Flavor Delivery

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Flavor Delivery

Flavor Materials are highly potent, highly aromatic, materials that require dilution to reach proper consumable concentrations.  Most of these materials are present in nature at very low concentrations, parts per million (ppm) levels: 1ppm = 0.0001%.  In order to deliver such low concentrations into a beverage or food, solvents must be used to dilute the materials to a proper level.  Various solvents are used to dilute materials to the desired concentration; taking into account various factors such as solubility (both of the materials and the finished product), volatility and potential reactions.

Types of Solvents:

Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol)

Benzyl Alcohol

Glycerin

Neobee Oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides)

Triacetin

Water

Propylene Glycol

Ethanol

Ethanol is an extremely popular solvent due to being relatively tasteless and odorless, as well as its versatility.  Most Flavor Materials including essential oils are easily soluble in Ethanol, making it extremely easy to work with for flavor creation.  However, Ethanol is not always permitted in the finished product (and certainly not at any level beyond a small fraction of a percent) and it is an extremely volatile solvent.  Ethanol is often not permitted in the finished product due to a variety of reasons: desired label claims, regulatory requirements, reactivity, safety and others.

Many finished products companies (especially in the pharmaceutical world) want to make the claim that their product contains no ethanol (you won’t get drunk when you consume it).  Certain food and beverage categories do not permit any ethanol in the finished product without labeling it as an alcoholic beverage.  This requirement is typically centered on the concentration of ethanol in the finished product; often a requiring below a fraction of a percent.  Ethanol can be highly reactive with other flavor materials (reactions will be covered in depth later), and as such can prove undesirable to utilize in certain flavor types.  One last major consideration (although there are many minor considerations) is safety.  This consideration can be mitigated by proper procedures and safety measures but Ethanol is extremely flammable.  Ethanol has a Flash Point of 16.6oC (Merriam Webster defines Flash Point as the lowest temperature at which vapors above a volatile combustible substance ignite in air when exposed to flame - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flash%20point ), requiring extra safety precautions for working with and transporting the flavor.  

Benzyl Alcohol

Benzyl Alcohol is a popular “additive” or secondary solvent.  Benzyl Alcohol displays many properties similar to that of Ethanol; most importantly, most of the materials soluble in Ethanol are also soluble in Benzyl Alcohol.  Benzyl Alcohol comes with many of the same drawbacks, except for label claim: can claim “does not contain ethanol” because Benzyl Alcohol is not Ethanol (it does not have the same effects in the human body as ethanol).  However, Benzyl Alcohol comes with one major negative: it is not odorless.  Benzyl Alcohol has a noticeably Cherry aroma, which can be a negative when utilizing in flavors where a cherry aroma is not desired.

Glycerin

Glycerin is not an extremely popular solvent but does see some use in flavor delivery due to its sometime desired added characteristics.  Glycerin is a viscous solvent that has a slightly sweet taste when utilized at lower levels.  The viscosity of Glycerin allows a Flavorist to manipulate a flavors release in the finished product by changing the volatility of flavor materials.  The physically thick material will “hold onto” volatile materials better than ethanol and can create a more rounded profile.  However, Glycerin does not have great solubility and can be extremely difficult to work with due to its viscosity.  It is often utilized as a secondary solvent.

Neobee Oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides)

Neobee Oil is a very popular solvent; however, it cannot be utilized in any water-based finished product without the use of weighing agents or emulsification (to be visited later).  Neobee oil is relatively tasteless and odorless, like ethanol, but is not volatile and most flavor materials are readily soluble in it.  These factors, along with the Neobee’s low reactivity, make it an extremely useful solvent, as long as the finished product is not water-based.  Neobee oil is also a popular solvent to use for a procedure called Spray Drying which coats a dry core with flavor (thereby creating a dry flavor for finished products that cannot utilize a liquid flavor).

Triacetin

Triacetin, similar to Neobee oil, has a very low reactivity, is non-volatile, tasteless and odorless, and can solubilize a large variety of flavor materials (Although, essential oils are not soluble in Triacetin).  There are two major drawbacks to utilizing Triacetin.  The first, Triacetin is more expensive relative to the other solvents; making it not useful for delivery of flavor requiring oil solubility, as it is not as versatile as Neobee and more expensive.  The second (and likely more important), Triacetin is not easily solubilized in water.   All of the benefits of Triacetin are nearly negated by the low solubility in water, which makes the last solvent on the list the most valuable solvent for flavor creation.

