What Makes Flavor, Flavor?

Flavor is a multi-sensory experience, which means it’s not just about our taste buds. From visual cues to physical mouthfeel sensations, there are so many different variables that simultaneously contribute to the flavor of the food we eat or the beverages we drink. It can therefore be very difficult to determine how to provide a pleasant and consistent flavorful experience when producing food and beverage products.

Seeing is Believing

Flavor is often initially experienced through our eyes using visual cues. Our eyes help us anticipate the food we are about to consume and cue us to perceive flavor in a particular way based on our visual perception. In order to experience captivating flavors, our eyes prefer having cues that are not only pleasant, but also familiar. If we see a bright red sauce, we expect a certain flavor—that of sharp, tangy tomato. This can be confusing when tasting foods with abnormal colors such as purple ketchup. The way we taste the same sharp, tangy tomato will be different because the visual cues distort the flavors we are expecting!


Wake up and Smell the Flavor

Next up is the way aroma impacts flavor. Before we actually taste the food that we eat, we receive flavor cues through our nose. As anyone who has ever eaten with a cold would know, the flavor of food is very different when we can’t smell it. This is because we aren’t able to experience the way aromas influence our taste buds. Even as we eat, we re-engage our noses to further enjoy the aromas of our food. Once the food releases odor molecules in our mouth, they travel up our noses and aid our taste receptors.

Leaving a Bitter Taste

When food hits our mouths, we directly engage our taste receptors. The taste of our food then is categorized into the five basic tastes of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. Inside our taste buds, our taste receptors send signals to our brain based on the molecules in our food and drink. For instance, our taste buds are traditionally programmed to react negatively to bitter tastes since they could be signs of poisonous substances. However in small doses, bitterness can be a very welcome taste. Pleasant tasting antioxidants, such as those in coffee and chocolate, trigger our bitter taste receptors and send positive signals to our brains.

Going with Your Gut

Even more remarkably, we have recently discovered that there are aroma senses in our tongue and taste detectors in our gut! This means that the process of experiencing flavor is far more expansive than you might first realize. Experiencing flavors isn’t just one process either, there are several complex and intertwined functions that determine how we perceive the flavor of our food.

How Do We Create Consistent Flavorful Experiences?

Since flavor is such a complex thing to measure, it goes without saying that understanding the flavors of food and beverage products can be difficult. So how do we simplify the conundrum that is flavor perception? To determine the success of a food or beverage product, grasping the sensory experience it creates is important in understanding the impact of the flavors involved. This must involve more than taste testing—to truly understand a product’s flavor we must assess its effect on the senses as a whole.

To determine the effect of a product and its flavors on the senses, we can measure the product’s texture, visual presentation, aroma and more. By evaluating the sensory experience of a product, we can test its quality for consumers. This process ensures consumers are given consistent flavorful experiences from the same product. If you want to consistently deliver a delightful experience time after time, quality testing from CtrlTaste is the answer!