Mapping the Flavour Genome

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

Beth Altringer first became fascinated in flavor when she joined a competitive wine tasting league while in graduate school at The University of Cambridge.

While it had nothing to do with her field of study (product design and innovation), the very idea of breaking down the characteristics of wine and its flavor into highly descriptive and well understood categories was a revelation to Altringer, so much so she eventually began to think about the idea of applying this systematic and analytical approach to flavor to almost any type of food.

It was from there that the Flavor Genome Project was born, an initiative that “explores how components of flavor combine to create delightful multi-sensory, chemical, emotional, and cultural experiences.” The goal of the project is to eventually create an “automated understanding of what people are intuitively searching for in a food or drink experience, regardless of the language they use to search for it, intelligently understanding flavor goals in context, and, ultimately, making it easier for people to discover experiences they are likely to enjoy.”

According to Altringer, the Flavor Genome Project is intended to be a platform that could be a foundation for other products, and the first of those product is a mobile game called Chef’s League. The iOS game allows players to compete to master the usage of different flavor characteristics such as “salt, sweetness, acidity, fat, spice, and more.”

Source: The Spoon

Read more about the Flavor Genome Project . . . . .

Watch video at vimeo (2:34 minutes) . . . . .

Flavour and Food Products Developed with AI technology

McCormick, a global leader in flavor, and IBM today publicly announced their ongoing research collaboration to pioneer the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for flavor and food product development.

Using IBM Research AI for Product Composition, McCormick is ushering in a new era of flavor innovation and changing the course of the industry. Product developers across McCormick’s global workforce will be able to explore flavor territories more quickly and efficiently using AI to learn and predict new flavor combinations from hundreds of millions of data points across the areas of sensory science, consumer preference and flavor palettes. This proprietary, cutting-edge technology sets McCormick apart in its ability to develop more creative, better tasting products and new flavor experiences across both its Consumer and Flavor Solutions business units.

McCormick expects to launch its first AI-enabled product platform, “ONE,” by mid-2019, with a set of initial one-dish Recipe Mix flavors including Tuscan Chicken, Bourbon Pork Tenderloin and New Orleans Sausage. The company’s flavor developers created this product platform by combining IBM’s expertise in AI and machine learning with McCormick’s 40+ years of proprietary sensory science and taste data, which includes decades of past product formulas and millions of data points related to consumer taste preferences and palettes. AI has enabled McCormick’s product developers access to an expanded portfolio of flavor profiles that enhances their creativity. The new ONE platform was specifically developed to deliver family-favorite flavors with the ability to season both the protein and vegetable. The new seasoning blends expect to be on U.S. retail shelves by late spring.

“McCormick’s use of artificial intelligence highlights our commitment to insight-driven innovation and the application of the most forward-looking technologies to continually enhance our products and bring new flavors to market,” said McCormick Chairman, President and CEO Lawrence Kurzius. “This is one of several projects in our pipeline where we’ve embraced new and emerging technologies.”

As a world leader in artificial intelligence software, services and technology for business, IBM is focused on working with clients and enterprises across many industry sectors to help advance data-driven technologies that push markets forward.

“IBM Research’s collaboration with McCormick illustrates our commitment to helping our clients and partners drive innovation across industries,” said Kathryn Guarini, VP, Industry Research, IBM. “By combining McCormick’s deep data and expertise in science and taste, with IBM’s AI capabilities, we are working together to unlock the bounds of creativity and transform the food and flavor development process.”

Pairing McCormick’s global expertise, particularly that of its research and product development teams, with leading AI research helped McCormick accelerate the speed of flavor innovation by up to three times and deliver highly effective, consumer-preferred formulas. Through the ONE platform as well as several other projects in the pipeline, McCormick’s product developers are now using AI to unlock creativity, access new insights and share data with their peers around the world. The company plans to scale this technology globally by 2021.

Source: IBM

The Future of Flavour

Chiara Cecchini wrote . . . . . . .

The produce of today is being engineered for color, shape, yield, and shelf life, but it seems like the produce of the future will be optimized for flavor. Horticultural sciences professor Harry Klee is currently breeding a tomato for taste, based on analysis of flavor compounds in heirloom, wild, and modern tomatoes. This endeavor involved sequencing the genomes of over 400 tomato varieties, but his efforts also encompass part of a larger goal. Klee hopes that by understanding the chemical and genetic makeup of flavor in fruits and vegetables we can control the synthesis of flavor compounds and create better-tasting food.

