Taste Talk: Developing a Flavour Lexicon

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Having alignment in the way your business talks about flavour can clear up confusion and reduce production time

Like so many niche industries, the business of flavour and taste has its own vernacular. But flavour is more subjective than many scientific topics, and there is no universal standard for how to talk about it. Establishing a brand-wide flavour lexicon can help ensure all tasters are speaking the same language. Doing so is an important way to create alignment on a team, in a company and with customers, says Blansh del Portal, a sensory scientist at Kerry North America who is helping shape how Kerry talks about flavour.


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We asked del Portal to explain how to streamline discussions about flavour, and why developing and using a global flavour lexicon, such as Kerry’s proprietary tastetalk flavour lexicon, is important to in the food and beverage industry. The skills shared here are an important follow-up to our recent article on how to become a better taster.

KerryDigest: What exactly is a flavour lexicon?
Blansh del Portal: A flavour lexicon is an agreed upon way of talking about flavour that includes a list of words that includes a list of descriptors, definitions and references to describe a product. At Kerry, aligning everyone to the same flavour and taste language across all global locations, technologies and business units is one way we add value to the customer.

KD: Why is it important to have a flavour lexicon?
BdP: A flavour lexicon can improve communication and the development of products. Having such a resource creates a unified language which ensures people call a perceived note the same thing. For example, without such guidelines, there may be a flavour note that one person says is “sweaty”, another says is “brothy”, and another says is “cheesy”. Having agreement on how to describe the note can ensure the intended properties are built into a product. 

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KD: Who should learn a flavour lexicon?
BdP: Everyone who works with food and beverage products—from sales to scientists—should aim to speak the same language. However, some functions will require greater fluency than others, so the depth understanding may differ depending on the need.

KD: How does a team develop a flavour lexicon?
BdP: To create Kerry’s tastetalk, we worked with our research and development teams plus flavourists, sensory scientists and consumer product researchers from around the globe. There were a lot of tastings and beta tests, and there was a lot of negotiating. Whenever you try to get several parties involved they will each bring their own expertise, opinions and concerns. But we ultimately agreed upon a standard set of descriptors, definitions and references which serve as a standard with which to train our teams. When creating references there will always be people that fall on either end of the spectrum of too sensitive to not sensitive enough to a particular note. We must work in the middle realm. And, much like language itself, our taste lexicon is ever evolving, and as new flavours and products come into the industries so must we adapt to those changes.

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KD: How many words should be used to describe an average product?
BdP: This tends to be product and objective specific. Descriptions can range from focusing on the top three to five attributes to twelve or even fifteen attributes, depending on the complexity. On average, you’ll probably aim for somewhere in the middle of those two ranges.

To learn more about partnering with Kerry on your next food or beverage product, contact us.

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