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ZERO2FIVE launches new aroma and flavour testing services for Welsh SMEs

Matt Bates ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre Cardiff Metropolitan University

The ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University has expanded its flavour and aroma testing services with the appointment of analytical chemist, Matt Bates.

Matt specialises in the sampling and analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the chemical compounds responsible for the aroma and flavours we recognise in our food, drinks and fragrances.

These enhanced analytical services, usually only accessible to large multinational food businesses, are now available to Welsh SMEs through the Welsh Government funded Project HELIX.

The ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre has a well-established sensory assessment centre, where companies can test products with a consumer sensory panel. The appointment of Matt, and additional investment in analytical equipment, adds a new dimension to the testing capabilities, enabling companies to identify specific compounds or notes present in ingredients and final products that correspond to particular flavours and aromas.

Matt studied for a Masters in Chemistry and French at the University of Manchester before working for the French Government to develop monitoring systems for indoor and outdoor exposure to volatile toxins. Since then, his career has taken him around the world, with projects as varied as monitoring harmful VOCs around the UN Building for the New York Fire Department, identifying off-odours in water treatment plants in the Far East, developing detection techniques to find survivors trapped in collapsed buildings, and closer to home, identifying compounds that are indicative of shortened shelf-life in ready to eat (RTE) packaged fruit and vegetables.

With a passion for all things fragrance and aroma, Matt established his own business in 2014, working with a range of blue-chip companies to investigate VOCs in consumer products as well as more broadly in method development and environmental monitoring.

Commenting on his appointment, Matt said:

“This enhanced service gives qualifying SME businesses here in Wales access to a level of VOC analysis that is usually reserved for companies who can invest significantly in this type of research.

“This is powerful analytical technology. For example, we’ve already been able to help a local meat producer demonstrate that the type of pasture on which animals graze can be detected in the flavour profile of the finished product” he said.

One project which the ZERO2FIVE team has just completed is with Monmouthshire drinks business, Old Coach House Distillery Ltd. It is producing STILLERS, a range of handcrafted gin-inspired alcohol-free distilled botanical drinks.

Central to the brand is the use of natural ingredients in the traditional distilling process. Working with ZERO2FIVE, the Old Coach House team was able to confirm the presence of the naturally-derived botanical flavours and aromas in the finished product, both through testing with a human consumer panel and chemical and chromatographic analysis.

Dr David O’Brien, founder of Old Coach House Distillery said:

“This is a huge advantage to us as we market our new brand. Provenance, all natural ingredients and sustainability credentials are key elements to STILLERS. We can definitively show that when we say we are producing a beverage with all natural botanicals, those same flavours are clearly identifiable in the finished drink.

“A consumer sensory panel is always useful to get feedback on customer preference and perceptions, but the addition of this level of chemical analysis on top, gives us real confidence to talk about the botanical complexity of our range,” he said.