Have you ever wondered just exactly what mystical combination of ingredients made Coca-Cola have that distinct Coca-Cola taste?
The secret may be locked up in a heavily-guarded safe somewhere (at least that’s how I picture it), but Aromyx could probably tell you nonetheless. Based in Palo Alto, California, Aromyx is a tech company that uses a combination biochip/software system to digitize smell and taste.
To find out the flavor breakdown of, well, anything, scientists put tiny samples of the product into wells on a disposable biochip (called “the EssenceChip”) which contains olfactory receptors cloned from the human nose and tongue. A plate reader will extract data from the samples, which Aromyx’s Allegory Software Toolkit can then interpret to translate into easily digestible (ha) graphs showing the breakdown of smell and taste for whatever substance is in the EssenceChip.
In simpler terms, Aromyx’s promotional video (see below) describes the chip as “a camera for taste and smell” which can take an olfactory snapshot of any food or drink.
Today Aromyx debuted a new feature to their Allegory Software Toolkit. Dubbed Magic Search, the tool can dissect the EssenceChip’s olfactory measurements into distinct receptor responses. In human speak, that means that it can break down every scent that goes into a given product — and, since we know that smell is 80 percent of taste, Magic Search can essentially outline every possible ingredient combination that would create a particular flavor.
Though I’m clearly no flavor scientist, I could imagine this technology being used to “hack” the secret ingredients in popular CPG brands’ signature products. With Aromyx’s tech, CPG companies could easily sub out ingredients to capitalize on taste trends — such as plant-based, natural, or non-GMO food — without sacrificing taste. The company can also help suppliers compare product samples to make sure that product batches are chemically identical and, thus, consistent.
The digitization of food is a quickly-evolving space in food tech. Japanese company OpenMeals is creating a digital food platform which will allow people to 3D print any food they please, from sushi to pizza. Foodpairing creates digital flavor maps that help chefs predict which ingredients will go well together.
According to Crunchbase, Aromyx has raised $5.8 million in funding from venture capital firms as well as Stanford University. If you’re wondering what that smell is, it might be the future of digitized flavor — but Aromyx can tell you for sure.