Flavour profiler promises tastier and healthier kiwifruit

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

A range of fruit and vegetables can be screened for taste and flavour using the Flavour Profiler. © iStock / azgek
A range of fruit and vegetables can be screened for taste and flavour using the Flavour Profiler. © iStock / azgek
The secrets of flavour and reduced-sugar kiwifruits are being unravelled thanks to a new flavour profile tool that helps food manufacturers meet consumer demands for specific health and taste benefits.

Zespri, one of the largest cultivars of the kiwifruit, has been carrying out studies on the biochemical complexity of the fruit’s flavour in collaboration with Metabolomic Discoveries, a Germany-based research and analytics company specialising in ​metabolite profiling.​ The results will determine future breeding strategies.

“The Flavour Profiler can be used to screen any kind of food such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, beverages and any other biological material like microorganisms, fungi, plants and algae for flavour compounds,”​ said a spokesperson for Metabolomic Discoveries.

“It is a useful tool to apply in combination with consumer or expert taste panels, or as a standardised flavour analysis to screen products and production processes. We differentiate flavour in the combination of aroma, taste and texture.”

The science part

The Flavour Profiler Technology uses a high- throughput GC-MS system and mass QTOF coupled to a UPLC to analyse all known and unknown metabolites in a sample.

Compounds detected within a sample are separated due to their charge and size. After separation the metabolites are injected into the mass spectrometer for detection. The fragmentation pattern is specific for each compound and thus can be matched with a database of known compounds.

drink trio colouring flavouring coloring flavoring
The biochemistry of the kiwifruit's flavour may give rise to the creation of new synthetic flavours. (image: iStock.com)

Datasets produced can then be categorised in different groups of biological samples. Metabolites that differ between the sampled groups signify specific phenotypes or traits and can potentially be applied as biomarkers.

“The biggest benefit is that we can measure all the compounds at once,”​ said Dr Greg Clark from Zespri International. “In the past only a handful of biochemical compounds could be detected in routine testing.”

Kiwifruits are already enjoyed by consumers in their whole form, and on the back of their popularity food manufacturers are also developing products that use kiwi or kiwi flavour. New commercial varieties of kiwifruit are now optimised for their flavour and health benefits as consumer’s tastes and preferences have extended globally.   

“With the Flavour Profiler, it is possible to produce fruit with lower sugar levels. We can detect all sweet related compounds in the fruits and show which varieties have a lower level of sugar with the same sweet-sensation,”​ the spokesperson commented.

With sales revenues of €1.43bn ($1.57bn) in 2014/15, Zespri is recognised as the biggest producer of kiwifruit worldwide. Based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Zespri is owned by current or past kiwifruit growers, and employs approximately 350 people in New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the Americas.  

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