Chemometrics: the Next Tool in Flavor Research

SFC Meeting attendees.
SFC Meeting attendees.

At a recent Society of Flavor Chemists’ (SFC) meeting in Chicago, Gary Reineccius, professor, department of food science and nutrition, University of Minnesota, discussed the need, process and outcome of using chemometrics (or flavoronomics) as the next tool in flavor research. In his presentation titled “Discovery,” Reineccius voiced the need for a fresh approach toward finding new flavor compounds existing in nature, as he believed traditional methods give no information on how a flavor compound works in combination with other elements, nor does it explain how it influences or is influenced by other elements. “It ignores antagonism, synergy, etc.,” he said, adding that, “for instance, it does not tell us that wine in an oak barrel loses its fruitiness vis-a-vis a stainless steel vessel, and that a whiskey lactone at a level not assumed important, makes a contribution but changes the flavor.” To take “this next step,” he said, a new approach, perhaps using chemometrics, is needed.

Considering the advances in identification and separation sciences, computing and data handling, and the availability of tools and expertise from other fields, Reineccius concluded that “chemometrics is possible now.” Further, he shared valuable insights on the key requisites, methodologies and different stages of this scientific process. Reineccius concluded his presentation by highlighting the achievable results of chemometrics such as identification of compounds linked to the flavor of certain foods or selected sensory attributes, detection of synergies that make a flavor more “true to life,” sensory prediction, rapid quality assurance, associate formulation or processing to develop new flavors, and a powerful and timely tool to advance one’s knowledge.

In the second technical presentation of the day, Ray Marsili of Marsili Consulting Group took Reineccius’ idea of flavoronomics further by citing real-life applications that used multivariate statistical analysis and GC-olfactometry to solve flavor problems. These included determination of chemicals responsible for off-notes in club cheese and failing sensory testing of cheese powders, and shelf life prediction of processed milk.

The meeting also included an address by Barry Dowles of Berjé, who shared his insights on current raw material price trends, market conditions and sourcing details of ingredients from different flavor groups; the company also showcased a few of its ingredients, including methyl cis-3-hexenoate (FEMA# 4164) and 3-(5-methyl-2-furyl)prop-2-enal (FEMA# 4175). In addition, Gillian Bleimann discussed Berjé’s acquisition of Whole Herb Co. (disclosed in February) and its strategy moving forward.

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