ice cream sensations
June 5, 2014

What Does The Taste Of Ice Cream Look Like On A Computer?

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Ice cream is one of the great joys of summer. The creamy smooth feeling of cold ice cream sliding down your throat on a hot summer day can't be beat. But can it be scientifically explained?

A new study from the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (CSIC) in Valencia, Spain, says yes. The findings, published in Food Hydrocolloids, prove that graphs of changes in creaminess, coldness or texture can help manufacturers improve product quality.

Ice cream manufacturers have been using a technique called "Temporal Dominance of Sensations" (TDS) for the last five years to analyze how consumer impressions evolve from the moment they taste a product.

CSIC researchers have taken the technique one step farther, using it to visualize the perceptions experienced when eating an ice cream.

"As well as how it looks before being served, the texture on our tongue and palate is key to it being accepted and considered as a quality product," Susana Fiszman told SINC. The researchers recruited 85 people for a tasting session to test this aspect. The participants described the sensations they felt while eating vanilla ice cream. Using a screen, each participant pointed out the dominant characteristic present in each moment — starting with the cold felt upon the first touch to the mouth (cold-ice), to the creaminess, lack of smoothness, gumminess and mouth coating once it touched the tongue.

The team used computer software to analyze the results and display them as graphs with colored lines for each characteristic.

Manufacturing researchers can use the technique to analyze what happens when the basic ingredients — cream, egg yolk, sugar, milk and thickening agents such as gums of hydrocolloids that give the product thickness and stability — are tweaked.

"In an ice cream made only with milk and sugar, the curves that dominate are those representing coldness and lack of smoothness. But adding cream, egg and hydrocolloids significantly increases and prolongs creaminess and mouth coating," Fiszman explains.

Fiszman explains the role of hydrocolloids, "Normally the perception of a cold-ice sensation is negative for the consumer, but we have seen that this is eliminated or delayed when these macromolecules are added. The macromolecules also enhance and prolong the creaminess, which is associated with a high quality ice cream."

Understanding the dynamics of sensory perception of a product will help manufacturers quantify the ideal proportions of the ingredients, according to the researchers. This will ultimately improve the product.

Image 2 (below): This shows TDS curves for two types of ice cream, the first containing only sweetened milk (M) and the second milk, cream, egg and hydrocolloids (MCEH). Credit: IATA