Water

Water can be a useful secondary flavor to slow some reactions and increasing shelf stability.  It is not widely used due to microbial growth considerations, as well as low solubility of most flavor materials.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol has been a solvent that has garnered a lot of publicity over the last 10 years, most of it unjustly negative (that will be revisited).  However, Propylene Glycol is likely the most popular solvent for flavors due to a number of factors.  Propylene Glycol is relatively tasteless and odorless, non-volatile and easily water-soluble.  A large variety of materials are readily soluble in Propylene Glycol making it a great delivery for flavors.  Those materials that have poor solubility in it can be solubilized by adding small amounts of ethanol or benzyl alcohol.  Propylene Glycol is extremely versatile and relatively inexpensive.  In consideration of length, Propylene Glycol will be covered in-depth on its own.

Dry Flavors

Mentioned earlier, not all finished products are capable of utilizing liquid flavors.  As such, other means of flavor delivery have been developed to produce dry flavors for these products.  One example for utilization of dry flavors would be drink mixes, such as Powdered Gatorade or Kool-aid.  There are three major forms of processing for dry flavors: Plating, Spray Drying and Encapsulation.

Plating

Plating is a technique by which a liquid flavor is added to a tank filled with a powder carrier (ex: Maltodextrin) and mixed until the material is free flowing and completed coated in flavor.  Once upon a time, this technique was all there was available to create dry flavor systems.  There are a number of advantages to plating, including cost, processing difficulty and aroma release.  Plating provides a very aromatic product as the flavor is physically coated on the outside of the carrier, allowing more volatile components to evaporate over time.  When in a finished product, the presence of a plated material can provide a nice aroma when opening a bottle.  The disadvantage of plating centers on stability.  Because the material is coated on the outside of the carrier, the flavor is exposed to the air and can undergo oxidation reactions or evaporation.  Over a rather short period of time, the flavor will change due to reaction and can dissipate due to volatile components evaporating.

Spray Dry

In order to mitigate the stability problems of Plating, a technique called Spray Dry was developed as an alternate method of drying flavors.  Spray drying is a process where an oil-based flavor is emulsified with a carrier system (usually Modified Starch) in water, then sprayed into a heated chamber where the water is evaporated and the rest is collected.  The resulting product is a partially encapsulated flavor in and on the carrier system.  This process greatly increases stability with only minor changes to flavor perception.  The addition of heat can change the flavors character, but the short duration of heat results in only minor changes.  The advantages of Spray Dry flavors are definitely a game changer for the flavor industry.  Flavors maintain much longer shelf stability in regards to flavor profile and intensity, but also undergo very few changes during processing.  Spray Dry flavors do cost more than Plated, as the process is more labor intensive and requires specialty equipment; however, the over time the benefits pay back that difference through longer product shelf life.

Encapsulation

Although Spray Dry flavors are the most common and often more than sufficient for most products, some flavors require additional protections for stability.  Citrus flavors are highly susceptible to oxidation when exposed to light and air, and even Spray Dried citrus flavors have a relatively short shelf-life (this due to only a partial encapsulation).  As a result, Encapsulation techniques have been developed at many flavor houses to accommodate more reactive flavors.  Many techniques are closely guarded as to processing parameters and technical aspects, in order to preserve the company’s competitive advantage.  However, most have a similar framework and all utilize the same concept: completely encapsulate a flavor inside a carrier system.  Some techniques include adding flavor to a molten sugar mixture, then extruding the mixture into long cylindrical strips.  Once extruded, the strips are cut into very small pieces, and washed with a solvent (i.e. ethanol) that will remove any residual flavor on the outside of the hardened surface.  Once washed, these granular particles will be completely impervious to air, maintaining the flavor stability inside the particle.  The resulting particles have a much longer shelf-life, but they come at much greater cost.  The process is expensive, labor intensive and can result in much larger changes to the original flavor (which must be accounted for at the time of flavor creation).

Conclusion

In order to properly deliver a flavor into a finished product, many considerations must be taken: solubility, liquid or dry, solvent requirements, and many more.  The method of delivery is almost as important to consider as the flavor materials chosen; with the wrong method of delivery, the flavor will be a failure, no matter how good the original design.  In addition to considerations above, some of the most important items to consider, when choosing a delivery method, are the potential reactions that could take place within the flavor over time.  Some of these topics will be explored in the next several posts; topics such as Flavor Reactions, Emulsions, “Is Propylene Glycol Safe?” and more.

