Despite the vast body of available literature on the possibilities of essential oils (EOs) as food preservatives or functional ingredients, the sensory impact of their addition to foods has barely been approached. This work focuses on the hedonic taste acceptance of 3 food products (tomato juice, vegetable soup, and poultry burgers) when they are incorporated with potentially antimicrobial concentrations (20 to 200 μL/L) of 6 selected EOs (lemon, pennyroyal mint, thyme, and rosemary) and individual compounds (carvacrol, p-cymene). Although addition of 20 μL/L of pennyroyal mint or lemon EO did not change the taste acceptance of tomato juice, higher concentrations of these compounds or any concentration of the other 4 compounds did. In vegetable soup, the tolerance limit for rosemary EO, thyme EO, carvacrol, or p-cymene was 20 μL/L, while the addition of 200 μL/L of lemon EO was accepted. Tolerance limits in poultry burgers were established in 20 μL/L for carvacrol and thyme EOs, 100 μL/L for pennyroyal mint EO and p-cymene, and 200 μL/L for lemon and rosemary EOs. Moreover, incorporation of pennyroyal mint EO to tomato juice or poultry burgers, and enrichment of vegetable soup with lemon EO, could contribute to the development of food products with an improved sensory appeal.
This work highlights the importance of sensory analyses when considering the use of EOs or their individual constituents (ICs) as food preservatives or functional ingredients in the food industry. It categorizes selected combinations of compounds and food products, and proposes the use of very low EO concentrations (20 to 200 μL/L). Moreover, it demonstrates that the selection of EOs or ICs based on their sensory compatibility with each food product can lead to the development of new, distinct products with a pleasant taste and/or with fresh-like quality.