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Off-flavors in Food

It is an unpleasant experience, and unfortunately it happens to almost everybody sooner or later: A certain food or drink does not taste like it should or did the previous day.  For most people the difference is hard to describe or pin-point specifically, instead the realization that the food that was previously enjoyed is “off”. This feeling can be attained to a ingredient or flavor exhibiting a so-called “off-flavor”.  


Off-flavors are taints in food products caused by the presence of undesirable flavor compounds. In many cases, traces of a single compound can spoil the flavor of the product to the point where it is no longer edible. Examples of off-flavors include 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (mouldy off-flavor) in wine, skatole and p-cresol (fecal, horsestable-like off-flavor) in white pepper, methional (“sunlight” flavor) in milk or geosmin (earthy off-flavor) in cocoa products.



Common causes for the formation of undesirable compounds during processing or storage are excessive heating, exposure to sunlight, microbial activity, carry-over processes during production, the use of flawed raw materials or inappropriate packaging. However, it would be wrong to assume that certain compounds cause off-flavors as a matter of principle, it always depends on the product. For example, methional, which causes an unpleasant off-note in milk exposed to sunlight, is an important contributor (a so-called “key aroma compound”) to the aroma of boiled potatoes. Similarly, geosmin, which is an undesirable compound in cocoa products due to its earthy odor quality, is crucial for the aroma of beetroot


Since off-flavors can be generated by an immense variety of compounds, with concentrations in the range of ppb or ppt often being sufficient to spoil an originally delicious flavor thoroughly, they represent a considerable analytical challenge.


How aromaLAB can help


With more than ten years of experience in the field of flavors, aromaLAB helps clients to elucidate off-flavors in various food products, beverages, tobacco products and consumer goods. By combining sensory and instrumental methods, the respective aroma compounds are firstly identified and, secondly if necessary, quantified. Once the compound which is causing a certain off-flavor is known, conclusions can be drawn as to what caused the formation of the compound or how it found its way into the product.  

If there is an unpleasant change in the flavor of your product, please do not hesitate to contact aromaLAB´s experienced flavor chemists for a prompt and economic solution. With our help, your customers will soon be able to enjoy their favorite food or drink in its usual high quality again.





aromaLAB GmbH
Semmelweisstr. 3
82152 Planegg


Dr. Veronika Greger / Dr. Monika Christlbauer
veronika.greger@aromalab.de/ monika.christlbauer@aromalab.de
P + 49 89 – 89 74 37 00


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