Flavor Profile

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)1 and Keane (1992)2.

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.

References

1 CAUL, J.F. 1957. The profile method of flavor analysis. In “Advances in Food Research” ed. Mrak, E.M. and Stewart, G.F. Vol. 7, pp 1 – 40. Academic Press, New York, NY.

2 KEANE, P. 1992. The flavor profile. In ASTM Manual on Descriptive Analysis Testing” (Manual 13) ed. Hootman, R.C. pp 5-14. ASTM, Philadelphia, PA.