Fruitology®: giving flavors a new meaning
Les vergers Boiron is building a new approach to appreciate frozen fruit purée, based on Sensory Analysis, thus creating a new wording and language system to better communicate and share its expertise.
Les vergers Boiron invented frozen fruit purée in 1970 and remains to this day the market leader in this field. As an expert in fruit, from the raw materials to the finished products, the company felt it was necessary to create a wording system and a lexicon to more precisely define fruit. Following in the footsteps of wine that has oenology, beer that has zythology and cheese, in what is known in French as caséologie (generally referred to in English as cheese appreciation), Les vergers Boiron has decided to create Fruitology®.
Fruitology®, however does not limit itself to a simple system of wording, but goes one step further by telling the story for each fruit flavor and product, that covers the full cycle, from the cultivation of raw materials to its processing and, ultimately, to the taste experience.
The raisons d’être of Fruitology®
To ensure proper communication within the company and to accurately transmit its knowledge, everyone needs to be talking the same language, based on a wording system that makes it possible to tell the full story of each fruit purée.
To share this expertise of a fruit purée, Les vergers Boiron has created, based on this toolset, different training modules and programs for its partners: gastronomy and hospitality professionals, distributors, schools, etc.
The keystone of Fruitology®
Over the last three years, Les vergers Boiron has integrated sensory analysis as an integral part of its activity, to better understand and develop the organoleptic qualities of its products. Laura Nicolas, in charge of Sensory Analysis, explains the principles of this approach: “You can always measure the Brix or pH, but no device can replace final perception of the balance between sweet and sour as perceived by the consumer. Therefore, using human beings as a means of measurement to put words on their impressions becomes indispensable in understanding the product.”
There is relatively little literature on the subject of fruit and it is often difficult to come up with an accurate vocabulary that reflects aromatic notes that describe a purée in a relevant way. “When I joined the company, I didn’t really imagine the sensory wealth that could be found in each purée, which, like champagne, is made from an assembly of different harvests or different varieties to give the final product its distinctive qualities. For example, our mango purée is made with the Alphonso variety, known for its sweet and sour balance and the Kesar variety, which provides not only its beautiful luminous yellow color, but also spicy notes that naturally enhance the sweetness of the fruit.”
To create this linguistic system, Laura trains a group of 14 people every week to develop their senses so that they become true experts in finding the right words to describe the different flavors and products. A list of attributes and features is established for each fruit, enabling each person to speak about the aspect (color, viscosity), taste (flavors, aromas) and texture (palette coverage, granularity…) when eaten. A measurement of intensity is established for each attribute, which allows several purées made from the same fruits to be compared. This generates what is known as a “sensory profile” for each purée, which acts as a sort of identifying summary. The data thus generated is objective and can then be processed statistically. This enables the building of a reliable scientific base to describe the products.
From field of production to the field of linguistics
Before the product is actually tasted it's important to establish its provenance and history to construct a projection. This begins by knowing where the raw material is grown to understand the essential climatic conditions for the fruit, the type of farm or orchard it comes from and the strict specifications suppliers must comply with. It's also essential to understand how the products are assembled, i.e. why the same purée is made from raw materials of different sorts and sometimes from different destinations, and what each of these elements contributes to the finished product. All of this knowledge is shared with buyers, with the quality control department also making its contribution.
Knowledge of the transformation process is also important to understand how the required viscosity is achieved, how the fruit must be protected to maintain its taste and color, as close as possible to fresh fruit, all the while guarantying food safety and microbiological purity for the benefit of pastry and ice-cream makers, chefs and mixologists. These various criteria are accurately established by the R&D and process teams. The tasting sessions are therefore at the very heart of the process, where all of the know-how deployed in the stages described above come together for the expert group of tasters. This is the beginning of the sensory voyage.
Word of mouth
As you have surely understood, Fruitology® is a powerful communication tool, both inhouse and in our relations with the outside world. By creating a shared lexicon, Fruitology® ensures we are speaking the same language and that the knowledge of more experienced people in the company can be transmitted to newcomers, thus improving our training programs. This is how Les vergers Boiron can ensure the long-term sustainability of its expertise, which it has developed over several generations.
Consistency in vocabulary and messages is indispensable. Fruitology® allows everyone in the company to access and use shared information to fully understand and tell the story of each purée.
But the goal of this process goes well beyond internal efficiency, because it facilitates exchange with all of our partners and outside stakeholders working with the company. “This new language is the ultimate strategic goal of Fruitology®,” asserts Christian Mayolle, Head of Marketing. We have developed a glossary which explains sensory descriptors in a very concrete way. Using that as a base, we have developed an entire toolset, which we will be presenting in the near future. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the dialogue between everyone involved in gastronomy and hospitality.”
Did you know?
The birth of sensory evaluation and analysis began in the 1940s, when the American army sought to improve rations for its soldiers. These products, which were perfectly balanced nutritionally, did not satisfy their consumers. This obviously affected the morale of the troops. Researchers then began to develop techniques to understand soldiers’ expectations and to evaluate and formulate new menus that would satisfy their taste expectations. Sensory evaluation was thus launched, little by little, and the food processing industry then adopted these methods to create new products or improve existing products. Today, sensory evaluation is practiced in different areas beyond the food sector, including cosmetics and the automobile industry. Professors Herbert Stone and Joel Sidel, pioneers who began their work in the 1970s, to develop this practice, qualify it as “a scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyze, and interpret those responses to products that are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing (Stone and Sidel, 1993). They have continued to play a key role in developing this new science. A third edition of their classical work remains the leading reference in the field: Sensory Evaluation Practices.