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Your Complete Flavoring Guide for Plant Based Supplement

Last updated: April-5,2022

Your Complete Flavoring Guide for Plant-Based Protein Supplements 

When creating a plant-based supplement, striking the perfect balance between sweet, salty, bitter, and sour is just not just a science – it is also an art!  

The global plant-based protein supplements market is growing at a rapid CAGR of 7.1% and is expected to reach a staggering $14.5 billion by 2025 (a 41% jump from 2020).[i] A large chunk of this growth can be attributed to the rising demand for plant-based sources of proteins.

The discussion around plant-based proteins is relevant and more important than ever because more and more people are shifting towards vegetarian and vegan options for their daily dose of nutrition. Supplement brand owners worldwide are trying to create products packed with the goodness of plant-based proteins and innovative flavors that enrich their taste.[ii]

Here’s your complete guide to flavoring for plant-based proteins. This extensive guide will discuss: 

  • The concept of plant-based proteins 
  • Why plant proteins are considered important 
  • Health benefits of plant-based proteins 
  • Importance of flavoring in plant-based supplements 
  • Flavoring trends, challenges, and opportunities  
  • How we can help manufacture flavored plant-based supplements 

What Are Plant-Based Proteins? Why Are They Important? 

As the name suggests, plant proteins are an excellent source of protein derived from plant groups like legumes (e.g. soy, peas), buckwheat, hemp, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and grains. They are extremely nutritious and have been found to be one of the best ways to ensure that the body gets essential minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients.[iii]

Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, of which the human body produces eleven naturally. The remaining 9 are called “essential amino acids” because you are expected to get them from your food. Several plant-based foods, including buckwheat, quinoa, and soy, are known as “complete proteins” because they contain all of these nine essential amino acids.

Plant-based proteins have gained a lot of popularity because they have been found to be:

  • low in calories (compared to animal proteins) 
  • high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins 
  • building blocks for muscles and tissues
  • helpful for healthy weight management (when combined with exercise and a healthy lifestyle)[iv] [v]
The Undeniable Importance of Flavors in Plant-Based Supplements
One of the biggest motivators for food, beverage, and supplement consumption is “flavor.” Flavor preferences drive buying decisions for consumables in powder, tablet, or chewable form for various reasons.  

Plant-based supplements are likely to retain the characteristics of the active ingredients present in them, some of which might be undesirable in terms of taste – beany, earthy, grassy, malty, sulfur-like, savory, or even bitter.

We have all grown up drinking chocolate milk, eating vanilla ice cream, and enjoying delicious seasonal fruits. Suddenly adapting to odd flavors and tastes can be difficult. But when carefully formulated with the correct flavoring and masking agents (e.g. bitter masking) with the help of experts, plant-based protein products be tasty and well received. Such products can help brands attract new customers, and ensure consumer loyalty in the plant-based supplements market.[vi] [vii]

Let’s look at how high-quality flavoring can help your plant-based supplement fly off the shelves 

  • Flavoring makes your supplement product appealing and desirable in terms of taste and smell, gratifying the customers’ senses.  
  • If you invest in creating proprietary flavors, it can give you a distinct competitive advantage over other supplement brands in the same market.  
  • Seasonal specials and seasonal (fruity) flavors can help create more demand for your plant-based supplements in specific phases of the year.[viii]

All the reasons mentioned above can give your supplement product the differentiation it needs and create more chances for your consumers to fall head over heels for it and give you repeat business. 


Natural Vs. Artificial Flavors for Plant-Based Supplements 

Primarily, you will find two types of flavors or flavor-masking techniques – natural and artificial. Natural flavors are in higher demand in the plant-based supplements market because today’s consumers are very aware. However, while they are popular, they are also more expensive.[viii]

According to the United States FDA, a natural flavor is defined as:  

“…the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” [ix]

  • As the term suggests, natural flavors combine compounds and aroma derived from plant sources like fruits, herbs, leaves, buds, or roots that are treated (fermented, distilled, or manipulated in other ways) in a controlled laboratory setting.   
  • Any flavor that isn’t natural can be called an artificial flavor, even if it happens to have the same chemical composition as a flavor that is isolated from nature. Artificial flavor masking is relatively cheaper and is known to offer better stability. While they are a good alternative to natural flavors, they may not necessarily provide the same taste experience that natural ones do.[viii]

Key Challenges in Plant Supplement Flavor Masking 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in flavor masking is finding natural and organic solutions. While the artificial flavoring options are convenient and inexpensive, the growing demand for natural and clean supplements is driving supplement businesses to explore novel ways of masking the base ingredients present in plant-based proteins. This is a huge concern for supplement brand owners who wish to establish and maintain their market positioning as a natural, clean label supplement brand. 

