Nestlé aims to match taste with genes

Posted by James Ferre on 12th May 2008

The creation of foods which cater directly toward specific consumer preferences and needs may appear a forlorn goal but Nestlé are seeking to make it reality.

The Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland, is beginning a collaborative study with leading international brain research institutions, Alberto Santos Dumont Association for Science, Brazil, and the Brain Mind Institute of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, to evaluate the influence of individual genetic make-up on taste sensitivity in humans.

Human taste perception is determined by the type, structure and number of taste cells present in taste buds on the tongue. These cells are responsible for signalling taste information from the mouth to the brain. Taste sensitivity differs greatly among individuals – some cannot sense certain tastants, while others are very sensitive to these tastants. The differences in taste perceptions, ranging from non-detectable to strong, are the physiological manifestations (phenotype) of individuals’ unique genotypes.

The present joint study will explore links between individual genetic profiles and taste sensitivity in humans. Molecular-biological data collected from hundreds of ethnically-diverse individuals will provide researchers with information to compare genetic predisposition and metabolism with varying taste sensitivities across population groups. Scientists at the Nestlé Research Center and their partner institutions hope to expand this information for future studies exploring the connection between genetics, metabolism and taste perception.

“The collaboration between Nestlé Research and leading worldwide brain institutes will open a new dimension in sensory research, allowing Nestlé to provide a broad range of choices to meet personal taste and nutrition preferences,” said Peter van Bladeren, Head of Nestlé Science and Research.

The research findings will be used by Nestlé to develop food and beverage applications that satisfy specific consumer preferences that meet individual nutritional needs.

Food industry professionals around the world will be paying close attention to the findings of the research as it offers innovation to an industry that thrives on new ideas.