The company's group vice president Cees de Jong told FoodNavigator that his company is determined to move flavour prediction away from being based on preconception and towards being founded on scientific evidence.
In order to achieve this, the company has developed a new methodology that allows it to predict consumer preferences with unprecedented detail - by region, age and gender for example - across the globe.
The method is called LISA (Linking flavour Ingredients and Sensory data to Acceptance), and was first developed as a prototype by Quest in 2001. Originally, it was a research programme funded centrally by the pioneering scientific innovation platform of parent company ICI.
"What LISA has done is used proven a statistical technique that has been used in other sectors," said Jong. "We think that this is the first time it has been used in the flavour industry.
"What it does is, essentially, is rationalise the flavour creation process for our customers."
LISA combines data on the flavour components that determine consumer liking with data on sensory attributes such as creaminess, juiciness, ripeness or sweetness and on consumer preferences. Quest said that it plans to develop LISA into a database of all major global flavour icons and their preference drivers, establishing a reference source for flavour professionals.
"Some of the work we've done is amazing," said Jong. "We did a blind tasting with a consumer group's 'preferred' brand and then let them taste the LISA product the flavour identified by the methodology as their 'real' preferred flavour.
"Their preference for this product was sometimes as high as 30 per cent. I'm not a statistician, but the results after the validation testing have been impressive."
Despite its apparent complexity, this tool essentially rationalises flavour prediction. It is designed to make it easier for food makers to develop products that they know are well targeted at a particular consumer base.
"What we're doing now is building a database with important ingredient icons," said Jong. "The work we've starting on now is with vanilla. We're building this database to cover Europe, North America and we've starting looking at Asia."
The company can also use the system to deal with customers on a case-by-case basis. One food firm for example has asked Quest to identify what French males of Algerian descent would like.
Using LISA methodology, Quest can go in and get the data, and then validate the findings.
The development and rollout of the LISA model marks the culmination of a year of investment and growth for Quest. The investment has included new technical facilities in Asia-Pacific and the expansion of core flavour innovations, such as its ImpaQ Taste Technology and the QPEARL flavour delivery systems.
Quest, a flavours and fragrances company, is part of the ICI group. It operates in over 30 countries and employs 3,400 people.