Until now, enhancing positive flavours or masking off-flavours in foods and beverages has chiefly been realised by trial and error, which could be an extremely time-consuming method.
Any improvements which could potentially speed the process would be welcomed by food manufacturers and producers. The new tool, named Olfactoscan and patented by NIZO Food Research, automates and speeds up the whole process, Dr Peter de Kok, Principal Scientist Flavour at NIZO, told Foodnavigator.com.
De Kok added that the development could help food producers to improve products with off-flavours which cannot be prevented as they are formed during food processing or caused by specific ingredients such as sweeteners and vitamins.
The tongue and mouth contain different receptors for the five main flavours of sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami. De Kok also notes that the human nose has 300 different aroma receptors. Furthermore, texture and how it affects the release of aroma also influence how consumers perceive flavour and aroma, he said.
The Olfactoscan system works by delivering an aroma to a person as if they are eating – indeed, the person can still eat at the same time – and the person notes which active compound works.
“It is a systematic method for enhancing and masking flavour,” said Dr de Kok.
The trained panellists receive a continuous flow of flavour or taste pulses improved with a stream of different aroma compounds at various levels of intensity. This allows for faster identification of suitable and effective masking or enhancing compounds.
The next step is to zoom in on the suitable compound or compounds. The solutions then available to formulators centre on how best to include the compounds in the final product, such as enhancing the natural production of that compound during fermentation (for products such as cheese, or beer, for example).
Dr de Kok told Foodnavigator.com that the technique is currently being used for a set of customers in food chemistry.