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Fragrance is a pleasure, an aura, an end in itself; but it also is a scientific phenomenon that tantalizes and entreats sensory exploration. According to Mastertaste, a global flavor and fragrance manufacturer, the object of its current study is to increase understanding of a perceptual process called sensory adaptation, as a prelude to the development of longer-lasting aromatic materials. To facilitate the research, Mastertaste recently entered a three-year partnership with Monell Chemical Senses Center, a research institute focused on the science of taste and smell.
An aroma initially is strong but then the scent appears to decline over time, sometimes seeming to disappear. This phenomenon, known as sensory adaptation, is not related to changes in the concentration of the aroma, but instead is a function of our biology, says the Monell and Mastertaste team. The aroma of a favorite dish simmering on the stove or the fragrance of a lit candle will last only so long before the brain, and the nose, stop noticing it. Some aromas are more resistant than others to sensory adaptation, but it is not known why.
“There are many situations where the perceived aroma decreases over time,” said John Bedford, chief technical officer at Mastertaste. “For example, as a soup or stew begins to bubble on the stove, there is an immediate burst of aroma. However, over a prolonged period of time in the kitchen, the cook ceases to perceive the aroma. Imagine the value a food manufacturer can add to the finished product if that tantalizing smell is evident in the kitchen throughout the entire food preparation process,” said Bedford.
Mastertaste believes the findings of this research will facilitate the development of aromatic materials and processes that resist sensory adaptation. Longer-lasting perception of flavor and fragrance aromas could bring a technology breakthrough to the industry, allowing manufacturers to produce products with an added flavor and aroma dimension and a higher marketable value.
Longer-lasting fragrance perceptions, combined with new additions to the expanding perfumer’s palette, are a potentially potent combination. Moving from kitchen creations to fine fragrance, Markus Gautschi, head of fragrance research at Givaudan, shared some of Givaudan’s latest fragrance molecule research. “The development of new molecules and unique naturals to enrich the perfumer’s palette remains a primary objective of Givaudan’s Fragrance Research Center, based in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2005, four new proprietary molecules were introduced to the perfumer’s palette,” said Gautschi.