We were intrigued to read the news recently that Sainsbury’s is trialling the use of an electronic tongue to rate the basic taste of perception of petfood.
The machine is designed to measure absolute levels of salt, sour, bitter and umami in the food so that it can be compared to recipes known to be preferred by cats and dogs. The ‘electronic tongue’ has, according to Sainsbury’s, been rigorously tested. It was created by a Japanese tech company a while back. The tech claims to be able to measure differences as subtle as 0.03g more salt per 100g.
Although perhaps a sufficient testing mechanism for dogs (the majority of which most food tends to disappear without ceremony), and possibly for even fussier cats, the machine cannot tell you if a dish actually tastes nice or not. It is therefore unlikely to totally replace the need for human input when it comes to assessing the taste of food for human consumption.
Even a combination of sophisticated sensors for both electronic nose and tongue cannot recreate the complexity and interaction of appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and aftertaste perceived by humans and their individual interpretations of flavour influenced by experience and culture.
However, from a trained sensory panellists’ perspective, anything that reduces the requirement for people to test petfood can only be welcomed!