Compound Discovery

The Flavor Center is committed to the advancement of analytical methods that improve our understanding of the compounds and mechanisms that contribute to flavor perception. FREC members discover novel and impactful flavor compounds through the use of our state-of-the-art instrumentation and comprehensive analytical approaches.  The multimodal and complex nature of flavor perception requires a breadth of analytical techniques.  Our targeted and untargeted methods are complementary, which enhances identification of new compounds and the primary drivers of perception - olfaction, gustation, and somatosensory. While targeted methods systematically break food into its individual components, untargeted flavoromics methods utilize a system’s ‘entire’ chemical composition to identify meaningful differences. The versatility of the Center's analytical platform enables the discovery of novel flavor information by effectively profiling, identifying, and characterizing flavor differences.

We use advanced analytical targeted techniques to develop comprehensive aroma profiles, discover taste compounds, pioneer research on the influence of mouthfeel on flavor perception, and characterize drivers of chemesthetic attributes.

Research and consumer experience are establishing the importance of texture in food (i.e. mouthfeel).  We have pioneered new ways to understand food mouthfeel that go beyond traditional methods and understanding.  New methods mean new insight and new streams of value.  For example, we have reported the contribution of small molecules to the somatosensory ‘mouthfeel’ attributes of food flavor.

When cereal foods are manufactured with whole grain instead of refined grain flour, lower product acceptability can be observed, impeding consumption. By understanding how ingredient composition can shape the flavor of food, we work with industry to accentuate, mask or eliminate flavors to meet consumer demands.  We have characterized the impact of whole grain flour (versus refined flour) on the aroma and taste properties of cereal foods.

Chemesthetic sensations are key attributes within food and beverage products that are poorly understood.  Characterization of the drivers of these attributes provides novel approaches for flavor optimization. 

More recently, our research platform has adapted methods from the omics field and developed ‘untargeted’ (comprehensive) chemical fingerprinting methods, coupled with multivariate analysis to advance our understanding of this component of flavor chemistry, termed untargeted flavoromics analysis.  These methods are based on data-driven hypothesis seeking research approaches to address complex flavor challenges.  Our untargeted flavoromic approach allows us to investigate flavor holistically.  We combine state-of-the-art chemical profiling techniques (LC and GC), with cutting edge modeling approaches to interpret unique flavor information.  Our expertise extends from analytical chemistry to multivariate analysis and machine learning and is grounded in producing results that lead to actionable insights.

Complex percepts such as consumer acceptability are not well defined by traditional targeted analytical approaches of flavor characterization.  Using untargeted Flavoromics methods we have recently reported novel flavor compounds with modifying properties in coffee