Commercially available cabbage (baechu) kimchi is growing in popularity outside Korea in part because of globalization and a growing interest in specialty foods. Within Korea, commercially available kimchi is important because many households do not have time to prepare traditional kimchi at home. Despite this fact, little work has been published characterizing the sensory attributes of this popular fermented food. The objectives of this study were to (1) develop an initial sensory lexicon for popular commercially available cabbage (baechu) kimchi, including specific flavor references, in order to allow researchers to measure and compare sensory characteristics, and (2) to use the lexicon to determine if it described differences in a range of commercially available wedge (pogi) and sliced (mat) fresh and fermented baechu kimchi available in Korea. A lexicon with 15 flavors and two key texture terms was developed by a descriptive panel to characterize baechu kimchi samples and is presented here in both English and Korean to enhance use. Age (fresh or fermented) and manufacturer had a tremendous influence on the sensory characteristics of the commercial kimchi samples. Areas for future research include examining sensory properties of kimchi made from products other than cabbage, conducting consumer research to relate acceptability of baechu kimchi products with descriptive scores, and comparing homemade and commercially produced kimchi products.

Practical Applications

The development of this lexicon is the first of its kind for kimchi and can help sensory scientists better understand this unique product and will help manufacturers differentiate their products from competitors and improve existing products on the market. Sensory scientists will also be able to use this information to standardize the sensory attributes of baechu kimchi and provide a common platform on which to evaluate these products.