Food Chemistry

Molecular flavour science

Taste and smell properties are widely recognised as the most important aspects determining the choice of foods by the consumer.

Description of theme

In our western society people choose food predominantly on taste and smell. Modern food companies focus more and more on producing healthier food products (less salt, sugar and/or healthy/less fats, adding health-beneficial components, such as peptides) and most of these changes affect the overall perceived flavour quality in a negative manner. This means that we have to be able to compensate for this, in order to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

The consumer perceives taste and smell properties by the interplay of chemical, textural and physical properties of the food with the physiological taste and smell receptors. There is a long-lasting research interest in the analysis of various flavour components present in food products, and many components have been described. On the other hand, technology has recently advanced into the direction of determining the behaviour of flavour components during the eating process, e.g. in vivo flavour release studies. Moreover, significant developments in human molecular biology and genomics have opened the way to identify the receptors present in the nose and on the tongue and their signal transduction towards the brain. These developments are essential to understand which flavour molecules are important for perception and how they should be modulated in order to give the desired perception of the foods by the consumer.

Our aim is to gain a better insight in the molecular understanding of flavour perception, especially focussing on the identification of both taste and smell components (most notably during the eating process), the interaction between the senses (cross-modal interactions) and the generation of flavour components during processing of food.

Current research projects deal with:

  • Identification and modelling of non-volatile compound generated by heat treatments (Maillard components)
  • Understand the interaction of various sensory signals (taste, aroma and texture) on overall perception of (model) foods

Research Projects