The Flavor Profile method is one of a group of methods used to
describe sensory characteristics and is thought of as the “mother” of
many other descriptive methods. It was originally developed by
scientists at Arthur D. Little in the late 1940’s and has been used
extensively to describe the Flavor
of foods. Although many articles have been published describing
aspects of the method, two major documents describing the method have
been published. For a complete description of the method and some of
its modifications see Caul (1957) and Keane (1992).
In essence the flavor profile describes flavor in terms of 5 major
components: character notes or attributes, intensities of those
attributes, the order of appearance of the attributes, aftertaste, and
amplitude (a complex phenomenon defined as the overall impression of the
blendedness of the analyzable and nonanalyzable flavor components).
The original scale for the flavor profile was 5 points: not present,
threshold , slight, moderate, strong, but in practice, attributes that
were not present were not given zeros, they simply were not mentioned in
the profile. Over time the scale has be adapted to more points (e.g.
7, 15) to accommodate more differentiation of the intensity.
A major component of the profile method is a highly trained panel of
4-6 (usually) members who individually evaluate the products and then
work in discussion as a group to determine a consensus profile. This
consensus leads to data that acts as a mean value (although it is not an
average of the panelists scores, it is a single score agreed upon by
all panel members). This component of the profile method was criticized
in the 1960’s and 70’s by some scientists as offering too much leeway
to a panel leader or headstrong panelist to bias the scores.
Authorities on the method argue that the appropriate selection of
panelists, the extensive training involved, and the blind nature of the
testing provide adequate insurance that the method is not biased.
Recent research using flavor profile has been in a variety of
companies and has been published in a number of journals including
Journal of Sensory Studies, Food Quality and Preference, Journal of Food
Science, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, and LWT Food Science and Technology.