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LC/Q-TOF Analysis and Nontargeted Chemometric Profiling of Meats and Plant-Based Alternatives


Meat-alternative sources of protein, including plant-based and cell-based foods, are gaining popularity globally due to a combination of consumer interest, regulatory changes, and global food systems. For example, as Singapore aims to achieve 30% of its food production levels through self-production by 2030, many established food companies and startups are developing meat-substitute products. The main drivers of Singapore’s food production target are around health and environmental concerns. Historically, plant-based meat substitute foods have struggled to achieve the same texture and taste as animal meats. However, recent analogs of plant-based meats are significantly more similar in taste, texture, and composition as traditional meats due to technological advances in production methods. This application note describes a nontargeted profiling method to characterize chemical components of unknown foods, using a high-resolution accurate mass LC-Q/TOF. Also, various statistical tools are presented that translate accurate mass LC/Q-TOF data into more easily understandable information. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the data can be used to identify compounds, abundance distribution of the compounds in different samples, and how the compounds correspond to target taste profiles. Heat maps and hierarchical clustering of raw ingredients show similar distribution of proteins with target taste profiles.


Food sensory evaluation is a key method to assess the flavor quality of foods because it measures what consumers perceive. It is, however, subjective. As technology advances, more objective and measurable methods such as liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC/MS) will be used. The five basic tastes (i.e., sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami) can now be characterized by LC/MS and the data can be used for the optimization of the overall taste of foods.

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