If we had to define two major consumer trends in the US food industry, one would have to mention convenience (long term) and “healthy” foods (more recent). The need for convenience has sparked the development of a host of frozen foods, including ready-made breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners. A current manifestation of this trend is the availability of takeout, prepared, complete meals by restaurants and grocery stores. While one would arguably say that cold breakfast cereals are convenient, recent data suggests that even cold ready-to-eat cereals lack the desired convenience and are being supplanted by meals that can be eaten on the go, such as breakfast bars, toaster tarts and other finger foods. This need unquestionably fueled the development of a large range of microwave foods, many of which were short-lived due to poor sensory quality.
The trend towards healthy eating, a mostly recent trend, may have peaked. A backlash toward compromising sensory quality for “healthiness” is beginning to appear. The term “healthy” often has been associated with low-fat qualities; the sensory quality of these foods has not met expectations. It is becoming more and more obvious that the consumer is reluctant to purchase foods that offer “healthiness” at the cost of sensory quality.
The following study considers some of the flavor problems associated with low-fat and microwaved foods. We have evaluated the influence of dough formulation (fat content), flavor form (liquid, spray-dried and encapsulated/ controlled release) and baking method (conventional oven vs. microwaved) on the retention of flavor in cookies during baking.