In an age where the average supermarket tomato is watery and lackluster and where the generic pea no longer tastes like spring or the earth, an increased focus on flavor from the production side is most welcome. Peter Klosse, author of The Essence of Gastronomy: Understanding the Flavor of Foods and Beverages, asserts that this change may be driven by consumers’ frustrations with flavorless foods. “Gradually, we’ve grown to changing our traditional agricultural systems to produce flavorless commodities,” Klosse states; according to Harry Klee in “Improving the flavor of fresh fruits: genomics, biochemistry, and biotechnology“, it is now generally accepted that the flavor quality of many fruits has significantly declined over recent decades. But blandness of products does not seem an issue because the food industry has found a way to solve the problem. This is done by incorporating salt, sugar, fats, and chemical additives to restore flavor that has been bred out of food.

Ultimately, a lack of value for produce’s flavor is where it all starts. Supermarkets, focused on getting food from producers to consumers in the most efficient, least costly means possible, want a consistent supply of consistent quality food. And while several food-tech companies are populating the market trying to provide solutions to meet this needs, Corporate farms, urged to meet industry demands, are forced to sacrifice seasonality and sustainability — and consequently, flavor.

“We have lost biodiversity,” Klosse says. “We have lost a lot of individual quality between farms and regions, we are losing varietal differences.” But consumers are starting to notice, and starting to care. Klosse believes innovation in this field should be focused on moving the food system towards regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative systems, involving maintaining biodiversity and using farming techniques that do not damage soil, are also flavor-rich. Food production today emphasizes efficiency and yield; but if the value of flavor — and subsequently the possibility of earning money by cultivating flavorful produce — is reintroduced, farmers can once again grow foods that are both flavorful and sustainable.

Klee’s research articulates the benefits of the older, more natural agricultural practices which Klosse promotes. His team has discovered that modern tomatoes lack the sweetness and rich flavors of heirloom breeds since flavor compounds have been lost over time; bred out as the genes responsible for producing the volatile flavor chemicals are neglected. Supermarket tomatoes are picturesque, hefty globes of firm red flesh. But bite into one and you’ll find that the tanginess, earthiness, and succulent sweetness associated with tomatoes are, well, absent. Beyond replicating Klee’s experiments by taste-testing a variety of tomatoes, Klosse claims we need palpable proof of concept for a regenerative system to convince the industry of its merits.

In short: we need real examples which you can see and touch. “Start small,” he suggests, “take a comprehensive region within the industry, from farmers to retail to consumers, committed to a new way of thinking, and demonstrate that regenerative systems work.” In my opinion, if more people come to realize that said systems do in fact work, the food system of tomorrow may be one that combines future understandings and research on flavor compound interactions with past ecologically-friendly practices. If what we believe about flavor becoming increasingly prioritized by producers and consumers holds true, then the future of food is a truly appetizing one which we should look forward to.

The potential of technology and big data

The fact that artificial intelligence and data-driven methods are being harnessed to upgrade kitchens, create new products, and generate supply chain solutions is already old news in the food industry. Innovations in digital flavor profiling, however, have yet to gain widespread traction. Hopefully, that will soon change, as companies like Gastrograph and FlavorWiki are seeking to alter how companies – and by extension, consumers – view flavor.

We at the Future Food Institute spoke to Jason Cohen, founder of Gastrograph, and Daniel Protz, founder of FlavorWiki, to gain more insight into how these digital profiling pioneers are using analytics to reshape the flavor profiling landscape.

Experiencing flavors

We asked Cohen how the role of flavor or taste might change as food becomes increasingly experiential. Cohen thinks the role of flavor itself may not undergo a transformation; rather, the shift lies in the role of data changing how products are developed. “People have always wanted good tasting food, and will continue to purchase the products that taste best to them.” However, as novel techniques are “making it possible to predict perception and preference for the first time,” product developers need to become progressively more aware of how they can take data and predictions into consideration to develop competitive products.

In the past, companies could develop “generally acceptable products,” but as the number of companies and products grow, on both local and global levels, increasingly niche products are required to remain competitive. Cohen firmly believes that companies failing to use modern techniques and data to predict the changing consumer preference of each consumer cohort will be at a disadvantage. Due to increased competition in both old and new markets, companies are reinvesting in the competitive attributes that will bring consumers back to their brands – which, in Food and Beverage (F&B), is flavor.

