I recently had the exciting opportunity to join scientists from around the world at the 16th annual International Symposium on Olfaction and Electronic Nose (ISOEN) in Dijon, Burgundy—a gastronomic center in east central France. We were welcomed to the symposium with an amazing array of the region’s local delicacies and wines which provided respite from unseasonably warm weather and created a great sense of anticipation for the next four days of sharing and learning about smell and taste.
This year’s conference brought together more than 250 participants from areas including human food, pet food, medicine, pharmacology, cosmetics, the environmental sciences and more. The purpose of the conference was to learn from each other about advances in olfaction and the technologies of electronic nose and electronic tongue, together known as ENT, and to foster innovations in the e-senses.
Because the conference draws participants in both human and pet sensory research from all over the world, it provides the chance to learn about other uses for ENT that we may be able to apply in the pet food industry and to share what we are doing at AFB International that might benefit others as well.
It also gives those of us using ENT a chance to look at where we have been and where we are going with these technologies. The keynote presentation centered on this evolution, sparking a spirited debate on whether the newer technologies should replace traditional technologies like GCMS and LCMS or simply supplement them.
Personally, I believe the e-nose and e-tongue technology is helpful when used to answer the right questions. In our line of work at AFB, an appropriate question for e-nose and e-tongue would be, “What does our pet food palatant smell or taste like to a pet?” This is important because animals can’t tell us these things, so we must find another way to understand their experience. ENT provides that information more quickly than traditional technology and approaches, which require a larger data set.
This allows us to provide our customers timely information on flavor profiles for individual palatants, as well as comparative analyses of multiple palatants. Since we began using ENT in 2011, our customers have shown great interest in this technology and have come to rely on us for these tools to help make flavor profile decisions.
At the conference, I presented to more than 100 engaged attendees AFB’s latest ENT research: a comparison of flavor profiles of eight different dry cat palatants. The goal was to understand the aroma and taste profile of the palatants created by selecting different novel ingredients and processing parameters.
Our study used AFB’s Heracles II E-Nose instrument, to which AFB upgraded in November 2014, and our ASTREE e-Tongue instrument. The e-nose technology identified specific aroma compounds with odor descriptors that suggest what the cat smells. These compounds are created during processing and could be tied to various types of ingredients used to develop the palatants.
Our e-tongue technology allowed us to overlay the palatant’s eight flavor profiles on a radar plot visually representing the relative presence of sourness, saltiness, umami, bitterness and sweetness. Then we conducted an analysis that combined data from both e-nose and e-tongue to illustrate how similar or how different the eight palatants are based on two key components.
This study was successful in understanding the aroma and taste profile of selected dry cat palatants. Apart from this application, the ENT technology can help our customers choose the best palatants for their products, determine the cause of an off odor, compare their product to a benchmark and determine shelf life by analyzing the shift in the flavor profile of a given product over time.
Attendees from human industries were most fascinated by how we applied this technology to assign aroma and taste descriptors without the kind of feedback humans share in sensory panels. The most-asked questions I received were, “How would a flavor profile be different if the same palatant were coated on a kibble?” and “How are cats and dogs different in what they smell and taste?” As I told my fellow ISOEN participants, those questions will be the subjects of future AFB research, so stay tuned.
ENT technology and its applications continue to expand the science of taste and smell. For more details on the AFB research shared at ISOEN or other ENT-related questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: processing parameters, pet food palatant, pet food industry, ISOEN, International Symposium on Olfaction and Electronic Nose, Heracles II, flavor profile, ENT, electronic tongue, electronic nose,