TasFoods | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
Wasabi is a notoriously difficult plant to cultivate, requiring a cool climate, clean air and ample rain. While the whole plant can be eaten, the hero is the rhizome, which is grated into a paste to release wasabi’s distinct flavour and pungency. The heat and flavour come from an enzymatic reaction which takes around three to five minutes to develop and subsequently quickly dissipates.
That limited consumption time frame makes wasabi a difficult product to effectively utilise in foodservice, requiring specialist equipment and staff to grate on demand. It also makes production of paste difficult, which has led to an unusual outcome — most available wasabi products are a blend of horseradish, mustard, flavouring and colouring, containing no wasabi at all.
TasFoods’ Shima Wasabi has capitalised on ideal climatic conditions to grow the plant for supply in fresh, powdered and a new ‘real’ paste format, delivering a wasabi product for the foodservice industry that minimises waste while providing an authentic flavour experience for the consumer.
Developing a product that displays suitable heat and flavour profiles while offering a reasonable shelf life was a challenge. TasFoods utilised FIAL grant funding to conduct research and work with chemists and food technologists to identify suitable food-grade components to incorporate into the recipe and deliver the desired outcome.
It was an educational exercise, as the team needed to ascertain the plant’s chemical components responsible for the reaction and how to effectively hold that in suspension once it occurs. It took two years to perfect the recipe and deliver a satisfactory shelf life through suitable packaging proven via extensive trials.
The planned launch coincided with lockdowns and social distancing — less than stellar circumstances for a product that relies on sampling to educate customers. While slower than originally anticipated, the rollout will continue throughout 2021 via quality independent retail stores backed by an educational program.