Sensory Analysis: What is Flavor?
Flavor! There are many definitions for flavor, but all of them contain a combination of taste and odor influenced by sensations of pain, heat, cold and other tactile sensations. Most people have taste buds. Flavor has a major role in determining the acceptability of foods and beverages. It is a dynamic sense that changes in intensity over time. The perception of flavor is really a result of a number of steps from before a substance touches your tongue and even continuing after something has been swallowed.
Flavor perception can be divided easily into three stages. The odor assessment, sniffing the food before it enters your mouth. The flavor in the mouth assessment, when the food is in the mouth. Also, the aftertaste assessment, which is the sensations perceived after a sample has been swallowed. Flavor perception can be altered by a variety of substances causing it to taste differently. There are actually seven basic tastes while the amount of smells are potentially limitless. It’s not commonly known that of all the senses, smell is the main determinant of a food or beverage items flavor. Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, savory, pungent, metallic are the seven basic tastes. Therefore, if you want to alter a food or beverage flavor you can do so by changing its smell while keeping its taste rather similar. We see this all the time in artificially flavored jellies, soft drinks and candies made primarily of the same base. They have a similar taste, but they have dramatically different flavors because of the use of different scents and fragrances.
If you’re really interested in the science, look into the trigeminal senses which detect chemical irritants in the mouth and throat as well as the temperature and texture, which are also very important to the overall flavor perception.
Everybody has different thresholds of flavor. Some people think that something that is too salty is not salty enough. The same can be true with regard to any of the typical tastes offered in flavor. What’s important to remember when it comes to flavor is that your audience can vary. In order to establish a baseline you will need to have a substantial test group to determine the undeniable consistencies in flavor preference and scope. This can have tremendous impact on the marketing of a food or beverage product. For example, if a food item is perceived as being salty, people that are health conscious may avoid it when in fact the salt content is considerably less than some other products on the market. If something has the flavor perception of tasting too sweet, a similar result may occur. The nutritional value of a product will often be perceived by its flavor rather than by its ingredients. It is a very powerful psychological motivator that will affect the bottom line for food and beverage providers.
This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us onlineContractTesting.com.