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Flavor Creation Basics

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Flavor Creation Basics

Introduction

There are many ways to go about creating flavors.  Some approaches require a heavy reliance on scientific methods such as Gas Chromatography.  Other approaches rely on a very creative approach which takes a target and breaks into individual notes by human evaluation (smell and taste).  Both approaches ultimately rely on biology; specifically, the mechanism of human perception of aroma (smell).  In the human nose, receptors detect a multitude of aromas, and sends signals of these aromas to the brain for interpretation.  Each receptor is activated by different molecules and different concentrations of those molecules.  The brain can then compile these signals into more complex concepts such as fruits.

The Recognition Skeleton

So how do Flavorists achieve these concepts?  Using scientific methods, like Gas Chromatography, yields hundreds, sometimes thousands, of molecules (way too many to make a production viable flavor).  By a purely creative process, there is not molecular information available to start a flavor.  Here is where a concept called the Recognition Skeleton is utilized.  What is the Recognition Skeleton?  The Recognition Skeleton is a representation of a complex concept by a minimum set of specific compounds at the right concentration.  This set of compounds is recognized by the brain as the complex concept (the sum of the parts), rather than the individual compounds used to create the skeleton.

Some flavors have a recognition skeleton of one or two compounds, where others require a more complicated skeleton.  Some simpler recognition skeletons are flavors such as Vanilla or Cherry (both can have a recognition skeleton of one compound).  Vanilla (will be explored in great detail later) can be represented by a compound called Vanillin, and Cherry can be represented by Benzaldehyde.  Cherry will be re-visited below.  One flavor type that is highly interesting to study within the Recognition Skeleton concept is Banana.

Banana

Banana is a very interesting flavor to discuss through the concept of Recognition Skeletons.  Why?  Banana has a compound that is highly reminiscent of Banana but not an authentic Banana: Isoamyl Acetate.  Isoamyl Acetate has an aroma very similar to that of Banana Candy.  Well why isn't this sufficient for the Recognition Skeleton?  It is insufficient because it is not an authentic Banana.  In order to achieve an authentic Banana Recognition Skeleton, only one more compound is needed: Eugenol.  The addition of Eugenol is a peculiar addition by the fact that Eugenol smells of Cloves (it is the major aroma component of Cloves).  Next time you eat a banana, grab some clove out of the spice cabinet and see if you can't pick up the clove note in the banana.  A small amount of Eugenol added to Isoamyl Acetate will achieve the Recognition Skeleton of Banana.

Isoamyl Acetate + Eugenol = Banana

Isoamyl Acetate + Eugenol = Banana

Strawberry

Where Banana simply requires two compounds to achieve the Recognition Skeleton, other flavors, such as Strawberry, require a more significant variety of compounds.  Disclaimer: Strawberry Recognition Skeletons can be achieved in many, many different ways.  There is a saying I once heard from an older Flavorist: If you give 100 Flavorists a Strawberry Target, you will get 1,000 different Flavor Formulas.

The reason: Unlike Banana or Cherry or Vanilla, no one compound smells even slightly reminiscent of Strawberry (There is some debate on this but realistically, there is no individual compound that is immediately recognizable as strawberry).  Because there isn't a compound to begin building around, several compounds must be employed to do the job.  As such, as long as the basic notes are captured, the Recognition Skeleton can be achieved (meaning: many different compounds capable of achieving a note could be subsituted).  The basic notes of Strawberry are Fruity, Sweet, Cheesy, Green and Creamy.  For my example:

Fruity = Methyl Cinnamate (Fruity, Guava, Tropical, Slightly Spicy)

Sweet = Furaneol -or- 4-Hydroxy-2,5-diemthyl-3-furnanone (Sweet, Sugary, Cotton Candy)

Cheesy = 2-Methyl-2-Pentenoic Acid (Cheesy, Acidic, Dried Fruit)

Green = cis-3-Hexenol (Green, Fresh Cut Grass)

Creamy = gamma-Decalactone (Creamy, Peach)

I have written in parentheses how I would describe each compound.  Next time you have a Strawberry, try to pick out each of those characteristics within the fruit.  When these five compounds are combined at the right level, the Strawberry Recognition Skeleton is achieved.  This example is one that I have used, but there are many others that can be employed.

Methyl Cinnamate + Furaneol + 2-Methyl-2-pentenoic Acid + cis-3-Hexenol + gamma-Decalactone = Strawberry

Methyl Cinnamate + Furaneol + 2-Methyl-2-pentenoic Acid + cis-3-Hexenol + gamma-Decalactone = Strawberry

Complex Flavors

Recognition Skeletons are the simplest possible representations of a complex concept.  In order to achieve a more realistic concept, the flavor must be built out to include complex notes.  In the above Strawberry, each component achieves the basic note required, but leaves much to be desired in adequately mimicking a true Strawberry.  Strawberries are made of hundreds of compounds, many of which contribute to the aroma and taste of the Strawberry.  Five compounds falls extremely short of displaying the nuances within a strawberry and each major note is made up of many nuanced notes.  For instance, in the above Strawberry example, the green note utilized (cis-3-hexenol) is strongly reminiscent of fresh cut grass.  This note provides a strong fresh green character to the Strawberry, but leaves out the rest of the nuanced character.  In order to capture a more authentic green note, other compounds with slightly varied green character must be added to adequately capture these nuances.  cis-3-Hexenyl Acetate could be added to capture a more sweet, fruity-like green character.  trans-2-Hexenol could be added to capture a more leafy green character.  As this is performed within each major note, the Strawberry flavor begins to come to life and the realism can be experienced more fully.

Cherry

Cherry is another interesting case to explore, as it has a characteristic compound that captures the aroma of Cherry (Benzaldehyde).  Benzaldehyde has a strong Cherry/Almond like aroma and can easily be linked to Cherry.  However, to achieve a more authentic Cherry Flavor, more than just Benzaldehyde is necessary.  The Major components of Cherry Flavor are Almond, Flesh, Pit, Fruity, and Acid.  For my example:

Almond = Benzaldehyde (of course, Cherry, Almond)

Flesh = para-Methyl Anisate (Anise, Flesh)

Pit = Acetophenone (Pit, Cherry, Fruity)

Fruit = Ethyl Aceto Acetate (Fruity, Tropical, Apple)

Acid = para-Menthene-8-thiol (Acid, Sulfurous, Grapefruit)

The above example calls to attention how not everything within a flavor necessarily contributes to the major aroma, but can provide depth and realism in other ways. By utilizing components that contribute to minor characteristics within a flavor, the Cherry Flavor begins to mimic nature more closely, resulting in a more authentic flavor.

Benzaldehyde + p-Methyl Anisate + Acetophenone + Ethyl Aceto Acetate + p-Methene-8-thiol = Cherry

Benzaldehyde + p-Methyl Anisate + Acetophenone + Ethyl Aceto Acetate + p-Methene-8-thiol = Cherry

Wrap Up

Ensuring that the Recognition Skeleton is accurate is key to creating an authentic flavor.  Some Recognition Skeletons, like Banana, are very simplistic; created by utilizing only one or two components.  Others are very complex, especially in the case of Strawberry.  Once the Recognition Skeleton has been established, flavors can begin to take on more depth and character or achieve a truly authentic flavor profile.

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Aroma Chemicals

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Aroma Chemicals

Aroma chemicals are singular compounds that have been synthesized or isolated.  There is quite a lot of controversy surrounding these materials and many food bloggers have tried to use scare tactics to steer people away from anything that says Flavor on the label.  Why?  Probably as a result of trying to push their own products or possibly because they fear what they do not understand.  The word chemical has come under a lot of scrutiny because it sounds dangerous.  Well I am here to tell you not to fear!  The entire universe is made of chemicals.  Water is a chemical: Dihydrogen monoxide.  The air we breathe is made of chemicals: Oxygen, Nitrogen, Hydrogen and many more.  We are made of chemicals (mostly made of water).  Everything is made of chemicals!

To understand Aroma Chemicals, we have to take a step back and talk about where Aroma Chemicals come from.  Aroma Chemicals are Odor Active (meaning we can smell them) Chemicals that occur naturally in the foods that we eat, the flowers we smell, the juices we drink.  Aroma Chemicals occur all over nature, in honey, in oranges, berries, flowers, etc.  Originally, Fragrances and Flavors were made of materials extracted from living material such as Essential Oils, because that was the understanding of the chemistry at the time.  As Scientists began to break down what makes up these natural extractives, they began to identify individual compounds within these materials.  These compounds could then be synthesized in a lab environment to produce Synthetic Aroma Chemicals! The modern Flavor Industry was born!

