Florida Scientists Work on Developing Better-Tasting Tomato Juice

If you're yearning for a better-tasting tomato juice, University of Florida (UF) scientists are in their labs, working on satisfying your palate.

Essence, usually extracted from a plant to add flavor or provide a scent, according to a new UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) study, can be used to improve juice flavor. Using volatile capture, UF/IFAS scientists obtained the essence from the tomatoes, says Paul Sarnoski, PhD, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department.

Juices often need to be pasteurized before they're consumed, Sarnoski says. During that process, the volatiles that give a juice flavor are lost because of the thermal processing required for pasteurization. That is part of the reason tomato juice doesn't quite taste like a fresh tomato.

"Many individuals complain that tomato juice doesn't resemble typical fresh tomato flavor," Sarnoski says. "Perhaps, by adding an essence, we could make the juice more closely resemble fresh tomato flavor."

The citrus industry already uses this technique, but the tomato industry doesn't use "tomato essence" to produce tomato juice, says Sarnoski, who's also lead author of the new study.

In the study, researchers used Garden Gem tomatoes, a UF/IFAS-bred variety, as the premium flavor tomato. They used Roma tomato as the control flavor. They wanted to test whether Garden Gem retained more of its flavor after pasteurization. The Garden Gem did, and was found as a suitable variety for essence production because of a high content of flavor volatiles, thus leading scientists to believe this system will provide better flavor when they test it on consumers.

Fruit juices, including tomato juice, are big business in the United States. In fact, juices may be the driving force behind rising beverage sales in the United States, Sarnoski says. Beverage sales are expected to continue to increase from $131 billion in 2013 to an estimated $164 billion by 2018, according to 2015 statistics from the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Tomato-related processed products saw a 14% increase in sales in 2015 alone.

The study is published in the journal Food Chemistry.

— Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences