- Responding to a perceived lack of uniformity in taste mapping, Swiss company iSense is using digital profiling technology to provide more objective flavor measurements to food and beverage innovators, according to Food Ingredients First. The company plans to digitize and publish more than 300 flavors by the end of this year.
- Founder and CEO Mathieu Aste told the publication customers can get a sensory profile in the form of a unique visual graph. He said this approach differs from companies using outmoded flavor languages, which complicate sensory data interpretation and make it difficult to do comparisons and achieve transparency.
- "Flavor houses sell relationship and artistry," Aste said. "The model is old, slow and profitable, but can be disrupted with flavor sensory data and digital tools. We can make it more efficient, delivering speed and productivity."
The iSense strategy could disrupt the flavor market if it's successful. The company's CEO stressed that while flavors may seem less prominent than other product ingredients, they're essential from a marketing perspective. While flavors represent a fraction of a food product's cost, they control around 60% of consumer preference, Aste told Food Ingredients First.
Recent consumer trends, along with flavor and taste research, appear to bear out this view. Demand for flavorful food products continues, and people are increasingly looking for new experiences. According to a Mintel study, 80% of millennials are seeking spicier flavors in their food.
iSense is also trying to shorten the process of screening and choosing flavors. The company's goal is to present information to clients within minutes instead of weeks, which could cut costs for brands seeking to develop and introduce products ahead of the competition.
As manufacturers submit more flavor samples to the company's database, the resource may be able to provide taste ingredient supplier information faster and more efficiently. With 17 global brands now submitting flavor samples, iSense plans to expand to 10,000 registered food and beverage industry users by the end of 2021. iSense hopes to catalog 500 different strawberry and vanilla flavors within two years — with butter, milk, cream, citrus, chicken and beef on the company's agenda after that.
Digital tools can mean enhanced productivity, greater expansion and more innovation for food companies. With a large database of standardized flavor profiles, iSense could conceivably connect manufacturers with flavor houses and allow them to search collections from other companies. This might trim R&D schedules, saving both time and money.
Other companies are using digital tools to evaluate flavors. Ripe.io recently partnered with FlavorWiki to trace flavors through a digital app consumers can use to evaluate taste. The goal is for producers, retailers and consumers to get insight about how a product tastes all along the food chain and how long it's likely to taste good.
McCormick & Co. uses a global think tank and artificial intelligence to research trends and develop a flavor forecast. The team looks outward for the next two to four years to keep up with — and try to stay ahead of — flavor trends. Virtual reality tools can also be used to gauge how sensory input can impact taste.
The increase in companies such as iSense and others using digital approaches to assess flavor and taste indicate how important these factors are within the marketplace. There will likely be more startups on the horizon to help make innovations in this area more effective — and potentially more lucrative.