Personalizing flavors

Technological advancements extend to personalization. As flavor may be experienced differently by different people, it’s only expected that the flavor becomes something more individualized. Sensory panels that most companies currently use to taste-test products are unrepresentative of general market preference. Gastrograph uses AI and predictive models to identify how different demographics and regions experience and enjoy different flavor profiles. They then utilize that information to optimize new product development, product adaptation, and portfolio management services to companies, taking targeted and cognitive marketing into account to ensure the right products are developed for target consumers.

FlavorWiki, too, is developing flavor-mapping technology that quantifies individual taste perception and preference. Food retailers and producers can then use this data to personalize product development, improve product innovation, and deliver a more engaging food experience. Their founder and CEO, Daniel Protz, believes consumer research is ripe to undergo a transformation.

The goal of consumer research to determine what flavors, textures, and fragrances will be popular with a target market. Companies typically have trained tasters to give feedback on products. It is generally very expensive to conduct this type of research; so much so that the large majority of consumer research in sensory science is done by a few large conglomerates like Nestle and Unilever.

Increasing accessibility

Protz believes “somebody should figure out a way to make this type of research more accessible to smaller companies, to make it faster, to make it more agile,” so that new companies creating products like meat or dairy replacements can develop foods that are both innovative and liked by consumers. FlavorWiki’s methodology enables the profiling of food products by untrained consumers, using an algorithm and data capture methodology developed by a Princeton statistician. A person can taste a product and use the application to profile it, allowing FlavorWiki to obtain profiles from anywhere in the world.

Their profiling technique is more robust than existing consumer research as they can collect a lot of data at a lower cost. They gather information like time of day, age, demographics, where you consumed the product, and what you consumed before the product as well. Outputs may include: what is the level of sweetness, or bitterness, et cetera, in a juice product? Is that product accepted by the group of people the company is testing it with? How much sweeter does it need to be to be accepted? Is that statistically relevant? What is the difference between products A and B, and which do people prefer, and why?

A “flavor profile” can be created for each person, showing their preferences for different flavors. People’s taste preferences can be grouped into taste archetypes, or personas; the archetypes of people who live and work in East Asia will be different from those who grew up in the American midwest. Archetypes can change depending on age and exposure to new foods, and any one person can fall into different archetypes for different types of foods.

In the past, food companies have mass-produced a single product and marketed that product to all types of consumers. With taste archetype data, companies can better target particular archetypes, and consumers can be matched with food products based on their archetypes. It will be easier to tailor products to specific geographic locations. Companies can still mass-produce, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, catering to specific archetypes of a desired market.

Ultimately, FlavorWiki hopes to construct a “taster community platform” where groups of people with certain profiles are given both new products to try before they are released and incentives to provide feedback on products currently on the market. Likely first adopters may be sent food based on on criteria like “vegan” or “dairy free” to review.

The resulting scenario

The future we imagine is one in which digital flavor profiling technologies empower consumers as well as producers, providing us a greater voice in the development of food products. Cohen notes that successful F&B products can have long-term impacts on the future flavors of other goods. If product development becomes more consumer-centric, we may see changes in the way food trends disseminate. In addition, profiling technologies seem to enable consumers to be better arbiters of flavor. Users claim FlavorWiki causes them to think more about what they’re eating; as people become better at recognizing flavor notes, they can gain more appreciation for the food they consume. Due to heightened awareness of flavor on the consumer side, and awareness of predictive technologies and big data on the producer side, flavor may be viewed as an increasingly personalized experience to tap into.

Source: The Spoon

Modern Ice Cream Flavours Inspired By History

Charcoal Ice Cream with Pomegranate Swirl and Chocolate Sourdough Breadcrumbs

Laura Kiniry wrote . . . . . . . .

If Stonehenge Monument were an ice cream, it would be a delicious bowl of vanilla blended with bits of oats and hazelnuts and honey swirls.

At least according to Hannah Spiegelman, a small-batch ice cream maker in Baltimore who explores the sweet — as well as salty, spicy and even a little nutty — sides of historical people and places through A Sweet History, her blog, Instagram feed and occasional pop-up stand of the same name.

Spiegelman creates unique ice cream flavors inspired by everything from historical figures to art history, mythology, astrology and historic events. “I’ve always liked looking at history from a visual standpoint,” she says.

That quality is evident when you see a tea cup filled with her hay ice cream, sprinkled with pieces of pistachio and raspberry macarons: Spiegelman’s picture-perfect ode to Impressionism, with the vibrant pink color of its crushed macarons standing out like the small but visible brush strokes that characterize this 19th century art movement.

