The "The Flavour of Vitality" symposium, held at Unilever's Food and Health Research Institute, featured presentations that demonstrated how scientific advances were facilitating the process of improving "food flavours while providing nutritional benefits".
"It is great to have our academic and food industry partners here to advance flavour science which will help to deliver healther and tastier foods for consumers," said Nico Overbeeke, Unilever vice president of Foods Research.
The keynote speaker was Professor Andy Taylor from Food Sciences Department at the University of Nottingham in the UK, who spoke on the latest developments in flavour science.
The future of flavour
He asked: what can we expect from flavour in the future? and delved into the neuro- and biomechanics of how people taste.
The manner in which receptors report taste sensations to the brain needed to be understood by flavourists of the future, he said.
Taylor emphasised how flavour is increasingly being perceived as a multi-sensory experience that goes beyond taste and smell. Colour, texture and several other stimuli to the human body, were also important, he said.
Unilever food scientist Edouard Bonnet discussed the latest developments in salt reduction which he noted was possible to levels of 30 per cent in Unilever products, although 10-15 per cent was more common depending on the foodstuff in question.
Research scientist Christoph Beckmann looked at some of the obstacles that had to be overcome when transforming the taste profile of foods the public may have questioned en masse on taste grounds.
Soy milk and other soy products were typical examples of items the mainstream public had not embraced because when they hit the market in the 1970s, a floury texture and chalky flavour meant they achieved little more than niche sales.
Formulation development had seen soy milk win a much larger segment of the market as many of these issues had been resolved.
Silvia Lagnado, Unilever vice president in the Savoury division, outlined the increasing trend towards - and consumer preference for - more natural and authentic food.
Food and Health Research Institute director of flavours and consumer research, Professor Gerrit Smit, said the symposium had been a success with 18 speakers and more than 200 attendees, many of whom were Unilever's strategic partners.
"This is a way for us to add value to the companies and institutions we work with," Smit told FoodNavigator.com. "It's a great interactive way for us to get together and discuss important issues that affect all of us."
Unilever holds similar symposia annually and previous year's themes have included healthy ingredients and food formulation development.
Prizes were given to three under-35-year-old scientists who had made "an outstanding contribution to flavour science."
One of the scientists, Rianne Ruijschop, was the first to demonstrate that flavours can be used as a trigger for satiation using human studies. Unilever said these findings were "opening up new fields and concepts for product development."
The theme of next year's symposium has not yet been decided.