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Driving taste Key drivers in likeability Our choice of food heavily depends on its basic flavours such as sweet and sour, as well as on its aroma, which is perceived through the olfactory sense. Sometimes we even enjoy the olfactory sensation without actually eating the tasty item. Unique combinations of so-called volatiles and the proportion of each of the volatile components determine food flavour and aroma properties. Genetic engineering for the improvement of taste and aroma is yet an underexploited field in the food industry. As only very small amounts of volatile components are needed to affect a change in flavour, genetic engineering can help understand drivers of ‘likeability’ and thus optimize recipes. Opinion Test & Taste is at the forefront of product improvement by combining comprehensive analysis results of volatile and non-volatile metabolites in food products with information from sensory testing.

There’s more to taste than meets the eye

Are you ready for a food (r)evolution?

How it works Metabolites are organic compounds, usually small molecules that are either produced by the metabolism or take part in metabolic processes. Typical examples of metabolites are glucose in the metabolism of sugars and starches or amino acids in the biosynthesis of proteins. Metabolites in food can be either volatile or non-volatile and their specific properties or combination of properties have an influence on the taste or flavour of food products. Combinations of components and the proportion of combinations thus determine the aroma and taste properties of foods. Opinion Test & Taste has a great track record in sensory/consumer research since 1991. With headquarters in the Netherlands and offices throughout Europe, we can cover both national and international client needs for high-quality sensory research in all areas of the food industry. We even have a fully equipped mobile testing centre to enable consumer research in those areas where no fixed lab is available. By combining sensory information (consumer data and descriptive panel data) and analytical data on food products (laboratory analysis provided by our Virtual Lab division), we provide valuable insight into consumer preferences. Once the results of the research have been established, it is crucial to translate them into suggestions for product improvement by changing the recipe. The first step towards changing the recipe is identifying the most important sensory attributes that ‘drive taste’. It is, however, a time-consuming and ‘trial-and-error’ process, which is very costly for the manufacturer. Opinion has developed a breakthrough method for understanding the key drivers of likeability and matching ingredients with sensory attributes. The method allows our clients to improve their recipes for greater consumer satisfaction, while product quality is maintained and production cost is decreased. We call this process Opinion Product Improvement (OPI).

By combining comprehensive analyses of metabolites in food with information from sensory research and then running specific statistics on them, we can find correlations between certain flavours and the metabolic patterns that help create them. For instance, if a certain soup has been perceived by a consumer panel as being ‘meaty’, we will investigate which chemical composition and physical properties are responsible for creating that flavour. Once the metabolites have been identified using biostatistics, we can modify and enhance aromas and better overall taste.

From analysis to results Metabolic engineering is a new approach that involves the purposeful manipulation of metabolic pathways to improve the quality and taste of food products. The first step in metabolic engineering of food is generating data from research and running statistics on that data to establish determining factors with regard to flavour and aroma. What happens next is data pre-processing by applying either ‘peak picking’ or ‘de-convolution’. To guarantee optimal analytic results, data is being normalized (based on international standards) to reduce differences in sample extraction among other things. Furthermore, calibration procedures are being used to adjust any differences in analytical instruments between batches of samples. The third step in the process is to model the relation between the data sets from analytics and sensory testing by applying multivariate statistics. The starting point is usually the analysis of sensory scores, i.e. how products score at specific taste attributes. The information is then merged with metabolite patterns to get insight in which patterns influence the taste perception. Significantly different taste patterns usually show significantly different metabolic patters. However, taste differences can be caused by very subtle metabolic differences as well. Finally, the models are being interpreted to define the role of metabolites on the sensory attributes with which they correlate. By identifying, for example, the drivers behind the sensory attribute ‘saltiness’, you could achieve salt-reduction by looking at the metabolites that determine the perception of a ‘salty’ product.

The best of both worlds

Save money along the way The above described methodology provides clear information on the key drivers of likeability in overall taste and the metabolites that are responsible for it. Understanding these models allows you to enhance recipes and save costs in terms of: • • •

recuding the number of ingredients; reducting the amount of one or more ingredients; replacing ingredients by cheaper components.

Food for thought Part of a bigger picture Opinion Test & Taste is a division of Opinion Group, a fast-growing, ambitious yet very personable organisation that serves a wide variety of companies in the food industry and related business sectors. Opinion Group offers its customers the tools and services, tactics and strategies that are essential for their success. Our innovative tools are mostly web-based, covering all major needs of the food industry: • • • • • • •

Market and consumer research Quality and food safety issues Label checks Product specification Lab analysis Industrial automation Energy management

Opinion Test & Taste Headquarters Everdenberg 99 I 4902 TT Oosterhout I The Netherlands I

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