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How to assess the smell in crusty bread?
We shine the spotlight on one of the most important senses involved, next to appearance, in a product’s appeal: the SMELL of a crusty loaf.
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A vital tool for bakery professionals, sensory analysis consists in having a panel of experts and consumers highlight and describe the organoleptic properties (appearance, smell, sound, texture, taste) of a loaf of bread.

The “smell” factor in sensory analysis

Sensory analysis, a tool for the bread industry

Renowned for their sensory expertise, Lempa and Lesaffre have jointly developed a lexicon of precise sensory descriptors adapted to crusty bread. Used by large and medium-sized supermarkets, industrial and craft bakers in their marketing, R&D and Quality initiatives, the tools helps reconcile two approaches: the more subjective viewpoint of (non-technical) consumers, and the more objective angle of the experts (specifically trained).

The importance of “smell”

How good a loaf smells will dictate how much you want to eat it!

A shared experience from Thomas MARIE, Best Craftsman in France in Bakery category (2007). Senior lecturer in baking at the Lausanne hotel management school (Switzerland).

“The smell and taste of bread is often firmly engraved upon our minds. It is not uncommon to hear consumers say it used to be better in the olden days… I personally think it’s never been as good as it is now! Customers are tired of tasteless, standardised food products. Therefore, the rich diversity of bread that we can offer must never be overlooked, or indeed the wide variety of flavours available:

  • strong tasting bread, such as a large sourdough loaf made from milled flour with its sour taste and nicely caramelised crust,
  • traditional baguettes undergo delayed first rise to add a slight hint of whole wheat and butter,
  • rye bread from the Auvergne, smelling of honey and gingerbread,
  • a granary loaf with its toasted flavour…

We have many organoleptic levers to convince our customers, so let’s make use of them! … And don’t forget to let them taste your bread!!!”

Sensory analysis in crusty loaves

Each descriptor assessed by our experts is illustrated by a solution provided in an opaque bottle. The intensity of the smell is then assessed by the experts and the verbal description is provided by the consumers.

The smell of the loaf’s crust

3 expert descriptors and their equivalents in consumer terminology:

  • caramel smell = caramel, sweet biscuit or sugary
  • cardboard smell = cardboard or neutral
  • crackers smell = dry biscuit

The smell of the crumb in crusty loave

13 expert descriptors and their equivalents in consumer terminology:

  • acetic/vinegary smell = acidic, acidulated, sourdough, tangy
  • almond smell = almond
  • ripe wheat smell = battery, pancake batter, waffle batter, sugary
  • cereal/bran smell = cereal, grainy, rye
  • fermented smell = chemical, fermented, cheese, sourdough, yeast, tangy
  • whole wheat smell = cardboard, grains, flour, floury, neutral
  • fruity smell = lemony, fruity, dried fruit
  • lactic, buttery smell = brioche, cake, buttered noodles, Danish pastries
  • sourdough smell = acidic, sour, sourdough, yeast, tangy
  • yeast smell = chemical, fermented, cheese, sourdough, yeast, tangy
  • malted, roasted smell (also applicable to the crust) = woody, burnt, coffee, caramel, mushroom, crusty, wood fire, forest, smoked, grilled, malt, toasted bread, musty
  • hazelnut smell
  • rye smell = spicy, straw, honey, gingerbread, rye

Consumers will also spontaneously use the terms: fresh, warm, or unbaked bread; little, no, strong smell, pronounced, lingering; good, appetising, fragrant smell.

A sensory lexicon for the “smell” of a crusty loaf

The descriptors most commonly used by experts: fermented, sourdough, hazelnut, almond, caramel, rye, whole wheat, cardboard, fruity, crackers, ripe wheat…

The terms most spontaneously cited by consumers: grains, sweet, sourdough, dough, flour, neutral, whole wheat, bread, caramel, toasted, floury…

Lesaffre Bread In Words Brochure

For bakery professionals, sensory analysis is not only a fundamental aspect in product assessment, but also a communication tool increasingly aimed at consumers.  

Discover other aspects of the sensory analysis of crusty loaves in our feature: SENSORY ANALYSIS: tastetextureappearancesound of a crusty loaf

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