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Research on human sensory adaptation underway

Study hopes to find a way to keep food flavorful and aromatic

Mastertaste, a global flavor and fragrance manufacturer, is sponsoring a three-year research project with the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a research institute focused on the science of taste and smell. The goal of the research is to increase understanding of the perceptual process — called sensory adaptation — as a prelude to the development of longer-lasting aromatic materials.

Sensory adaptation occurs when humans smell an aroma, which seems to decline over time. The phenomenon is not related to changes in the concentration of the scent, but rather is a biological function.

"There are many situations where the perceived aroma decreases over time," said John Bedford, chief technical officer of Mastertaste. "For example, a soup or stew begins to bubble on the stove, there is an immediate burst of aroma. However, over a prolonged period of time in the kitchen, the cook ceases to perceive the aroma. Imagine the value a food manufacturer can add to the finished product if that tantalizing smell is evident in the kitchen throughout the entire food preparation process."

Mastertaste, a division of Kerry Group, develops flavors and fragrance bases for food and candle manufacturers, to name a few. The company also is a manufacturer of smoke flavor, with its largest plant near Nashville, Tenn.

"We're always looking for something that sets us apart from competition," Bedford said. "All smell is made up of flavor molecules. The brain seems to switch off after a few minutes, and the consumer seems to get bored and can't tell the difference between products."

The findings of the study should facilitate the development of aromatic materials and processes that resist a sensory adaptation. Longer-lasting perception of flavor and fragrance aromas would allowing food and beverage manufacturers to produce products with an added flavor and aroma dimension and a higher marketable value.

For more information about the study, call 312-970-5864.

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