Stevia extract, which is a non-artificial sweetener, has its own inherent characteristic flavor. Now, trying to neutralize the off-notes in stevia extract and the active ingredients in the plant-based supplements can become tricky. In such cases, combining other natural sweetening agents with stevia like monk’s fruit can successfully mask off-notes, chemical notes, and the rather unpleasant aftertaste.

Masking unwanted off-notes becomes even more challenging when you have more than one plant-based ingredient. Expert manufacturers help brand owners use various techniques to mask or even reduce some of the earthy, green notes from plant-based protein supplements.[ix]  

Creative Flavoring for Popular Plant-Based Supplements  

It is now time to look at how flavoring capabilities are being reinvented with reference to creating some of the most popular plant-based supplements. 

  1. Soy Protein


    Soybean is a legume found to be devoid of cholesterol or saturated fat. This protein is frequently used in vegetarian or vegan diets to replace animal-derived proteins.
    Soy has been found to have all the essential amino acids that support the growth and development of infants and children, making it a “complete protein.”
    Soy protein’s flavor profile is perhaps the easiest in terms of formulation and flavoring because its off-notes can be reduced by ensuring high-quality soybeans, proper storage, and processing.[x]

  2. Brown rice Protein


    Derived from brown rice, this is another great source of protein. It has also been found to contain 35% of essential amino acids and 18% of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). Its impressive nutritional profile makes it a desirable choice for athletes and gym-goers who prefer vegan sources for their protein intake.
    It tastes great and has been found to nutritionally aid muscle recovery. Brown rice protein is also believed to be easy on the stomach, making it a suitable choice for lactose intolerant individuals. It has a naturally mild, cereal-like taste. However, it could be slightly gritty, rendering a poor mouthfeel.[vii]

  3. Pea Protein


Pea protein, derived from green and yellow split peas, is a trending plant-based protein because of its satiating properties. This thermogenic agent is easily digestible, and it is no surprise that pea protein has become such a popular choice for supplement brand owners.Pea protein has a thick mouthfeel and imparts a rather nutty and earthy flavor.[vii]

Each of these three popular plant-based proteins have been found to offer a distinct taste that consumers might not necessarily enjoy. While the natural flavor of brown rice is quite mild, the same cannot be said about pea or soy protein. Their naturally strong and overpowering flavor profiles are quite unpleasant and repelling. When it comes to plant-based supplements like these, the secret lies in finding the perfect blend of ingredients and flavoring agents to ensure that your formulation’s base ingredient doesn’t override the primary flavor you are aiming for.[vii]

Of course, you don’t want to overdo the masking process to an extent where the product loses its inherent flavors completely. Depending on which plant-based protein it is, customers might also want to be able to taste its natural flavor, so they know what they are consuming is “authentic.”[ix]

While plant-based proteins might not strike the best of partnerships with traditional or universally loved flavors, certain flavoring combinations work well from a practical and technical perspective. Chocolate is one such example that works very well in the case of plant-based protein supplements.[xi]

Vanilla and strawberry, two flavors that are extremely common and popular in the protein supplements arena, might not complement the off-putting base notes of plant-based proteins. For supplement brand owners, this means identifying new combinations that work well with their target audience. Recent trends suggest flavor combos like coffee-caramel or hazelnut-vanilla could work well in the case of such supplements.[vi]

If you need the flavor of the base protein ingredient to contribute to your final formula, here are some creative flavoring options and combinations you can explore:

  • Astringency works with citrus flavors
  • Earthy notes can work well with nutty flavors
  • Green notes may complement berry flavors
  • Bitter notes blend well with cocoa, chocolate, or coffee flavors[vii]

Creating a Winning Plant-Based Supplement – How NutraScience Labs Can Help

As your customers become increasingly aware of diverse proteins and become nutrition-savvy, bear in mind that they are seeking out plant-based proteins from various sources. For supplement brand owners, ensuring the right balance between nutrition and flavor is more important than ever. Consumers demand the ideal mix of appealing taste, desirable texture, and optimal nutrition in the current competitive marketplace.

