Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture has improved the taste model for tomato. The model is now suitable for pronouncements about the taste of the latest generation of tomato varieties.
A taste model can, on the basis of a number of measured parameters, at relatively low costs, produce fairly accurate predictions of the findings of taste panels. Especially seed companies are using the model for testing larger numbers of new varieties. Only the best scoring varieties are subsequently subjected to more expensive, but more sensitive, assessments by special taste panels and consumer panels. The improved taste model has been financed by the joint seed companies via the Centre for BioSystems Genomics (CBSG).
The taste model has been amended on a number of points. Since the development of the initial taste model there has been a lot of breeding for taste. Acidity, e.g., is now one of the parameters measured to indicate taste differences. This was not done until recently to save costs because acidity was always running fully parallel with sweetness in the then available varieties. This is not always the case with the current varieties.
An old linear adagium also was: the sweeter a tomato, the tastier. With the advent of much sweeter varieties this (sweetness linked) increase in taste appreciation, however, decreases at high sweetness levels. This restriction has now also been incorporated into the taste model. This also applies for properties such as succulence and firmness.
The advantage of taste model assessments is that they allow absolute pronouncements about taste levels. The human assessment by taste panels is indeed more sensitive but remains restricted to relative pronouncements about one fruit tasting better than the other. The taste model also allows objective comparison of varieties or batches that have not been harvested at the same time.
According to researcher Wouter Verkerke of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture absolute taste comparison with the model also holds possibilities for a uniform taste indication of varieties in the chain, without this resulting in discussions about individual taste preferences of a few individuals. In the future there may be possibilities to develop a type of classification into taste levels that can be communicated to consumers on the pack.