Objective parameters are needed to improve the quality of fruits and vegetables and aromatic profile analyses move in this direction. Sicural is receiving various requests for analyses from producers, seed companies as well as from producers of baked goods, pastry, chocolate and coffee.
"These analyses are very useful, as they enable the identification of specific parameters. For example, we were asked to detect how much limonene was present in a specific lemon variety or the aromatic quality of certain medicinal plants. But seed companies can use these analyses to choose which selections to take forward within a breeding program, or to establish the shelf life of certain fruits," explained Silvia Zuccherelli, Giusy Riciputi and Maverik Bezzi from Sicural.
Companies are only now starting to get interested. "But our laboratory is equipped to develop the aromatic profile of any organic matrix."
The aromatic profile of a substance is the result of the presence of dozens of chemically-classified molecules such as terpenes, alcohols, aldehydes and ketones. Some of these molecules are indexes of the degeneration process caused by fats, which is important when it comes to analyzing the shelf-life of products.
"Aromatic profile analyses enables us to obtain information to identify a specific product or raw material or, alternatively, to identify the presence of a characterizing ingredient in a specific compound. The aromatic profile of a matrix therefore constitutes a sort of fingerprint that makes said matrix recognizable."
An objective analytical method can be used to verify whether the matrix features aromatic compounds that characterize it positively or negatively, thus intercepting positive or negative notes in a product before it reaches the final client.
"To analyze an aromatic profile, Sicural uses a gas chromatograph with a mass spectrometer equipped with a headspace autosampler. The product to analyze is placed in a specific vacuum container and heated at a set temperature. This way, the volatile substances present are captured and assessed by the mass spectrometer. The aromatic molecule percentages are then detected to characterize the product. It is also possible to quantify the most representative volatile compounds."