The Next Taste Sense: Working with Cannabinoid Flavors When Developing Infused Products

Published on September 14, 2020

There are five universally accepted tastes of the tongue’s receptors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory). However, there are many different taste candidates that are being considered as the sixth sense such as oleogustus (latin for “taste of fat”), kokumi, calcium, piquancy, etc. Many of these candidates of taste senses are accepted in certain regions, but they are not universally accepted.

It is hard to predict what the next taste sense that will universally be accepted will be, but I believe that oleogustus might be it. Oleogustus is described as the way we taste fatty acids like oxidized oils. Recognizing this taste will serve more as a warning system, like the sensation of bitterness, in higher concentrations. In small doses, this taste can be pleasant and enjoyable, similar to how bitterness can be enjoyable in wine.

When it comes to creating infused products, we all want to create products that are as delicious as they are beneficial. In terms of sensory, cannabinoids can offer a consumer a variety of experiences. Because cannabinoids are plant material, they (and the terpenes present in the plant as well) can impart earthy, herbaceous, pleasant botanical notes and sometimes some bitter notes.

There are three ways a producer of an infused product can navigate through this. The first is to work with the flavor of the cannabinoids and incorporate it into the flavor profile; sometimes the botanical notes of the terpenes can add a depth to your product that adds interest and intrigue. Another option is to mask the bitterness; this is not always perfect, but you can modify your flavor to help you achieve a result that is more preferred by your customer. The third is to use an isolate for a nice, clean flavor. CBD isolates offer the cleanest flavor form of CBD, making it relatively easy to work with flavor-wise, but the downside is that the consumer does not get to experience an entourage effect of the terpenes working in concert with the cannabinoids.

Because consumers are focused on health and wellness right now, there are many infused products on the market featuring Broad Spectrum CBD, which offers the full complement of cannabinoids and terpenes. While Broad Spectrum has more of an earthy flavor profile, it can be mitigated with the effective application of emulsion technology, and there are flavors that complement the taste to make it enjoyable without additional sugars and/or calories. Not all CBD emulsions are created equal, so evaluating suppliers and emulsion technologies is imperative to the product development process. Producers have taken creative approaches to their flavor profiles, and the result is diversity in choice for the consumer.

Donna Wamsley is a Grit Daily contributor who brings more than 12 years of experience in the food and beverage industry to our Science team. Prior to SōRSE Technology, Donna served as a Flavor Development Manager and Flavorist at Callisons, a global leader in mint extraction and flavor manufacturing based in Olympia, Washington. Her accomplishments include: Flavor research and development for CPG companies, varietal improvement research, and analytical/extraction research. Donna earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puget Sound.

Donna’s first job in Food and Bev was in Quality Assurance. From there, she moved into Product Development and flavor work. As a flavorist, she developed flavors from raw ingredients. She calls herself a “mint snob.” With Callisons, she worked with CPG companies on commercialization of their products. Safety, sensory experience, and consistency are all qualities she looks for when analyzing ingredients. She’s also very interested in the agriculture behind the ingredient – she commented that it can be challenging to develop a consistent flavor when you are sourcing your ingredient (like mint or cannabis) from different regions, different farms with different growing conditions. Donna also likes to dig into flavor trends, commenting that strawberry is popular right now because it pairs well with other flavors. Currently Donna is managing the SōRSE lab as well as doing her emulsion development work.

Donna is close to becoming certified as a Flavorist. There are only 200 certified flavorists in the world. This involves having a sponsor, taking an oral exam and a written exam. She’d like to see CBD in chewing gum and oral care like tooth paste and mouth rinses.

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