Aromas are important aspects of fresh produce quality and commonly contribute to the first experience a consumer has. First impressions matter. Ripeness and aroma fingerprint are both affected by variables such as time of harvest, type of cultivar, maturity of produce, mode of transport and postharvest storage. It is vital that these variables are well understood. However, aroma fingerprinting is a complex, multi-dimensional field of VOC analysis, where small changes between ripening stages are challenging to separate.
Aromas are important aspects of fresh produce and commonly contribute to the first experience a consumer has. First impressions matter.
Researchers at KU Leuven have recently published their work, using SIFT-MS to identify VOCs associated with fresh produce. Strawberries were chosen as the proof-of-concept candidate as their aroma is one of their main quality traits. Fingerprinting strawberry aroma with SIFT-MS was 11 times faster than traditional gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), as SIFT-MS required no sample preparation due to its low VOC detection limits. This allowed many samples to be collected, which overcame analysis issues related to natural variation within each cultivar. Additionally, the lack of sample preparation in SIFT-MS reduced interferences such as aldehydes and alcohols, and removed technical difficulties associated with solid-phase microextraction (SPME)-GC/MS.
Principal component analysis was applied to the results and showed that both techniques were able to separate main stages of maturity. However, GC/MS was not able to match the detail of SIFT-MS in characterizing subtle ripening stages across the different cultivars. The ease of use and VOC quantification that SIFT-MS offered ultimately lead to minimal analytical problems and an unbiased aroma profile.
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