenhagen; Arla Foods; Lactosan


The results originating from the project will be published on this page when they become publicly available.

Grith Mælk 1

Grith Mortensen

Chefkonsulent, Branchesekretariat mejeri, Landbrug & Fødevarer/Skejby

Mobil: 40964114