Coke versus Pepsi. Hershey’s versus Mars. McDonald’s versus Burger King. Everyone has their favorites, and building relationships with your customers can take weeks, months, or even years. But even the most loyal customers will be tested if “their brand” suddenly tastes, smells, or feels different or if the quality they expect changes.
So how do you ensure that your product maintains a high level of quality and consistency, is protected against contamination, and allows you to comfortably manage costs? One of the ways you can do this is with flavor characterization testing.
What is flavor characterization testing?
Flavor characterization testing is an objective analysis of either the individual ingredients or complete formulation which give a food product its flavor or aroma.
What does flavor characterization testing reveal?
The testing process identifies and quantifies a food product’s flavor or aroma characterizations as based on the product’s intended or advertised attributes. This allows food manufacturers to measure the consistency and quality of their product by comparing similar ingredients, testing alternate formulations, examining product packaging, and analyzing the production process.
Flavor characterization testing can also help to prevent contaminated products from reaching the market by identifying the presence of chemicals or foreign ingredients that may have been introduced during the production, packaging, or transportation process.
Why should manufacturers and food entrepreneurs submit their products for flavor characterization testing?
Beyond the food safety and quality control benefits discussed above, flavor characterization testing provides additional benefits that can help food manufacturers and entrepreneurs during both the production and marketing processes, such as:
Ensure product consistency from one batch to the next, even as you explore relationships with new vendors who offer similar or better ingredients. If you do change an ingredient or the product’s formulation, you can test your product again before it goes to market.
Testing will allow you to refine your product’s ingredients and formulation, helping you create the desired flavor profile while using the most cost-effective ingredients. For example, after being generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration in 1976, many food manufacturers began replacing natural sugar with high-fructose corn syrup because it provided nearly identical flavors and consistency at a fraction of the cost.
You don’t have to limit testing to your own products. Deconstructing your competitor’s product will allow you to evaluate how they achieve certain flavors or aromas, and help identify ways to differentiate your product.
Identify the source of inconsistencies
Sometimes an issue may not be caused by a change in the product’s ingredients or formulation. Sudden contamination, changes in flavor or aroma, or the presence of foreign ingredients can be the result of problems at the manufacturing facility, faulty product packaging, or transportation and storage errors.
For example, many products have been able to trace the source of odd flavors or smells back to something as seemingly trivial as the glue being used to seal its packaging. More serious incidents in which products suddenly test positive for the presence of nuts could force a company to completely restructure their manufacturing process to prevent a potentially deadly incident.
How long does a flavor characterization test take?
Testing is a complex investigative process that requires expertise to ensure thorough and objective results. The process begins by having both a control and the product/ingredient in question, then identifying and eliminating factors one by one.
The time it takes to complete the test depends on the goal. Looking at specific ingredients can speed up the process, while general testing takes longer. Similarly, if the test is being performed to identify the source of an unintended flavor or aroma, it could require additional testing of product packaging or the manufacturing environment.
In addition to the flavor characterization test, food manufacturers and entrepreneurs can request a Descriptive Analysis Panel in which trained sensory analysts will taste the product before providing detailed evaluations of their findings from a flavor perspective.
Partnering with Medallion Labs
The flavor characterization testing process can be complicated and complex. Each product and each test presents a unique set of variables that require food scientists to tailor the process for each product.
Medallion Labs works closely with every customer to understand their goals, address any concerns they have about their product or their manufacturing process, and provide an unparalleled experience from beginning to end.
Flavor characterization testing is crucial to ensuring that your product meets not only your goals but more importantly your customers’ expectations. Connect with the experts at Medallion Labs to talk about how you can benefit from flavor characterization testing.