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Packaging that releases aromas could alter taste

By Jane Byrne , 27-Nov-2008

A process that integrates aroma into plastic packaging enhances taste perception and reduces the need for unhealthy ingredients in food products, claims its US developer.

Pennsylvania-based ScentSational Technologies said its CompelAroma technology encapsulates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food grade flavour molecules in the polymeric structure at the time it is been produced.

The company argues that locking such flavours into the polymer matrix helps them stay stable significantly longer than when added directly to the contents.

Steven Landau, chief technical officer with ScentSational, told FoodProductionDaily.com that enhancing food and beverage packaging with odours could compensate for the taste impact of reducing their salt content, thereby giving manufacturers another tool towards healthier formulation.

Salt content

The food industry is under considerable pressure to reduce the salt content of its wares, but it doing so it must still deliver products that have an acceptable taste.

Excess consumption of salt (sodium chloride) has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular events like stroke.

The majority of salt consumed is not added to food in the home, but is ‘hidden’ in manufactured food products.

Odours study

Researchers from INRA in Dijon, France, in cooperation with Unilever Food and Health Research Institute, investigated the interaction between odour and saltiness and found that aroma-induced taste enhancement could also be used to substitute fat and sugar content in foods.

“The overall perception of flavour is considered as an integration of simultaneous sensory perceptions including taste and colour,” they wrote in a study which has been accepted for publication in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

The results indicate that when a consumer expects a certain flavour, the perception of saltiness is enhanced. The change in taste perception is thought to come about through odour.

“We have experienced similar results in consumer studies we have conducted which revealed that consumers experience a sweet taste when exposed to a sweet aroma,” said Landau

Production

He said that ScentSational works directly with the brand owner in order to develop a custom flavour for their application, in the form of an aromatic enhancer: “We then take that aromatic enhancer to the producer of the packaging materials and teach them how to incorporate it into their system.”

According to Landau, the CompelAroma technology is compatible with the range of polymers that are most commonly used in packaging, and can be delivered through both rigid and flexible materials.

He claims that the additives that ScentSational employs do not significantly change how the materials run on equipment.

Applications

Landau said that food and drink applications for this encapsulated aroma release technology include breakfast cereals, baked goods, confectionery, microwaveable ready meals, bottled water and beer.

He claims that CompelAroma can also lengthen a product’s shelf life, and thereby reduce the cost of expensive waste and returns:

“Many products are pulled from the shelf not because of microbial or safety issues, but due to bad odours and loss of aroma and taste over time. CompelAroma adds fresh flavours back into the product throughout its shelf life.”

Landau explained that packaging materials can be designed to deliver aroma on the outside, the inside, or both, with standard barrier layers keeping the encapsulated flavours and aromas sealed within the package until it is opened.

Cost factors

He said that the addition of this technology to the packaging does increase the up front cost, but as it can also be used to replace ingredients or for shelf life extension, employing CompelAroma ultimately translates into cost savings.

Landau added that the company is currently in discussion with several European food manufacturers who are keen to reduce the salt levels of their products.

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