There’s Spiegelman’s Mint Tea Green Ice Cream with Peach Swirl, a mix she concocted after learning about Edna Lewis, the former Hollywood dress-maker who became a culinary legend for her books on traditional Southern foods. Lewis created a peach cobbler out of fresh summer peaches that many consider to be one of her quintessential dessert recipes, and the “swirls” are meant to represent the fluidity of the garments she sewed. As for the ice cream’s primary flavor? “The aroma of freshly crushed mint heightened the festivity of any occasion,” Lewis once wrote, so Spiegelman took it a step further, combining crushed mint with the ultimate refreshing treat.

Spiegelman also created a green chili ice dream with red chili caramel sauce and biscochitos — an homage to New Mexico’s distinct culinary heritage, as well as the state where she spent her teens. She calls the flavor Red or Green?, using the caramel sauce both as a carrier for the red chili and to show the contrast between the two chili colors and tastes, and biscochitos —anise-flavored shortbread cookies — because they’re New Mexico’s state cookie, as well as a nod to the Spanish settlers who first began making them in the area centuries earlier.

“The thing I miss most about home is the unique cuisine,” Spiegelman says, “which I wanted to highlight in this flavor.”

Spiegelman had been making ice cream as a hobby for several years before realizing she could combine her two passions: food and history. She had recently graduated from Baltimore’s Goucher College with a general history degree, and was splitting her time between research work and a second job at a local ice cream shop, where she met owner Krystal Mack.

“When I talked with Krystal about my interests, she was incredibly supportive,” says Spiegelman,” and told me, ‘there’s no reason you can’t bring them both together.’ ”

She took Mack’s advice and slowly began merging the two, launching in February 2017 with her Custard Ice Cream with Rose Water Meringue, a flavor based on the life of James Hemings — Thomas Jefferson’s private chef (and the brother of Sally Hemings). Hemings’ own recipe for snow eggs — a vanilla custard with rose water meringues — served as a direct inspiration.

Spiegelman has since gone on to create flavors based on everything from the 1904 World’s Fair (which she says, “introduced, not invented as a lot of people think, new foods like ice cream waffle cones and Dr. Pepper,” both ingredients that make up the overall flavor) to Futurism, the 20th century Italian avant-garde art movement that celebrated the machine age and urban modernity. In this case, inspiration for the almond ice cream with its strawberry black pepper swirl comes specifically from the Futurist dessert known as Italian Breasts in the Sunshine: two pieces of almond paste, each topped with a fresh strawberry and dusted with black pepper.

“My favorite part is the research,” Spiegelman says. She’ll often delve deep into a subject, drawing connections between certain qualities of a topic and specific ingredients.

Sometimes the connections are obvious, such as with the aptly named Poe Toaster: a cognac ice cream with rose candy. It’s the sweet tooth embodiment of the “Poe Toaster,” a mysterious person (or persons) who visited Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore grave annually on the author’s January 19 birthday for approximately 75 years, each time leaving behind an unfinished bottle of cognac and three red roses.

Other Sweet History flavors feature ingredients that are more abstract, such as Spiegelman’s Charcoal Ice Cream with Pomegranate Swirl and Chocolate Sourdough Breadcrumbs, her edible manifestation of Persephone —whose decision to eat pomegranate seeds sealed her fate as queen of the underworld, according to Greek mythology.

“I used charcoal for the base to represent the darkness of the underworld,” she says, “and the breadcrumbs are symbolic of the sheaves of grain Persephone is often depicted holding.” As for their distinct chocolate sourdough flavor, “I had them left over from another [ice cream blend] and thought they’d make a nice addition.”

Not every new flavor hits the mark. A friend once commissioned Spiegelman to create a flavor based on Aries, the first astrological sign of the zodiac, but “the recipient was an extremely picky eater,” she says. “It was difficult finding the right mix of ingredients that would both capture an Aries’ qualities and suit her tastes.”

To help streamline her process, Spiegelman keeps a running list of ingredients that she thinks might work well together, and she’ll turn to it when creating a new flavor. The list includes items like honey, hibiscus flowers, and molasses meringue. “I’ll pick out several ingredients [from the list] that I feel best capture the subject I’m working on,” she says, “then continuously narrow them down until it’s an edible combination.” It’s especially useful while working on private commissions, which Spiegelman offers to anyone living in the greater Baltimore area. (She’s currently not shipping flavors).

One commission centered around the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and two of her paintings in particular — including one from her series of animal skulls.

“While researching Georgia I discovered that she did a lot of her own cooking, grew her own plants, and even made her own yogurt,” says Spiegelman. “I wanted to incorporate these aspects, along with the painting of the animal skull, into the flavor.”

