Specialty Chemical Companies: Using ELNs to Leverage the Connection Between Taste and Smell

speciality chemical companies
Flavor is a complex mixture of a variety of senses, most prominently taste and smell. Specialty chemical companies can then capitalize on our sense of smell to enhance the tastes and flavors of food items.
Image Source: Flickr user The ReflexMan

We often think of taste and smell as distinguishable senses—and indeed they are. However, a common experience among humans and animals alike demonstrates that such a separation is not entirely true: in particular, the smell of your favorite food is often enough to make you salivate and imagine (and even sense) the taste of it.  Moreover, researchers have shown that even coffee extract pumped into the air can “revive tired people.”1 and wine tasters evaluate the wine on its smell as well as it taste. Thus, common experience and scientific efforts suggest that taste and smell are somehow “intimately entwined.”2

The science behind this “intertwining” is related to the presence of tastants or chemicals in foods that are detected by the taste buds. In a similar mechanism, odorants from food stimulate specialized cells in the nose, which initiates a neural response in the brain. Together, information about olfactory and odor chemicals are combined in the brain to create the perception of flavor.3 Indeed in an article about taste and smell, the American Academy of Otolaryngology explains that, “Certain tastes combine with texture, temperature, and odor to produce a flavor that allows us to identify what we are eating. [In fact], many flavors are recognized through the sense of smell.”4

How Can Specialty Chemical Companies Capitalize on the Science?

In a recent report published in Science, Jean-Louis Magnard and his colleagues reported on the biosynthesis of geraniol, a monoterpene alcohol important in rose scent.5 Investing in research that identifies and ultimately reproduces the volatile molecules found in various food items could enable specialty chemical companies to invent particularly appealing food items that have high concentrations of certain odorants that, when combined with the taste of these items, will create remarkable flavors for consumers.

For example, if specialty chemical companies were to identify the volatile molecules released in grilled chicken, concentrating these chemicals in food might decrease the amount of food individuals consume given the strong concentration of molecules and flavors. Thus, elucidating the biosynthetic pathways of various items (i.e. candies, cakes, coffee, etc) can truly lead to novel inventions and increased revenue for specialty chemical companies.

Using ELNs to Get from A to Z

The electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) is a valuable tool to take specialty chemical companies through the process of turning a novel idea into an innovative product:

  • Discovery: ELNs are essential component of the discovery process because their use enables researchers at specialty chemical companies to organize their data, while also collaborating with colleagues. Returning to the paper published in Science, Magnard and his colleagues worked extensively to identify monoterpenes as the compound representing approximately 70% of rose scent. Determining which of the hundreds of volatile molecules dominates the scent of an item is daunting; however, if specialty chemical companies use ELNs, as compounds are being mentioned, tested and kept for further testing or discarded, this information will be safely saved and clearly accessible to other researchers who can modify their own efforts based on the group’s collective results.
  • Testing: Once compounds have been identified, it is important to run the compounds through a battery of tests to understand their toxicity and identify their chemical characteristics in general. Various machines and tools are necessary for these tests, and by using ELNs specialty chemical companies can make sure that the compounds undergo the necessary tests and that the machines used to test them are safely calibrated and available for proper testing.

Ultimately, specialty chemical companies have an opportunity to use what we know about the neurobiology of taste,smell and flavors to create novel products that invoke deep emotions and responses among consumers. ELNs can assist researchers within specialty chemical companies on their quest to develop this next line of food products. To determine how the BIOVIA Notebook can help your company innovate, please contact us today.

  1. “Coffee Smell Is All You Need,” June 16, 2008, http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/coffee-smell.htm
  2. “Taste and Smell,” April 1, 2012, http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/senses-and-perception/articles/2012/taste-and-smell/
  3. “Taste and Smell,” April 1, 2012, http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/senses-and-perception/articles/2012/taste-and-smell/
  4. “Smell and Taste,” http://www.entnet.org/content/smell-taste
  5. “Biosynthesis of monoterpene scent compounds in roses,” July 3, 2015, https://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6243/81.abstract

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