So you see that these chemicals in flavors are really the very same compounds that make up the things that we consume everyday!

Why do Aroma Chemicals work and not just use the Natural Material?

Aroma Chemicals work by activating specific receptors in the nose that triggers the brain a particular aroma is present.  When a number of aroma chemicals active a variety of receptors a complex aroma is detected.

Here is a simplified example of a Strawberry:  Strawberry is a Complex Aroma and is made up of many Simple Aromas.  Sweet, Fruity, Creamy, Green, Floral, Sour(Acid) when combined correctly signal to the brain that the aroma is actually Strawberry (the sum of the parts).  Translated into the chemistry: each one of those aromas can relate to a particular Aroma Chemical.  When the Aroma Chemicals are separate, they only active one type of receptor (Sweet Chemical activates Sweet Receptor).  However when all the chemicals are combined at the right concentrations, your brain recognizes the sum of the parts as Strawberry, not as each individual aroma.

By using this as a basis, Flavor Chemists (or Flavorists) can create flavors using a limited number of Aroma Chemicals to create a complex aroma, without all the extras that natural extracted materials contain.  Also, Natural Extractive materials are dependant on crops, seasons and natural disasters; meaning that if a crop is wiped out, or yield is low, the availability of that material will be affected.

All Aroma Chemicals are Artificial?!

No, Aroma Chemicals come in two classes: Artificial and Natural.  We discussed Artificial Aroma Chemicals (or Synthetic) above.  Artificial Aroma Chemicals are chemically synthesized using traditional Organic Chemistry techniques.  Natural Aroma Chemicals are produced in an entirely different way.  These Chemicals are produced using living organisms, such as plants.  Biochemical pathways are identified where aroma chemicals are produced naturally inside a living organism and then isolated from that organism to collect an Aroma Chemical.  The two produced compounds from a chemistry perspective are identical.  They have the same structure. They behave the same way in the body.  They are identical in virtually every way.

Aroma Chemicals are Not SAFE?!

WRONG! Aroma Chemicals are safe.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certifies any aroma chemical as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) prior to its consumption by the public (Other countries have their own regulations).  That means any Aroma Chemical that a Flavorist wants to use, must be certified by the FDA prior to use.  The FDA requires a massive amount of information regarding the use and safety of every material intended for human consumption.  If you are interested in very dry reading but want more information, here is the FDA Food site where you can read up on all the nitty-gritty details: http://www.fda.gov/Food/

There is a third party organization that assists with ensuring the safety of every material intended for human consumption in terms of flavor called the Flavor & Extracts Manufacturer Association.  They have two sites: one dedicated to the regulatory and compliance, and the second, dedicated to the proper education of the public.

http://www.femaflavor.org/home

http://www.flavorfacts.org/

These sites are great for reference and helping debunk some of the misinformation on the web.
 

Future posts will dig much deeper into the various myths surrounding Flavors, as well as the chemistry and creation of flavors.


Please submit any questions in the comments!!

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What are Flavors?

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What are Flavors?

What are Flavors?

The previous article discuss perception of flavor and how your brain interprets taste and aroma, but what are flavors?  The simple answer is that flavors are a complex mixture of ingredients that mimic foods from nature (i.e. orange, strawberry, etc.).

Foods consists of the two major components of flavor: Taste Ingredients and Aroma Ingredients.  Taste ingredients are very commonly known and they are materials like Sugar and Salt.  These materials create a taste response in the mouth: Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour and Umami.  These components are vital to the perception of each flavor, but they don’t make up the unique identifying characteristics of a product such as Orange.  The materials that make up the unique characteristic of a food such as orange are Aroma Ingredients (perceived by the sense of smell).

What are Aroma Ingredients?

Aroma Ingredients are broken down into multiple classes, but to keep it simple we will look at these as two categories: Aroma Chemicals and Natural Extractives.  Natural Extractives are materials extracted from living materials such as Essential Oils.  Natural Extractives have a complex composition that is unique to the material used to perform the extraction.

Aroma chemicals are organic molecules that have been either synthesized in a lab, using traditional organic chemistry techniques, or isolated from living organisms.  These differ greatly from Natural Extractives in that they are individual compounds, not a mixture of different materials.  An example of an Aroma Chemical is something called Vanillin.  Vanillin is the main component of Vanilla Beans, and gives vanilla its signature aroma.

