Vanilla makes milk beverages seem sweeter

June 20, 2019

Adding vanilla to sweetened milk makes consumers think the beverage is sweeter, allowing the amount of added sugar to be reduced, according to Penn State researchers, who will use the concept to develop a reduced-sugar chocolate milk for the National School Lunch Program.

"We are utilizing a learned association between an odor and a taste that will allow us to reduce the added sugar content," said Helene Hopfer, assistant professor of food science. "Reducing added sugar in products, just like reducing fat and salt, is the holy grail of food science."

The idea that congruent or harmonious odors enhance certain tastes is not new, explained Hopfer, whose research group in the College of Agricultural Sciences has been experimenting with these "cross-modal interactions" in food since she came to Penn State three years ago. Her goal is to see them actually incorporated into foods.

In a blind taste test that provided new insights into taste enhancement by an aroma, participants -- who did not know vanilla had been added to the milk -- consistently indicated that samples with vanilla were significantly sweeter than their added sugar concentrations could explain.

The subjects' responses indicate that with the addition of vanilla, the added sugar content in flavored milk could potentially be reduced by 20 to 50 percent, suggested lead researcher Gloria Wang, and people should not be able to perceive the beverage as less sweet.

"We maintain the sweetness perception by having this congruent odor -- this learned, associated odor -- basically trick the brain into thinking that there is still enough sweetness there," she said. "Based on our results, taste-aroma interaction is a robust effect."

Wang, now an associate scientist in product development with Leprino Foods Co. in Colorado, conducted the research at Penn State as part of her master's degree thesis in food science. She tested not only congruent taste-aroma combinations but incongruent combinations as well. It turned out that even a beef odor in milk slightly enhanced sweetness for study participants.

Given widespread concerns about sugar intake and health, manufacturers are reformulating their products to help address consumer demand, Wang noted. She believes the findings of the research, recently published in Food Quality and Preference, offer them a workable option to reduce added sugar in their products and retain the sweetness consumers demand.

The study was novel because it did not ask participants to rate individual attributes of the milk such as sweetness, intensity of vanilla odor or milk taste. Instead, participants took a more holistic approach and simply selected the best match for the vanilla milk from four differently sweetened milk choices.

Later this summer, Hopfer's lab in the Department of Food Science will start working on a two-year project, funded by the National Dairy Council, aimed at developing a reduced-sugar chocolate milk for the National School Lunch Program. The effort, based on the recent research using the synergistic actions between vanilla and sugar to reduce the added sugar content, will be a challenge because of the inherent bitterness of cocoa.

"The amount of sugar in chocolate milk is quite high because cocoa is very bitter, so you need some sugar to decrease the bitterness of the cocoa and then more to make it sweet," Hopfer said. "We are hoping to utilize what we found with odors to reduce the added sugar content by experimenting to find the sweet spot between cocoa powder, sugar content and vanilla flavor. We know that if it isn't sweet, children won't drink it."
-end-
Also involved in the research were Alyssa Bakke, staff sensory scientist in food science, and John Hayes, associate professor of food science and director of the Penn State Sensory Evaluation Center.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this work.

Penn State

Related Milk Articles from Brightsurf:

The "gold" in breast milk
Breast milk strengthens a child's immune system, supporting the intestinal flora.

Pasteurizing breast milk inactivates SARS-CoV-2
Pasteurizing breast milk using a common technique inactivates severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) making it safe for use, according to new research in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). ttps://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/early/2020/07/09/cmaj.201309.full.pdf

Milk lipids follow the evolution of mammals
Skoltech scientists conducted a study of milk lipids and described the unique features of human breast milk as compared to bovids, pigs, and closely related primates.

Raw milk may do more harm than good
Raw or unpasteurized cows' milk from U.S. retail stores can hold a huge amount of antimicrobial-resistant genes if left at room temperature, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Milk pioneers: East African herders consumed milk 5,000 years ago
Animal milk was essential to east African herders at least 5,000 years ago, according to a new study.

Breast milk may help prevent sepsis in preemies
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have found -- in newborn mice -- that a component of breast milk may help protect premature babies from developing life-threatening sepsis.

Drinking 1% rather than 2% milk accounts for 4.5 years of less aging in adults
A new study shows drinking low-fat milk -- both nonfat and 1% milk -- is significantly associated with less aging in adults.

Photoinitiators detected in human breast milk
Photoinitators (PIs) are compounds used in the ink of many types of food packaging.

Milk from teeth: Dental stem cells can generate milk-producing cells
Stem cells of the teeth can contribute to the regeneration of non-dental organs, namely mammary glands.

Micro-ribonucleic acid in milk:Health risk very unlikely
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) occurs in animal and plant cells and has many biological functions.

Read More: Milk News and Milk Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.