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Natural Product Screening

Consumers are calling for natural ingredients in foods, beverages, and even pharmaceutical formulations, but the costs of isolating and sourcing new natural products are substantial. As a result, taste testing by traditional methods, which typically require grams to hundreds of grams of material, can be prohibitively expensive. In many cases, supplies of natural products are so limited worldwide that testing them in a taste panel is not possible.

The ability to efficiently and precisely measure human taste responses to 0.2 mL of sample is integral to the TāStation® system, enabling rapid screens of natural product collections for any desired taste activity. Using the TāStation® approach, the entire screen is completed with milligrams of material, thereby keeping costs low.

Although natural products, particularly those isolated from plant sources, are perceived as "safe," the very nature of their novelty carries some risk for subjects in taste testing. The minimal exposures that result from TāStation® testing ensure that risk is dramatically reduced. Opertech now has years of experience and well-developed, standardized protocols for natural product screening. Among projects most in demand by our clientele have been screening campaigns for identification of novel natural product sweeteners and sweetness enhancers.

Analysis of Sweeteners

Identifying the optimal concentration for taste of sweeteners is crucial to their use in foods and beverages. Most non-nutritive sweeteners carry taste liabilities, usually evident at higher concentrations. TāStation® protocols have been standardized for rapidly and efficiently quantifying the concentration-dependence of both sweet taste intensity and the presence of unpalatable off tastes. Analysis of the tastant concentration-response function will pinpoint the concentration of sweetener that imparts the greatest sweet taste quality and lowest taste liability.

well pipette
sugar jar

Sweetener Blends Evaluation

Opertech Bio has extensive experience and well-established protocols for rapid and precise evaluation of sweetener blends to achieve close approximation to the taste quality of sucrose at reduced calorie load. Contrary to popular belief, not all non-nutritive sweeteners are easy to distinguish from the taste of sucrose, and the ability to distinguish among sweeteners varies across individuals.

However, the interactive algorithms developed by Opertech train all subjects to achieve stable patterns of performance that reliably indicate the degree of sucrose-taste similarity among sweeteners. With a quantification of sucrose-similarity, clients can then design informed strategies for testing blends of sucrose with the most effective non-nutritive sweeteners for calorie reduction.

Evaluating Complex Taste Systems

The TāStation® is capable of examining any category of taste stimulus, including salty, sour, and umami tastes, and even more complex formulated taste systems, such as chicken stock. All that is required is that the taste quality of interest be objectively defined by a standard, which will then serve as the comparator in the TāStation® method.

Examples of complex taste systems quantitatively profiled using Opertech's TāStation® technology include chicken stock, orange juice, chemesthetic agents such as capsaicin and mustard oil, nicotine, synthetic gastric juice, fruit flavorings, and cooling agents.

chicken noodle soup
red liquid medicine

Pharmaceutical Taste Assessments

Testing the palatability and bitterness of oral liquid-pharmaceuticals can be time consuming and costly, as conventional testing can expose test subjects to large amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), with most subjects reaching the maximum dosage after just a single sample. As a result, formulation development usually proceeds as guesswork without the inclusion of the API until the very end. This is often an ineffective strategy for medicinal taste improvement.

Using the TāStation®, subjects receive just 0.2 mL of the formulation per sample, allowing direct taste assessment of the API with total exposures—over 96 samples—usually measured at a fraction of a single dose. The low exposure further allows screening of ingredients for their ability to block the bitterness of the API, and since 96 wells are available in each TāStation® test, many different compounds can be evaluated in replicate for their effectiveness, in just 45 minutes.

The data generated from these tests are objective, accurate, and repeatable, and bitter-blocking effectiveness is detected with high resolution. Companies quickly discover ingredients with promise, while eliminating those that do not work toward meeting their objectives in formulation development. This represents a major advancement in how pharmaceutical assessments can be conducted, delivering significant improvement in the quality of actionable and impactful data.

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