The result: Raspberry Frozen Yogurt with Bone Broth Caramel Sauce. “I used the raspberries because I wanted to match some of the color in her Red Canna paintings,” a vibrantly-hued abstract paintings of a red canna flower up-close.

Along with commissions and pop-up events around her city, Spiegelman also runs ice cream workshops. She’ll be heading to graduate school for gastronomic studies in the fall, though she says those hungry for knowledge shouldn’t worry: Through posts, pics, and occasional commissions, A Sweet History will still be serving up scoops of the past, one flavor at a time.

Source: npr

How Your Food is Engineered to Taste Great

Ben Tinker wrote . . . . . .

Who says being “vanilla” is a bad thing? It’s one of the most popular flavors in the world.

Whether it’s in cookies, cakes or ice cream, we just can’t seem to get enough.

The vast majority of bona fide vanilla bean is produced in Indonesia and Madagascar, but there’s simply not enough supply to meet the global demand.

That’s where “flavor houses” come in. Their flavor chemists are responsible for formulating the flavoring in virtually every product you eat and drink that is processed, preserved or packaged before it gets to you.

Case in point: Toward the end of the ingredient label on many packaged foods and drinks is the phrase “Contains natural and artificial flavoring.” But behind these nebulous words is carefully considered science, says Kim Juelg, a senior flavorist at Givaudan.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Givaudan is the biggest flavor house in the world, commanding nearly 20% of global market share, according to industry analysts Leffingwell & Associates.

‘Like Mother Nature intended’

Juelg began her career at Givaudan more than 20 years ago as an organoleptic scientist — a job title even her own father struggled to pronounce — working on the science of the senses. Her own favorite foods mostly include fruits, and she has an affinity for bananas that are so green, they are still crunchy.

“The flavors that we make go into consumer goods that are baked, that are fried, that are frozen — so, put through pretty rigorous processing, and they lose flavor,” Juelg told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “So what we do is try to add back to that and make that taste like Mother Nature intended.”

When Gupta asked whether a flavorist’s job is simply “re-creating what’s natural,” Juelg said, “a lot of it is … but we can (also) create fantasy flavors. We can create combinations maybe that Mother Nature didn’t intend.” She gave the example of a mojito, made up of mint, lime, sugar and rum. “We can re-create that in one flavor,” she said.

Depending on what individual compounds Juelg uses to “build” a particular flavor, it will be classified as either natural or artificial.

“Natural materials come from a natural source and are processed in a natural way. Synthetic materials are from a not-natural source, or they are not processed in a natural way,” said Juelg. “For instance, we use ethyl butyrate here in a lot of our fruit flavors. It’s a material that’s found in peaches and in strawberries and in blueberries. The molecule is the same, but it’s processed differently.”

Even if the compounds are identical, the method she uses to combine them could lead to different classifications. Either way, flavoring typically makes up less than 1% of the volume of a finished food product — and the formula remains top secret.

“It would be similar to a chef in a kitchen creating dinner for you and you want to take home that recipe to make a banana cream pie. That chef is not going to give you that recipe,” Juelg said.

Generally Recognized as Safe

Like all flavor houses, Givaudan is bound by strict confidentiality agreements with its clients, which include “all of the biggest global and national beverage companies in all product categories,” according a company spokesman.

Some flavors, such as black pepper, contain only a single ingredient. Others may contain hundreds or more — there really is no maximum.

A typical flavor, the spokesman said, contains 25 to 30 ingredients.

All approved flavoring ingredients are GRAS: Generally Recognized As Safe. They are “generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use,” according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

For its part, the FDA defines a flavor as an ingredient “whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

The agency does not require flavor ingredients to be listed individually on food labels. And food manufacturers, for their part, are not too keen to disclose their proprietary ingredients and formulas — their “secret sauce” — to would-be competitors.

Still, a list of all ingredients permitted for use in flavorings in the United States is maintained by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association in its Flavor Ingredient Library. Internationally, the Global Reference List is published by the International Organization of the Flavor Industry.

“We have chefs internally that work with us, and in a lot of instances, they make things, and then we re-create that into a flavor,” Juelg said. “They may create a gold standard of maple brown sugar oatmeal. That’s what I want my flavor to taste like.”

Gupta argued, “my mom would say you can’t re-create what’s she’s created in the kitchen. It’s her thing.”

“Sometimes you can’t,” Juelg agreed. “But if I can make it taste great and you can add water and have it in 30 seconds, then that’s a fabulous breakfast for my son.”

Source: CNN