Supplement brand owners need to consider these aspects to ensure the success of their plant-based protein. In order to deliver unique nutritional benefits along with superior flavors in your plant-based supplements, you will need to keep an eye on the latest market trends, flavoring techniques, and consumer preferences.

To do this, you first need to:

  1. Understand what your customers want from the plant-based supplements
  2. Study the market and gauge your consumers’ tastes and preferences
  3. Use flavors as the primary filters for smart decision making in this regard
  4. Find the right flavors that complement the base notes – technically and practically
  5. Bring these flavors to life and create plant-based supplements that stand out
  6. Ensure that you build a story around it – correlate the flavor with your brand

Having an in-depth understanding of the chemical, biological, and psychological factors closely linked to taste and smell is invaluable. It is critical that you know how taste works at the molecular level and how various ingredients interact with different flavors. When creating a plant-based supplement, striking the perfect balance between sweet, salty, bitter, and sour is just not just a science – it is also an art!

It sounds overwhelming, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Instead of doing all of this by yourself, we suggest you take the help of an experienced contract manufacturer who has a proven track record in manufacturing high-quality supplements and ensuring world-class flavoring. At NutraScience Labs, for example, we help brand owners create world-class supplements to make a grand entry into the supplement market or add a new product to their line of supplements.

With over 50 years of combined contract manufacturing experience, NutraScience Labs is well-equipped to keep up with the evolving market trends and opportunities in the plant protein supplements arena. Our expert end-to-end manufacturing solutions are backed by our supplement formulation and flavoring capabilities. With an in-house food scientist, cGMP-certified facilities, and additional services like FDA-compliant labeling and packaging design, we are the go-to contract manufacturers for brands that want to create flavorful plant-based protein supplements.

Our in-house food scientist can successfully help reduce or mask the earthy, bitter, and chalky off notes of plant-based proteins and the undesirable inherent sensory properties of other organic ingredients. What you get in the end is a custom-made supplement that is rich in the right flavors, offers a balanced taste, and superfast impact.[xii] [vii] [ix]

Want more information? Call 855-492-7388 to speak to one of our production specialists or request your free nutraceutical manufacturing quote now!


[i] https://www.nutrasciencelabs.com/blog/plant-based-protein-market-trends-opportunities-and-challenges

[ii] https://www.foodnavigator.com/News/Promotional-Features/The-rise-of-plant-based-protein

[iii] https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/ask-nutritionist-what-are-best-sources-plant-based-protein-ncna982496

[iv] https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/benefits-plant-based-protein/

[v] https://www.birdseye.co.uk/nutrition/nutrients-and-minerals/what-is-plant-based-protein

[vi] https://www.foodbeverageinsider.com/colors-flavors/overcoming-flavor-challenges-plant-proteins

[vii] https://aidp.com/the-abc%E2%80%99s-of-formulating-with-plant-proteins.html

[viii] https://www.nutrasciencelabs.com/blog/why-flavors-in-supplement-matter-for-business-success

[ix] https://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/view/plant-proteins-flavor-masking-challenges

[x] https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/15349-tasting-success-in-plant-protein-formulations

[xi] https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/specialty-nutrients/formulating-and-manufacturing-supplements-plant-proteins

[xii] https://www.nutrasciencelabs.com/blog/flavoring-supplements-the-advantage-of-working-with-a-certified-food-scientist

February 18th, 2022

About the Author:

Gene Bruno

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG) - Mr. Bruno possesses over 43 years of dietary supplement industry experience. With a Master's degree in nutrition and a second Master's degree in herbal medicine, he has a proven track record of formulating innovative, evidence-based dietary supplements. Mr. Bruno currently serves as both the Senior Director of Product Innovation at Twinlab Corporation and Professor of Nutraceutical Science at Huntington University of Health Sciences.