Airdate: Jan 27, 2009
Scientist: Joan Harvey
KSC Flavor - Vocabulary
Everyone has likes and dislikes, but as a flavorist it helps to be able to articulate them.
"Well, everybody knows what a banana tastes like. What type of banana do you want? They all taste different."
You might describe wine as dry, or full bodied. But ask an expert to evaluate the same glass, and you'll hear words like caramel, licorice, and supple tannins. Well, professional flavorists talk about candy, chips, and chewing gum flavors in much the same way. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
"So every day I taste a gazillion products."
That's Joan Harvey a flavor chemist at a major candy company.
"I start the morning out tasting some chewing gums, and I'll taste three or four samples at a time, where they have the same flavor, but they've just been, minor changes to the flavor profiles. So did it change it to be more green, did it make it more creamy, did it make it more brown, like is it sweeter?"
Joan Harvey is a participant in the Kids' Science Challenge, a nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders. She says that everyone has likes and dislikes, but if you really want to experiment with flavors, it's important to develop a vocabulary for them.
"If you can't describe what you're tasting, the value of you telling me that you think it tastes good is like, it's good from a consumer marketing perspective, but if you can't describe to me, then I can't send you into the lab and say, can you make it more green, can you make it more seedy, can you make it more woody? So flavorists have to be able to describe and adjust formulations based on what we're describing."
If you know of a 3rd to 6th grader who's interested in flavor science, have them check out kidsciencechallenge.com. That's kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.