Bitterness Masking Innovations
Caffeine is one of the most commonly consumed psychoactive substances in the world and is found in many food and beverage products, including coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks.
While caffeine has several beneficial effects, such as increased alertness and reduced fatigue, research shows that caffeine is one of the most bitter substances in the world, with a bitterness threshold of about 10 millimoles per liter. This bitterness is due to the activation of taste receptors on the tongue, particularly the TAS2R43 receptor, which is responsible for detecting bitter flavors.
Challenges of Caffeine Bitterness
Before Pzaz, the bitter taste of caffeine had been a significant challenge for the food and beverage industry, particularly for energy drinks and shots, which often contain high amounts of caffeine and other bitter compounds. In an attempt to mask the bitter taste, producers of these drinks often add large amounts of sugar, acid, and artificial flavorings, which can lead to unhealthy products with unpleasant taste profiles.
Innovation with Pzaz
Only the Pzaz team has created a caffeine super-solution and then completely masked its bitterness using natural flavors.
Bitterness masking is a technique used in flavor science to reduce or eliminate the unpleasant bitter taste of certain compounds in food and beverages. It involves using other taste compounds, known as masking agents, to cover up the bitter taste of the offending compound.
Just as noise cancelling headphones use sound waves to cancel out background noise, masking agents use taste compounds to cancel out the bitter taste.
In noise cancelling headphones, a microphone picks up the surrounding sounds and then generates an "anti-noise" signal, which is played through the headphones. The anti-noise signal is designed to be the exact opposite of the original sound wave, effectively cancelling out the noise.
Similarly, in bitterness masking, taste compounds are carefully selected to counteract the bitter compounds and neutralize their unpleasant taste. One extremely basic example is how sweetness and sourness can be used to begin to mask the bitterness of caffeine, making it more palatable.
Just as noise cancelling headphones can be adjusted to cancel out different types of sounds, bitterness masking can be tailored to specific compounds and individual taste preferences. By understanding the science behind bitterness masking, flavor scientists can develop more effective and appealing products that are more enjoyable to consume.
If you're interested in learning more, check out:
Green, B. G. (2016). Bitterness in taste: mechanisms and central coding. Clinical Nutrition Experimental, 10, 14-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yclnex.2016.03.003
This article provides an overview of the mechanisms underlying bitter taste perception and the different approaches used to reduce bitterness in food and beverages, including bitterness masking.
Zhang, S., Chen, X., Wu, J., & Su, X. (2020). Bitterness masking strategies: a review on recent advances and future prospects. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 96, 95-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2019.12.007
This review article discusses the different strategies for bitterness masking in food and beverages, including the use of taste compounds, such as sweeteners, acids, and umami compounds, and other techniques, such as encapsulation and enzymatic modification.
O'Mahony, M., & Sweeney, T. (2019). Bitterness in milk proteins: underlying mechanisms and applications for the food industry. Food Research International, 126, 108593. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2019.108593
This article focuses on the bitter taste of milk proteins and the strategies used to mask it in dairy products. It provides a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of bitterness perception and the different taste compounds that can be used to reduce or eliminate the bitterness.
Heckman MA, Weil J, Gonzalez de Mejia E. Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci. 2010 Apr;75(3):R77-87.
Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Jan 27;7(1):5.
Bhumika SR, Shetty PK, Hegde G, et al. Bitter taste receptors and their implications for caffeine tolerance. J Oral