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By Frances Katz, Senior Technical Editor | 12/20/2005
PROBING THE SCIENCE OF FLAVOR
Gaining a scientific understanding of how flavor is generated and perceived has evolved. One of the leaders in the field is a relatively small firm called Senomyx Inc. (www.senomyx.com) According to spokesperson Gwen Rosenberg, the LaJolla, Calif., company is the owner or exclusive licensee of 29 U.S. patents and 18 foreign patents as well as more than 80 pending U.S. patent applications and some 90 pending foreign patent applications covering proprietary taste and olfactory receptors technology and related assays.
Senomyx’s work focuses on specific receptors, including the human savory receptor, composed of two proteins called hT1R1 and hT1R3. The T1R proteins are members of the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) family and are expressed on the surface of certain taste bud cells. The human sweet receptor is composed of two proteins called hT1R2 and hT1R3. The hT1R3 protein is shared in common with the savory receptor. Like the savory receptor, the sweet receptor is also a member of the GPCR family and is expressed on the surface of certain taste bud cells.
A novel family of GPCRs termed T2Rs mediates the response to bitter compounds. Analysis of the human genome reveals the hT2R family is composed of about 25 receptors, each one recognizing a different class of bitter compound.
Senomyx recently reported the identification of two novel ligand-receptor pairs: hT2R61, which is activated by 6-nitrosaccharin, a bitter derivative of saccharin; and hT2R44, which is activated by denatonium (one of the most bitter tasting compounds known to man) and 6-nitrosaccharin. These discoveries, and the identification of additional T2R receptor-ligand pairs, are part of the company’s ongoing program to identify mediators of bitter taste.
Senomyx has established working relationships with several companies, most recently with Cadbury Schweppes, to develop flavor systems that interact with specific receptors, producing unusual flavors that are particularly high in impact. Ultimately, that could lead to the development of flavors that reduce the need for sugar, salt and monosodium glutamate.
|McCormick’s Flavor Forecast for 2006|
McCormick & Co. for several years has been publishing an annual Flavor Forecast. The Hunt Valley, Md., company (www.mccormick.com) bills it as “a look at the flavors and trends that will shape the way we eat in years to come.”
Chai is a blend of spices including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and white pepper. Most folks know it as a tea-like drink. But it’s escaping Starbucks and moving to desserts, snack bars, organic foods and natural foods.
Marjoram is very Mediterranean, but pairs well with Middle Eastern food and American Southwest flavors.
Paprika, especially smoked paprika is a key component of Spanish, Portuguese, European and Southwestern dishes. Especially good with shellfish, chorizo and tomato dishes, it supports garlic, basil and oregano.
Saffron also is a keystone of foods from Spain — which McCormick calls "the new France" as a hotbed for trendy food. Used both in savory dishes (such as paella) and sweet dishes (flan, for starters), the bright yellow spice (really the stamens of a crocus) is expensive, but only a pinch is used.
Sesame has gone beyond the bun and is used as a flavor adjunct in chocolate, chicken, meats and tuna and supports garlic, orange and ginger.
Supporting flavor: Pomegranate is “widely touted for its antioxidants and perceived health benefits.” New methods of processing the pesky fruit and its seeds have suddenly made it very popular, especially used with warm spices.
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