How Aftertastes Affect Flavor Perception

Taste is a critical survival mechanism, guiding animals to safe sustenance and helping the body to identify and reject toxic or poisonous substances. In addition, taste is a quality-of-life enhancer, providing nutritional and non-essential sensory pleasure. At the same time, our sense and perception of taste is complex.
What Is Taste?
Thanks to receptors on our tongues and a combination of chemical signals, humans can detect up to six taste profiles, including sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory). However, these sensations and how we experience them involve more than our sense of taste.
Our flavor perception encompasses a comprehensive and multi-sensory gustatory system involving sight, smell, taste, and texture. Technically, flavor is a chemical combination of aroma and taste, colored by our visually prompted pre-conceptions.
How do we know that we also “eat with our eyes”? Research using a white wine dyed to look red resulted in a wine connoisseur panel to describe the beverage in terms of red wines, not white. These findings suggest that visual cues impacted the perceived flavor profile and characteristics1.
In another fascinating example, did you know that Skittles all have the same flavor profile? To create the impression of different tastes, manufacturers add colors and associated aromas, such as yellow with lemon and orange with citrus odors2. Our brains have formed distinct food associations and memories and fill in the flavor gaps, even yielding a more intense taste in response to brighter colors.
What Is an Aftertaste?
Researchers have revealed that while flavors are multi-sensory, aftertastes are more one-dimensional and created in our tastebuds. Some aftertastes are described as bitter and often as unpleasant. At the same time, many are savored, such as pizza and fried and grilled dishes.
According to Cordelia Running from SPIT (Saliva, Perception, Ingestion, and Tongues), aftertastes are “little bits of the actual flavor stimuli that might hang around3.” Others, such as from onion and garlic, get into the bloodstream for a substantial lingering effect, so persistent that they can even appear in amniotic fluid.
Producers must design their ingredients and formulations to avoid or mask any naturally occurring or unintended flavor aftereffects to avoid undermining their flavor profile with an unwelcome aftertaste.
Keeping Your Low or No-Sugar Variants Sweet but Not Bitter
Artificial sweeteners are among the familiar ingredients with an alienating aftertaste, particularly acesulfame K and saccharin. One way to reduce or negate their bitterness includes combining cyclamate and saccharin, which mysteriously act on each other to cancel out the bitterness.
Another option is to replace artificial ingredients with more natural substances. Honey or fructose can be used, but add calories. Other alternatives include naturally sweet sugar alcohols such as erythritol and a dietary fiber called inulin.
Another plant-based extract hitting manufacturer and consumer sweet spots is stevia. While the original stevia product was considered bitter, next-generation variants are more sugary and less lingering. Advancements are thanks to a greater understanding of the stevia leaf and how to process it, boosting growing and scaling capabilities and harvesting synergies for improved taste performance. These breakthroughs are also sustainable, eco-friendly, and impressively cost-effective.
Garlic Breath Keeps More Than Vampires at Bay
Garlic, onion, and fish oil – flavors you can count on overstaying their welcome. Consumers can try chewing parsley, mint, or spinach leaves or look to innovators such as Arctic Blue, who produce a fish-oil-based supplement without the offending side effect.
This Dutch wellness brand honed in on the Omega 3 fatty acid oxidation that causes the aftertaste, improving the experience and increasing product efficacy with a “slight orange flavor.”
Don’t Let Aftertaste Be an Afterthought
With taste the predominant driver in food type and brand choice, ensuring a pleasant or zero aftertaste is essential. This need extends beyond sweetening and repeating natural odors to other product analogs, such as plant-based “milk”, “cheese”, and “meats”.
So, when developing products, especially alcoholic and low or no-sugar offerings, test for and explore lingering flavors post-swallowing and beyond, assessing these according to intensity, quality, and duration.
Then, select pure and natural flavor and aroma extracts to add a healthy sweetness and tantalizing odors and boost taste profiles. Advanced Biotech boasts an extensive ingredient selection to meet your needs.
When Your Product Needs Less Taste or a Different Taste, Rely on Advanced Biotech
Browse our plant-based, 100% natural, and EU-certified distillates, pyrazines, thiazoles, aromatics, and other pure extracts, and order today. You can also contact us to request samples or discuss customized requirements.