On this occasion, I want to refer to an article on the perception of flavours in humans that I found very interesting, and that in some way can contribute to the generation of greater knowledge about palatability in petfood.
It is accepted that the human perceives five flavours, which are: sweet, bitter, salty, acid and umami. This last, fifth flavour was added relatively recently and is linked to glutamate rich flavours. Foods that contain this flavour are those that induce salivation, causing a pleasant sensation throughout the mouth. The knowledge we have about pets is that cats, unlike dogs, do not have a strong perception or taste for sweet, salty or umami, while they do have a good inclination for acidic flavours.
According to a scientific study conducted by researchers at the University of Oregon, humans are able to recognize a sixth flavour, named ‘starchy’.
This study was carried out to demonstrate that humans have the possibility of differentiating this flavour from the rest of the existing five flavours. For this, 22 people were offered liquid solutions with different dissolved amounts of glucose-based polysaccharides.
By the end of the test, 100 percent of the people admitted to having perceived a taste of ‘bread’ according to the Western volunteers and ‘rice’ according to the Eastern volunteers. Until now, the scientific community believed that humans detect the taste of starches by identifying their sweet molecules. What’s more, the sample participants were able to do so even when the researchers blocked their sweet taste receptors. With this study, it has been shown that humans can distinguish this new flavour on its own.
Juyun Lim, director of the research, has ensured that participants had not been able to identify exclusive taste buds in order to recognise this sixth flavour. In the context of the complexity of describing a flavour, we could say that the starchy taste would be similar to eating flour.
The use in petfood of complex carbohydrates (starches) derived from the inclusion in the formulae of grains such as corn, wheat, rice and oats lead us to reflect on how important this type of research can be in the petfood industry.