Liquid chromatography maker Waters has welcomed the University of Minnesota's Flavor Research and Education Center, which is within the university's food science and nutrition department, into its centers of innovation program.
The Flavor Research and Education Center under the direction of Prof. Devin Peterson and Prof. Gary Reineccius strives to develop a science-based understanding of food flavor and related chemistry, in particular, flavor generation, characterization of flavor compounds and flavor delivery in foodstuffs.
Their research includes investigating the mechanisms of flavor development of whole grain foods including both taste and aroma-actives, with the goal of better understanding the influence of whole grain composition (phenolic compounds) on the pathways of flavor development to support the production and consumption of more flavorful and healthy whole foods.
The center's research is shared with its 19 member firms including Pepsico, Nestle and General Mills.
"The center is an open innovation platform," said Peterson. "In food flavor research, a lot of work is sponsored by industry via one-on-one relationships. The center allows us to spread the cost of research across many different companies enabling the development of knowledge that would not be done otherwise. Our goal is to bring companies together to work on common problems, and provide a basic understanding of those problems, so that they can take that information internally and use it to their own competitive advantage."
To that end, the group said Waters' liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry instruments are integral to their effort.
"For most of the last 30 or 40 years, we focused on aroma because aroma was considered the main aspect of flavor, in part because bench-top GC mass spectrometers enabled us to understand that dimension," said Peterson. "As technology has evolved, so has our understanding of taste and how we perceive flavor. Today taste and aroma are both considered essential to understand a flavor perception. Liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS) technology has played a critical role in helping us understand flavor, from the characterization of taste compounds to mapping the pathways of flavor development. LC mass spec is brilliant for characterizing flavor pathways in complex systems (food) by utilizing isotope-labeling techniques. This technology has definitely provided novel understanding and insights."
In conjunction with the ceremony, the University of Minnesota, together with Waters Corporation, organized a symposium on mass spectrometry in food and flavor research featuring presentations by Peterson and Reineccius as well as by scientists from General Mills and Pepsico.