Flavour pairing is based on the principle that all foods have molecular flavour compounds. Foods that share the same compounds taste good together because they are chemically aligned, hitting our taste receptors in similar ways, as unlikely as some pairings may seem.
UK chef Heston Blumenthal popularised the idea, discovering that pork liver and jasmine go well together thanks to shared flavour compound indole, while chocolate and caviar work because have the same amines.
But while outrageous flavour combinations may remain on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants for the moment, the food industry does stand to benefit from this trend.
Food and science: A natural pairing
For Mintel analyst, David Turner, an increased interest in the relationship between science and food is positive for manufacturers in that it may bring about a shift in consumer attitudes towards the ‘industrialisation’ of food.
“This could be a way of bridging the gap between large industry manufacturers and young consumers who have become cynical about the food industry and are more interested in organic, unprocessed food," Turner said.
"It shows that science does have a role in food, not just by ‘mucking around’ with ingredients during processing but in understanding the basics of natural ingredients.”
Turner also says companies can benefit from the trickledown effect in that consumers are more engaged and adventurous when it comes to food, as demonstrated by the host of food blogs on the web.
The appliance of science
Meanwhile, Belgian-based company Foodpairing has taken the concept and tailored it to the needs of food manufacturers, not only by creating innovative flavour combinations but through an array of marketing applications.
They first analyse the flavour components of the food using high-performance liquid chromatography – a technique used in chemistry to separate and analyse the individual components of a mixture – and then use algorithms to find matches from their flavour database – the world’s biggest, says founder and scientist, Bernard Lahousse.
Foodpairing says its clients are looking for different things. While chefs and bartenders want exciting combinations for experimental restaurant diners, companies may be looking for more subtle variations of a classic product.
“For the food industry it is not about the surprise, but about an efficient way to create continuous variation. Consumers are more adventurous. They want to explore new combinations,” Lahousse told FoodNavigator.
“Companies want to connect to local ingredients, make line-extensions and bring new apps on the market to support their customers in shopping, suggesting drinks to food and creating new recipes.
"Our algorithms and API can be plugged into the applications of our clients to give answers to this type of question.”
Foodpairing has already worked with big industry names such as Nestlé, Heinz and Bacardi in new product development. Although Lahousse can't reveal the exact details of the products he described how companies use Foodpairing's proprietary API technology for their products.
“Cacao Barry uses the Foodpairing combinations in their itinero application and Rémy Cointreau is using an advanced version generating cocktail recipes in a global sales application.”