Fruit spreads are a broadly consumed category of foods, with over one billion dollars in annual sales within the United States. However, due to the high sugar content of traditional jams, diabetic consumers and consumers following calorie-restricted diets are unable to consume these products within the constraints of their diets, leading to stagnant sales. Although sugar-free and low-sugar spreads offer an alternative to traditional spreads for consumers, current products are plagued by flavor defects not present in traditional spreads. These flavor defects lead to low consumer acceptance of sugar-free spreads, making it more likely that calorie-restricted consumers may choose to avoid fruit spreads rather than consume unpalatable product. To improve the consumer acceptance of sugar-free spreads, a fusion of sensory science and small-molecule metabolomics, termed Flavoromics, has been used to understand chemical differences between traditional and sugar-free products which may contribute to these flavor defects. Twenty-three spreads from seven different fruits have been profiled using UPLC/ToF-MS, and models predictive of spread type have been developed and validated. Compounds significantly differing between product types have been isolated, recombined with jams, and analyzed using sensory panels to determine if they have a causal relationship with flavor, and the potential to influence acceptance. Using these techniques, compounds which lower perceived acidity and contribute to a sense of “full” flavor in fruit jams have been discovered. Knowledge of these compounds will allow for producers to tweak raw ingredient selection, fruit breeding strategies, and processing parameters, in order to naturally produce better tasting sugar-free fruit spreads.
Geoff Dubrow is a PhD candidate in Food Science and Technology under the supervision of Dr. Devin Peterson at the Ohio State University. Geoff’s research focuses on the application of untargeted ‘omics technologies towards understanding flavor and consumer acceptance in fruit spreads.