Natural Extractives

Natural extractives are extracted from living (or previously living) material such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.  These materials are often isolated by a process called Steam Distillation.  Steam Distillation is a process by which water is heated to a vapor (100 degrees Celsius) and passed over the material.  The steam removes the oils from the material, is condensed and collected in a container, where the water and oil are allowed to separate.  Once the water and extracted material (oil) have separated (which will occur because the extracted material is not soluble in water), the extracted material layer can be collected.  There are many other extraction techniques and I will try to cover those later!

Aroma Chemicals

Let’s cover this topic in its very own post! Too much to cover under this category!

Summary

Flavors are a complex mixture of ingredients designed to mimic the foods that we eat every day.  They can be made from many different types of materials such as Essential Oils or Aroma Chemicals.  The goal of flavors is to help people enjoy the foods that they eat everyday, and ensure the quality and safety of everything we consume.  Future posts will dig deeper into the details of flavors, flavor creation, food chemistry and many other topics.

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What is Flavor?

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What is Flavor?

What is Flavor?

Flavor is defined by Merriam-Webster in several ways; however, the best definition to apply to food is the blend of taste and smell sensations evoked by a substance in the mouth.  It is a succinct statement, but there is a lot going on with that definition; let’s break it down.  “Blend of taste and smell sensations”.  This statement is discussing the anatomy of a flavor (which we will get to later).  There are two major components of flavors: the taste is what occurs in the mouth, on the tongue.  The smell, of course, is what happens in the nasal passage.  The second part of the definition “a substance in the mouth” is a bit more difficult to explain; and is the source of the flavor industry.  These substances are a variety of materials that induce some sort of response in the brain; such as, Sweet, Fruity, Cooked, etc.  

Let’s leave the substances portion for later and get back to the Anatomy.

The Anatomy of Flavor

As discussed above, flavors consist of two major sensorial perceptions: Taste and Smell.  We are all quite familiar with our five senses, but Taste and Smell are far more complex that most people consider.  When it comes to Flavor Perception, most believe that everything happens in the mouth (much like our definition states above).  However, this idea would be incorrect.  Taste is the Flavor Perception that occurs in the mouth and is made up of five effects: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami.

Try the following experiment for a great hands-on example of how these two senses work together to form Flavor Perception.

Take a piece of sugary candy (Jelly Beans work well as they are small and have strong flavors), hold your nose and begin eating the candy.  What do you notice? You probably taste some sugar (Sweet) and maybe some sourness, but I imagine the type of flavor (i.e. watermelon, apple, grape…) is not very recognizable.  Now release your nose and continue to chew and swallow.  Do you get the flavor as soon as you release your nose? Why does this work? What is happening here?

Like I said, the only Flavor Perception occurring in the mouth is Taste.  When you release your nose, and allow the air to flow through your nasal passage, the Smell portion of the flavor is allowed to reach the receptors so that your brain can interpret the flavor.

What are Receptors?

Receptors are small cells lining your tongue (taste buds) or your nasal passage, which are exposed to the environment and send signals to your brain for interpretation into Taste and Smell.  Receptors in the mouth are activated by particular materials that the brain can relate to the 5 characteristics of taste: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami.  One great example is Sugar.  Sugar attaches to the receptor on the taste bud which sends a signal to the brain, your brain interprets this signal and you perceive Sweetness.  Taste buds have a sparing amount of receptors, not all are known, but mechanisms for Sweet and Bitter are highly publicized in the academic community.

In the nasal passage (Smell), the receptors use the same concept, but on a completely different set of materials and a completely different magnitude.  There are estimated to be somewhere between 300-400 smell receptors (aroma receptors) in humans, which is why we are able to distinguish such an immense variety of different foods.  Your brain interprets all the different signals sent from the receptors and relates it to a previous experience.  The first time you taste/smell something, your brain associates the unique characteristics to that food; often relating back to something that is similar but different.  A good example would be when you taste a new variety of apple; it is still an apple and your brain already associates it with that but the differences become synonymous with the variety.

Summary

Flavor Perception is a highly complex process involving a multitude of senses and materials, which the brain interprets and is commits to memory for future reference.  This article is a brief overview of the background that gives rise to an enormous flavor industry, responsible for flavoring all types of products.  In future articles, I will discuss the details of these different concepts; concepts such as, flavor materials, natural vs artificial ingredients, biological pathways of perception and more.  

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