Adding odourants to foods can fool your taste buds into thinking foods are sweeter and saltier than they really are, opening up new possibilities for manufacturers trying to reformulate products, according to scientists at Dutch research organisation Nizo.
Speaking at a symposium on sugar reduction in London last month, project leader, sensory, Dr Harold Bult said adding volatile flavour compounds to foods could offer "significant sweetness enhancement". By contrast, sour-smelling odourants could reduce the perception of sweetness.
He added: "We've conducted several tests on apple juice with added volatile flavour molecules. As you drink it, the odourants are released into the nasal cavity and it affects your taste perception."
By adding the flavour molecule ethyl hexanoate, the juice was perceived to be far sweeter, he said. Work with Unilever on saltiness perception had thrown up equally exciting results: "By adding an aroma that occurs naturally they were able to reduce salt by 2g/litre without consumers detecting any changes. They were fooled.
"Adding creamy aromas can also make people perceive the taste to be creamier and thicker as they swallow. But more work needs to be done on the timing of the release of these odours, and how that affects things.
"What we also don't know is whether people can be fooled in the long-term, but there is real scope for further research here.