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Identify potent odorants in cola-flavored carbonated beverages.

Cola is a carbonated beverage that is usually flavored by the nut of the kola tree. Some colas are flavored artificially. The ingredient labels of commercial colas list natural flavors, which may contain vanilla extract and essential oils of citrus, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and neroli. Neroli oil is a plant oil produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree. Its scent is sweet, honeyed and somewhat metallic.

The cola recipe is among the world's most famous trade secrets. There is limited research and published literature on the subject. With this in mind, scientists at the University of Illinois set out to identify the potent odorants of cola-flavored carbonated beverages. They were able to identify certain characteristic aroma components. Knowledge of these compounds will help colleagues in their further study of aroma reactions that occur under carbonated conditions. Such research may improve the flavor and shelf life stability of colas.

In their work, the researchers isolated the volatile components of three commercial brands of regular cola--brands A, B and C--using continuous liquid-liquid extraction. They completed the isolation step using solvent-assisted flavor evaporation. They used gas chromatography-olfactometry, aroma extract dilution analysis and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify aroma-active compounds.

Eugenol, which is spicy, clove-like and sweet, and coumarin, which is sweet and herbaceous, were the most potent odorants found in all of the colas tested. Guaiacol, which has a smoky note, was a potent odorant in colas A and B, while linalool, which is floral and sweet, was a potent odorant in cola C. Furthermore, 1.8-cineol, which is minty and eucalyptus-like, was a moderately potent odorant in all of the colas.

Among the three brands, the aroma profile of cola A was the most complex. Additional potent odorants in cola A included methyleugenol, which is hay-like and similar to dried grass; 4-terpineol, which is earthy, soapy and woody; (E)-cinnamaldehyde, which is cinnamon-like and sweet; and (Z)- and (E)-isoeugenol, which are clove-like and sweet.

Further information. Keith R. Cadwallader, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 102 Agricultural Bioprocess Laboratory, 1302 West Pennsylvania Ave., Urbana, IL 61801; phone: 217-333-5803; fax: 217-333-1875; email:

Cola is the dominant flavor among carbonated beverages.
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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