According to leading food scientists at NIZO, there are three of aspects that “have pivotal impact when reformulating foods”; flavour reformulation to match any changes in the food matrix, understanding the extent to which flavours are being released while the food is eaten, and understanding the way consumers integrate all sensory cues, leading to consumers deciding whether to like or dislike a re-formulated product.
Speaking with FoodNavigator, Dr Peter de Kok, principal flavour scientist at NIZO, and Dr Kerstin Burseg, scientist and product manager for flavour-texture interactions at NIZO, explained that it is important to understand how people perceive foods, as a whole, “irrespective of the goals of reformulation.”
“All aspects of research into aroma, taste and textures of foods should be integrated, just as they are in foods – by affecting one, you will almost always affect the rest,” said Dr de Kok.
Burseg and de Kok explained that the influence of product structure and composition on the perception of flavour and its release has been the focus of many studies.
By understanding of the principles governing flavour release and perception during eating, the food industry may be able to formulate products with improved flavour characteristics.
They said that such goals are especially important for re-formulation of low-calorie, low fat, or reduced salt products.
Early research into the interactions between flavours and textures by NIZO reported that: “The structure of a product will influence the transport of volatiles into the oral and nasal cavities, while the composition of a product will influence the interactions between flavour and non-flavour ingredients.” (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002, doi: 10.1021/jf0202786).
Dr de Kok said that when foods are reformulated to reduce fat, salt, or sugar, the aroma and taste aspects are altered.
de Kok added that it was “important to establish the interactions between physical and sensory perception, because these interactions form flavour perception.”
He explained that any change in texture or structure of a food affects the way in which aroma’s and flavours are released, and so alter consumer perception.
“If you produce a low fat product with an incorrect profile, then people will perceive this as an inferior product … therefore it is important to match aroma and flavour profiles,” added de Kok.
Dr Burseg said that the way in which a gel based food system works can be modified so allow for increased release of aroma and flavour compounds.
“A system can be very highly viscous, but by modifying the gel we can influence aroma release,” she explained.
“We know that increases in viscosity lead to a reduction in taste and aroma perception, therefore when producing foods with higher viscosities we need to find ways to boost these perceptions,” said Burseg.
The right tools
Dr de Kok explained that NIZO has developed research tools to help develop flavours and foods “with the required rebalanced flavour … In order to evaluate whether flavour systems require composition changes when modifying the food composition”
“The olfactometer is an instrument that delivers aroma (release) profiles to a person who is eating a food. Similarly, the gustometer timely delivers tastants using a computer-controlled methods … In combination, these tools provide a virtual flavour profile on top of a product that is being eaten,” said de Kok.
“These tools are now used to optimize consumer perceived indulgence or even consumer appreciation. Once these profiles have been optimized in their taste and aroma profiles, foods can be developed accordingly, that deliver these profiles,” he added.