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Flavour standards: are these set to be game-changing for food and drink R&D?

By Jane Byrne , 28-Oct-2011
Last updated on 28-Oct-2011 at 14:40 GMT

A new line of flavour reference standards aimed at ensuring skilled panel testers for product testing will have a transformative effect on food and beverage formulation, claims developer Cara Technology.

Speaking to FoodNavigator.com this morning, Bill Simpson, MD of Cara, said that the company is releasing 180 new modular standards under the Aroxa brand, with the cider, water, wine and soft drink manufacturing sectors the initial focus of the launch.

However he points out that new line also includes multipurpose standards for use in a myriad of food products from yoghurt to milk to tomato sauce, and Cara intends, added Simpson, to explore their use in those industries but not before it has fully penetrated the beverage sector.

Gap between science and application

There is a major disconnect with the science around flavour development and practical application on the ground in the cider, soft drinks and food sectors,” argues Simpson, who claims that manufacturers in these categories have yet to use flavour references either for training their taster panel members or for NPD.

He reports that the brewing industry has seen a phenomenal turnabout from its 15+ years’ experience of the incorporation of flavour references into its sensory panels, with intensive training of its tasters based on the standards increasing yield and ensuring quality control.

Recall reduction

“Their use means the beer sector now takes it for granted that it can easily achieve product consistency,” stressed Simpson. “Brewers have seen a massive fall off in off-spec beer as well as fewer recalls due to the fact that contaminants are now easily identifiable by beer tasters,” added the Cara MD.

Simpson said that 15 years ago, the majority of members of taste panels in brewers could not link a chemical name to a flavour and, therefore, could not articulate their findings on a beer’s flavours - either impact characteristics or off-notes - beyond terms such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘harmonious’, or ‘balanced’.

But following rigorous training using the reference standards, brewers globally, he said, have now eliminated subjectivity from their tasting activitites.

“When we first measured the performance of sensory testers in the brewing sector on flavour compound and chemical recognition, the ‘best in class’ panellists still only achieved a 25% success rate, but following a series of blind-taste training using our flavour references, those same tasters scored in the range of 80 to 90%.

This level of expertise really facilitates process decisions in the brewing indsutries and as our references include off-flavour and taints categories, the presence of toxins such as chemical migrants from packaging in the beer can be identified prior to products leaving the factory,” continued Simpson.

Fast-tracking NPD

The MD said that the line, which comes in unit-dosed nano-encapsulated gelatine capsules can be used to fast-track new product prototypes. The capsules, he explained, provide enough material to generate precise, tried and tested concentrations of flavour in each litre of product.

“For example, if a brewer wants to develop a new beer with say a tropical sands flavour that appeals to the under 25s segment, it may want to give a light flavour. The company thus takes a bland beer and then adds in various flavour standards to determine the optimum levels required to achieve the desired 'light' taste,” said Simpson.

Each flavour standard, reports Cara, is supplied with an information sheet which gives details concerning the assessment of the flavour note, its flavour threshold, the distribution of threshold values among assessors, the origins of the flavour and its importance to the product.