Dossier Voeding: smaak- en geuronderzoek

Behalve veilig en voedzaam, moet voeding lekker zijn. Textuur, smaak en geur ( samen 'sensoriek') bepalen in grote mate het succes van een voedingsproduct. Chemische geur- en aromabepalingen bieden inzicht in de moleculaire basis van smaak en geur, evenals in afwijkingen daarin. Een professioneel ingericht smaaklabo en getrainde sensorische panels worden ingezet om deze kennis en product- of procesaanpassingen in de praktijk te toetsen.

Een bord met 3 groentenspiesjes erop

Wat doet ILVO?

  • Een smaakpanel in actie in het smaaklabo van de Food Pilot
    ILVO has a professionally-equipped taste lab, an ethics committe for aroma and taste, and trained panels for sensory testing.

What is a professional taste lab?

The Food Pilot of ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD has a taste lab set up in accordance with ISO8589:2007. This means, among others, a separation of kitchen and panelists, a separation of panelists from each other, and custom lighting to mask color differences.

Taste tests are always carried out under standardized conditions in order to exclude changes in the experimental environment and possible interferences with the taste experience. The panelists are also served individually, using a call light and a pass-through hatch.

Linked to the activities of the tasting lab, the Ethical Taste and Smell Committee of ILVO (ECSG-ILVO) has been established. This committee ensures that taste and aroma tests are carried out in a safe and ethically responsible manner. Independent experts critically evaluate the taste test and must approve its implementation before it can take place.

Taste tests and texture measurements

The Food Pilot has an internally selected tasting panel that has already built up a lot of experience in tasting food products in all kinds of research projects. The panel has been selected to recognize the five basic flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami) and has been trained to evaluate different food products. Depending on the type of taste research and the specific question, both hedonic (acceptance research) and analytical (product-focused research) trials are performed.

Certain sensory properties, such as toughness and mouthfeel, can be substantiated by texture measurements. The most common texture measurements are TPA analyses. These analyses simulate the first two chewing movements in the mouth and generate objective results that correlate well with the sensory research.

Odor and aroma analyses

We do odor and aroma analyses to study the impact of processing on the odor profile of products, to compare the odor profile of different food products/varieties/species, or to identify odor deviations (off-odor) in ingredients or food products, which are all types of deviations that may or may not occur during the production process.

Detection, characterization, and profiling of odor and aroma components are done by means of gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Before these volatile components can be analyzed with GC-MS, they must first be isolated from the food matrix. This can be done either via Solvent Assisted Flavor Evaporation extraction (SAFE) for products where there is a risk of deviations due to heat treatment (e.g. in sugar-rich products due to the Maillard reaction) or via Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME), a fully automated sampling technique. This involves heating the food product in a closed container and isolating the volatile components from the abovementioned air phase using a fiber.

The components measured with GC-MS can be identified using an in-house library of aroma components. Besides the identification of the volatile components, their quantity can also be compared between samples (profiling).

Not every volatile component contributes to the aroma of the product in the same way. Some volatile components have no perceptible aroma themselves. By linking an olfactometric (O) detection in parallel with the MS detection, we can, in addition to the identification and profiling with GC-MS, also distinguish the odor intensity of each component with GC-MS-O, using the human nose as a sensory receptor tool.

Using data from taste and odor testing

Sensory research is a crucial step in product optimization or development. For example, the sensory results can be used to detect significant differences between products. But to do so, the sensory results must first be processed using appropriate statistical methods and visual displays. ILVO uses the Fizz Biosystemes software for this purpose, which may then be combined with self-developed R-codes. Differences between products can be detected, e.g. through statistical tests based on normal-distributed data, such as an ANOVA test, or non-parametric tests, such as the Kruskal-Wallis test. These results are often accompanied by a visual representation in the form of a bar or radar chart or a principal component analysis (PCA) plot.

But more in-depth research is also possible, for which ILVO uses Fizz combined with self-developed R-codes. Using these statistical techniques, the data can be modeled, significant correlations and interactions can be investigated, and sensory research in function of time and repetitions or visual representations, such as a cluster analysis, can be performed.

The range of statistical and visual tools is very extensive and can be optimized and personalized according to the research or the wishes of the applicant.

Predicting consumer acceptance

Within the Optimeat research project, ILVO has built up expertise in creating mathematical models that reliably and robustly predict consumer evaluations for various sensory properties. This is done based on a series of (objective) analytical parameters, such as fat and protein content, pH, etc.

In order to set up the models, hedonic taste tests were taken among approximately sixty consumers in the Food Pilot’s tasting lab and analytical tests were carried out simultaneously on the same products. In total, models were drawn up for five types of meat products: cooked ham, dried ham, cream pâté, aspic, and cooked sausage.

Subsequently, an app was developed in which the user can easily predict the consumer appreciation of the user’s product and make suggestions to further optimize it.

Also read these dossiers

  • Nutrition and health: this subject ends up on our plate more and more, through all kinds of channels (whether or not scientifically substantiated). But how can we still see the forest for the trees?
  • Intestinal health: ILVO’s intestinal health platform aims to investigate the link between nutrition and health by measuring the intestinal microbiome and other physiological parameters in human models and under controlled conditions, in a multi-omics approach
  • Nutritional target groups: Adapted nutrition for people with neurological disorders
  • Food safety and Allergens: Both are important basic conditions when we talk about healthy food.

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