Described in this paper is a comparison of results obtained in flavour profiling with two different approaches: classical sensory analysis and a novel instrumental technique. The mozzarella cheese flavour profile of seven different brands has been described by a sensory panel of eight judges. The same brands have been studied by means of proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), a novel technique well suited for detecting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) down to the pptv level in air, without any need for sample concentration or trapping. The PTR mass spectra of the headspace of mozzarella samples held at 36 °C have been compared with the judge panel flavour profile. Multivariate statistical data analysis shows that the two methods perform comparable sample discrimination. Even though several questions are still open (definition of better instrumental parameters, improvements in sampling set-up, spectral interpretation), the PTR-MS technique appears to be a very promising method for the instrumental evaluation of the flavour sensory profile of food. This opens up new opportunities both in the control of quality and technological processes as well in the fundamental comprehension of the physiological processes of aroma perception.
© 2000 Society of Chemical Industry