„The main thing is that it tas­tes good“ or „The main thing is that it tas­tes the same“?

The hu­man as a crea­tu­re of ha­bit and qua­li­ty stan­dards in the fla­vor in­dus­try.

This pro­verb has a lot of mea­ning be­cau­se the­re is ac­tual­ly much truth to it. Over 40% of our ever­y­day ac­tions are ha­bits – ac­tions that have been for­med th­rough re­pe­ti­ti­on and have be­co­me so au­to­ma­ted that litt­le thin­king is re­qui­red. Of­ten, this be­ha­vi­or is even exe­cu­ted un­con­scious­ly.

Ho­we­ver, it’s not just ac­tions that we be­co­me ac­cus­to­med to; we also get used to cer­tain foods. Thus, we be­co­me ac­cus­to­med to a spe­ci­fic tas­te, smell, or aro­ma of a pro­duct. Once we have come to app­re­cia­te a pro­duct, we are re­luc­tant to ac­cept any va­ria­ti­on in its tas­te. Af­ter all, this is the re­ason why we buy it.

But how do ma­nu­fac­tu­r­ers meet the­se de­mands? Is cher­ry fla­vor, for in­s­tance, al­ways the same? And how do ma­nu­fac­tu­r­ers ma­na­ge to main­tain a con­sis­tent tas­te?

Use of fla­vors and qua­li­ty stan­dards

Ap­pro­xi­m­ate­ly 2,600 fla­voring sub­s­tances are used in the food in­dus­try. For con­su­mers, it is of­ten con­fu­sing to un­der­stand what exact­ly the term „fla­voring sub­s­tance“ me­ans and how to in­ter­pret the in­gre­di­ent list of a pro­duct. „Aro­ma“ ty­pi­cal­ly re­fers to a com­bi­na­ti­on of va­rious fla­voring sub­s­tances that crea­te a cha­rac­te­ristic odor. Ho­we­ver, the term „fla­voring sub­s­tance“ does not in­iti­al­ly pro­vi­de in­for­ma­ti­on about how the tas­te- or odor-gi­ving sub­s­tance is ob­tai­ned. It can in­clude

  • na­tu­ral (e.g., real va­nil­la or na­tu­ral va­nil­la ex­tra­ct with va­nil­lin as the main fla­voring sub­s­tance),
  • na­tu­re-iden­ti­cal (che­mi­cal­ly iden­ti­cal to sub­s­tances found in na­tu­re but syn­the­ti­cal­ly pro­du­ced, e.g., va­nil­lin), and
  • ar­ti­fi­ci­al fla­voring sub­s­tances (syn­the­ti­cal­ly pro­du­ced sub­s­tances not na­tu­ral­ly pre­sent in the pro­duct, e.g., ethyl­va­nil­lin).

Ac­cor­ding to the EU fla­vor re­gu­la­ti­on 1334/2008, for a sub­s­tance to be la­be­led as a „na­tu­ral fla­voring sub­s­tance,“ it must ori­gi­na­te from a plant, ani­mal, or mi­cro­bio­lo­gi­cal source and be ob­tai­ned th­rough ex­tra­c­tion or di­stil­la­ti­on, for ex­am­p­le.

Our food con­ta­ins not only na­tu­ral fla­vors

The­r­e­fo­re, the­re are se­ve­ral re­asons why our food con­ta­ins not only na­tu­ral fla­vors: Bes­i­des eco­no­mic fac­tors, such as real va­nil­la be­ing more ex­pen­si­ve than syn­the­ti­cal­ly pro­du­ced va­nil­lin, our raw ma­te­ri­als may sim­ply be too sc­ar­ce to meet the de­mand. Lar­ge-sca­le pro­duc­tion also al­lows the ad­di­ti­on of fla­voring sub­s­tances as tas­te enhan­cers, com­pen­sa­ting for fla­vor los­ses that oc­cur du­ring pro­ces­sing. For in­s­tance, when foods are hea­ted or fro­zen, the­se pre­pa­ra­ti­on me­thods may ad­ver­se­ly af­fect their na­tu­ral fla­vors.

Ad­di­tio­nal­ly, ad­ded fla­vors en­su­re that pro­ducts main­tain a con­sis­tent tas­te. Once con­su­mers be­co­me ac­cus­to­med to the smell and tas­te of a pro­duct, they can be sen­si­ti­ve to any ch­an­ges. If pro­ducts are de­ri­ved from fruits, it is un­der­stan­da­ble that en­vi­ron­men­tal and ri­pe­ning con­di­ti­ons can si­gni­fi­cant­ly in­fluence the odor and tas­te of the pro­ces­sed food. The­r­e­fo­re, the use of fla­vors is a com­mon me­thod em­ploy­ed by ma­nu­fac­tu­r­ers to stan­dar­di­ze their pro­ducts.

This po­ses a chall­enge for both fla­voring and food ma­nu­fac­tu­r­ers, as they must be able to (re)produce fla­vors con­sis­t­ent­ly or ad­just for­mu­la­ti­ons to achie­ve the most con­sis­tent tas­te in the end pro­duct. To en­su­re a cer­tain qua­li­ty stan­dard, it is ne­ces­sa­ry to con­duct re­gu­lar sam­pling and ana­ly­ses, che­cking the fla­voring sub­s­tances or blends for any de­via­ti­ons or off-odors as fre­quent­ly as pos­si­ble.

The chall­enge of real-time ana­ly­sis

In many com­pa­nies, the hu­man nose is still the pre­fer­red me­thod. Ho­we­ver, this me­thod is very ex­pen­si­ve due to trai­ning re­qui­red for pa­nelists and mo­reo­ver is pro­ne to sub­jec­ti­vi­ty, re­sul­ting in draw­backs, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in terms of com­pa­ra­bi­li­ty and re­pro­du­ci­bi­li­ty. From an ana­ly­ti­cal view, gas chro­ma­to­gra­phy (GC) cou­pled with mass spec­tro­me­try (MS) is the most com­mon me­thod for fla­voring ana­ly­sis. Ho­we­ver, this ana­ly­sis tech­ni­que is time con­sum­ing (ap­prox. 5–30 mi­nu­tes per ana­ly­sis, de­pen­ding on the in­stru­ment and pro­gram) and is un­sui­ta­ble for real-time ana­ly­sis.

The ve­ri­fi­ca­ti­on is done sub­jec­tively or ba­sed on ran­dom sam­pling, as an ob­jec­ti­ve sen­sor data-dri­ven real-time ana­ly­sis is still a chall­enge.

Powerful and easy-to-use real-time mo­ni­to­ring

In our re­cent­ly pu­blished App­No­te, we have de­mons­tra­ted that the va­rious chal­lenges in real-time ana­ly­sis can be ad­dres­sed with the use of our MS-ba­sed Ha­Voc Sen­so­ry Sys­tem, which en­ables data-dri­ven odor ana­ly­sis.

We show­ed that dif­fe­rent cher­ry-like aro­mas can be di­stin­gu­is­hed and grou­ped by a ma­nu­fac­tu­rer. Fur­ther­mo­re, the sys­tem can dif­fe­ren­tia­te bet­ween ma­nu­fac­tu­r­ers ba­sed on an as­su­med ca­te­go­riza­ti­on of „cher­ry“ aro­ma by ana­ly­zing the dif­fe­rent che­mi­cal com­po­si­ti­ons, i.e., the con­tai­ned fla­voring sub­s­tances. The Ha­Voc Sys­tem also pos­s­es­ses the ca­pa­bi­li­ty to mi­mic and va­li­da­te the re­sults of hu­man sen­so­ry pa­nel odor per­cep­ti­on.

This powerful and user-fri­end­ly real-time mo­ni­to­ring is made pos­si­ble by one of the most ad­van­ced tech­no­lo­gies in che­mi­cal ana­ly­sis, mass spec­tro­me­try. The Ha­Voc Sys­tem re­pres­ents an af­forda­ble and au­to­ma­ted „lab in a box“ so­lu­ti­on for sens­ing vo­la­ti­le or­ga­nic com­pounds. It ful­fills the In­dus­try 4.0 de­mand for high­ly sen­si­ti­ve and easy-to-use real-time sen­sors.

Are you re­a­dy to rethink your ana­ly­sis pro­cess?

Cont­act us for more in­for­ma­ti­on!