The ability to accurately predict which flavours will appeal to consumers is critical to food and beverage manufacturers around the world. Flavour is a key determinant of whether their products have ‘wow!’ appeal or a distinctive edge over their nearest competitors - which in turn helps to influence repeat purchase by consumers.
Traditionally, consumer testing of products for flavour preference has involved an upper limit of six or seven product samples per session. A number of factors prevent the use of larger samples: when products are tasted by panelists, there is a limit to how many different samples can be ingested at one sitting before satiety occurs. Sensory fatigue and carry-over effects in the mouth are other problems that occur when tasting multiple product samples. These constraints mean that traditionally, the flavourist has been obliged to narrow down the possible flavour options from the outset, by pre-selecting a limited number of choices that can be evaluated by target consumers.
Increasing speed to market with the help of technology
Increasing the range and variety of samples using traditional approaches has been a costly and time-consuming option. However, by using unique flavour creation tools such as Givaudan’s Virtual Aroma Synthesizer™ (VAS), these procedural limitations can be overcome. The VAS™ is an aroma delivery device that combines human perception (our sense of smell) with precise instrumentation. VAS™ technology allows for controlled aroma generation to effectively blend complex mixtures of flavour ingredients into a single aroma profile.
Using the VAS™ overcomes the constraints of satiety, since no food or drink samples are actually ingested. Also, cleansing the nasal ‘palate’ is more straightforward than refreshing the mouth palate, often requiring little more than smelling a neutral stimulus like clean air or coffee beans. Years of research have shown that a typical consumer can evaluate between four and ten times the number of samples through aroma sensing than can be evaluated by mouth (between 30-40 are not unusual). This means that more shades and subtleties of flavour can be evaluated in a single session, giving food and beverage manufacturers the ability to explore larger regions of the flavour space at a comparatively lower cost.
Extensive studies have shown aroma to be an accurate predictor of taste preference. Tests have demonstrated that consumers’ preference for a particular taste tends to mirror their liking or disliking of its aroma. Moreover, the perceptual differences that exist between the smell and taste of a product can be addressed by an experienced flavourist, particularly when the expert’s judgment is supported by Givaudan’s proprietary flavour modeling tools.
The mini-VAS brings the customer into the loop
Givaudan’s mini-Virtual Aroma Synthesizer (the ‘mini-VAS’) is the highly portable version of the VAS, which is used on the Company’s TasteTrek™ programmes (exploratory field research exercises) and also on customer sites.
The mini-VAS contains 30 cartridges, each about 12cm long and lined with absorbent material. Small amounts of flavour ingredients are placed inside these cartridges. Air is passed down a central chamber of the mini-VAS and the flow of air through the cartridges can be adjusted in any chosen combination via a connected laptop computer, to effectively recreate the different individual aromas with great accuracy. The aromatic air is blown out of the mini-VAS through a tube and is smelt by the flavourist or customer via a nose cup.
This technology-supported rapid sampling process, unique to Givaudan, forms the basis for translating a preferred aroma profile into a flavour formulation for a final consumer product.
Combining past experience with cutting-edge innovation
Linking Givaudan’s powerful flavour optimization tools with known target consumer preferences derived from quantitative research studies can be of significant benefit to food and drink manufacturers. In particular, this approach can help to provide an accurate prediction of those flavour formulations that are likely to be successful in a given consumer market, using geographical and / or demographic criteria.
The body of knowledge generated from recent extensive flavour studies serves as a platform to enable Givaudan flavourists to rapidly address new product formulation requirements.
Sensory profiling is used to identify an initial consumer target area, then VAS™ technology is used to explore the subtle diversity of flavours available to the product developer within that target area. This approach offers considerable advantages in terms of both speed and flavour differentiation.
By combining its accumulated sensory experience base and proprietary technologies, Givaudan offers food and drink manufacturers a highly efficient and creative approach to testing and validating consumer winning flavour concepts.
Chicken case study
Givaudan recently worked with a customer in Latin America on a product reformulation project to develop a new, cost-effective chicken flavour for soups. The mini-VAS™ was used to evaluate the performance of several new high impact natural flavours that were selected to ensure maximum authenticity in the chicken flavour profile. A further technical challenge was presented by the need to protect the highly sensitive and volatile natural chicken flavour components. Use of Givaudan’s proprietary encapsulation technology PureDelivery™ helped the delicate flavours withstand a rigorous food manufacturing environment, whilst improving flavour stability and retention, aroma release and helping to extend the product’s shelf life.
Notes to editors:
Givaudan Flavours is a trusted partner to the world’s leading food and beverage companies, combining its global expertise in sensory understanding and analysis and consumer-led innovation in support of unique product applications and new market opportunities. From concept to store shelves and quick serve restaurants, Givaudan works with food and beverage manufacturers to develop flavours and tastes for market leading products across five continents.