Adapting & Innovating with Digital Olfaction in Food, Flavor & Fragrance

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Author: Terri Jordan, EVP Business Development Worldwide & President, Aryballe

Supply chain disruptions, social-distancing precautions and distributed work have forced organizations to adapt and pivot their business models to compete in the digital economy. While there still remains uncertainty around the long-term economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has underscored the crucial role that innovation plays in helping enterprises maintain product quality, strengthen customer relationships and ultimately build brand loyalty.


In the food, flavor and fragrance industries, disruptions to global retail markets and shifts in consumer demand for specific items, such as hygiene and cleaning products, have created new economic pressures. Amidst these challenges, maintaining product consistency and minimizing cost of quality (COQ) can be a daunting task for manufacturers. While process optimization and preventative maintenance have traditionally been used for quality control in manufacturing, emerging technologies can enable operations managers to unlock entirely new data categories, leading to valuable insights.


Digital olfaction is one such innovation that helps quality control teams set easy-to-implement standards around odor—a critical factor for these manufacturers that must focus heavily on odor consistency. Using biosensors, advanced optics and machine learning to mimic the human sense of smell, digital olfaction can provide definitive steps to ensure sensory quality of the final product.


While digital olfaction has been traditionally used by research and development (R&D) departments to supplement human odor panels, manufacturers are beginning to see the value in using objective and consistent odor data as a key marker for product quality. Applications of digital olfaction in manufacturing include verifying incoming raw materials, ensuring olfactive characteristics during each phase of production and validating end-product consistency.


On the R&D side, digital olfaction can reduce development time by using olfaction data to characterize new product formulations and provide objective data outside of traditional smell panels. When assessing incoming raw materials and ingredients, digital olfaction offers a rapid quality assessment, providing a quick “pass,” “fail” or “needs further analysis” grade to incoming materials. This gives manufacturers confidence that raw materials pass quality standards before accepting shipments and that there is consistency between primary and secondary suppliers.

Manufacturing can perform a quick test to ensure key ingredients, like limonene, meet quality standards before adding them to the line.]


Digital olfaction also provides reliable, objective and traceable data that can be documented and audited for quality management systems (QMS). By leveraging pass/fail criteria, digital olfaction makes it possible to provide an olfactive score for the production run. This enables the manufacturing team to effectively demonstrate that products are within the acceptable range set by the quality team before it is distributed to customers.


Like many industries, food, flavor and fragrance manufacturers have adapted to various changes over the past year, whether it’s conforming with new social-distancing standards or adjusting product offerings to align with the shifts in consumer confidence and preferences. Amidst these obstacles, digital olfaction serves as an innovative tool to help manufacturers ensure that odor—one of the most important factors of selecting ingredients—remains consistent, and the final product is consumer-ready. 




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