Strawberry flavor: diverse chemical compositions, a seasonal influence, and effects on sensory perception

PLoS One. 2014 Feb 11;9(2):e88446. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088446. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Fresh strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) are valued for their characteristic red color, juicy texture, distinct aroma, and sweet fruity flavor. In this study, genetic and environmentally induced variation is exploited to capture biochemically diverse strawberry fruit for metabolite profiling and consumer rating. Analyses identify fruit attributes influencing hedonics and sensory perception of strawberry fruit using a psychophysics approach. Sweetness intensity, flavor intensity, and texture liking are dependent on sugar concentrations, specific volatile compounds, and fruit firmness, respectively. Overall liking is most greatly influenced by sweetness and strawberry flavor intensity, which are undermined by environmental pressures that reduce sucrose and total volatile content. The volatile profiles among commercial strawberry varieties are complex and distinct, but a list of perceptually impactful compounds from the larger mixture is better defined. Particular esters, terpenes, and furans have the most significant fits to strawberry flavor intensity. In total, thirty-one volatile compounds are found to be significantly correlated to strawberry flavor intensity, only one of them negatively. Further analysis identifies individual volatile compounds that have an enhancing effect on perceived sweetness intensity of fruit independent of sugar content. These findings allow for consumer influence in the breeding of more desirable fruits and vegetables. Also, this approach garners insights into fruit metabolomics, flavor chemistry, and a paradigm for enhancing liking of natural or processed products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agriculture / methods
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Fragaria / chemistry*
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seasons*
  • Smell*
  • Sucrose / chemistry
  • Taste*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / chemistry
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Sucrose

Grant support

This work is supported by grants from USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant. Graduate funding is provided by USDA National Needs Fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.