A New Taste Sensation: Kokumi

You’ve probably heard of umami, but have you heard of kokumi? Roughly translating from Japanese to “rich taste” or “deliciousness”, kokumi is a flavor enhancer that brings richness, roundness, and craveability to everything from grilled proteins to salad dressing and desserts. Read on as we explore this new taste sensation and what makes it so desirable.


What is Kokumi?


                Kokumi is a relatively new taste sensation, sometimes referred to as the sixth taste, and was discovered by Japanese scientists in the late 1980s. Kokumi is peculiar in sense that unlike traditional flavors such as sweet and sour, is more of a concept or impression and is identified in an amino acid that interacts with our tongue’s calcium receptors. As much of a feeling as it is a taste, kokumi enhances flavors by providing a sensation of richness and can be found in braised, slow-cooked, or aged foods as well as garlic, onions, and scallops. Kokumi can also be isolated and sold in a powdered or liquid form and added to a variety of foods ranging from savory to sweet and works to elevate existing flavors, creating a sense of craveability and a rich mouthfeel.


Rise in Popularity


                Although still relatively new to the US food industry, kokumi is gaining popularity for its versatility and its ability to enhance flavors without modifying taste or health claims. It has been found to enhance the sweet flavor aspects of packaged snacks without changing the scent or flavor, even when left for an extended period of time. It also makes citrus taste fresher, mitigates the artificial taste of sugar replacers, and masks bitterness and astringency in foods.


Kokumi also fits into health and wellness lifestyle trends, as it is effective in enhancing flavor in products such as packaged snacks and meal replacements while reducing sugar, salt, and fat content. As consumers look for products with better-for-you, reduced sugar, and reduced fat claims, kokumi is able to create that satisfying flavor they crave while eliminating elements that are perceived as unhealthy. This presents significant opportunity for kokumi to enter the health and wellness industry in many different aspects.


Kokumi has also been found to stimulate the appetite and presents a unique health solution for elderly consumers. As we age, our senses tend to age as well and senior consumers suffering from the loss of taste and smell often have reduced appetites, leading to reduced food intake and poorer nutrition. It has been used to enhance the flavor of nutritious foods, effectively stimulating the senses and encouraging those with diminished senses to increase their intake of wholesome and vitamin-rich foods.


The concept of kokumi may seem confusing, but as science continues to develop and create more solutions to food-related issues, manufacturers and consumers alike will begin to see the benefit of this unique substance.