About this Research Topic

Manuscript Submission Deadline 20 June 2022
Manuscript Extension Submission Deadline 20 July 2022

There is a worldwide shift towards plant-based foods (PBFs) which offer a myriad of nutritional and functional benefits for human health promotion owing to their rich content of bioactive compounds. Flavor, texture, and color are key sensory attributes of a food product, among which flavor (taste and aroma) is a critical quality attribute with the largest impact on consumer appeal and acceptance. There are five basic tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami— along with the other sensation: astringency, spiciness and kokumi. The plant kingdom is remarkably rich in chemical (metabolic) diversity, harboring over 200,000 distinct metabolites in different plant materials, including fruit, seed, leaf, and stem, providing food industrialists with a rich resource of natural origin for the development of PBFs. A considerable fraction of these metabolites along with other bioactive compounds, such as peptides contribute to the flavors of PBFs, leading to numerous unique flavors, i.e., the contribution of glutathione to kokumi and glutamate to umami. Recently, metabolite profiling has extensively been exploited to analyze the diverse classes of flavor-related metabolites, including both volatile aroma metabolites as well as non-volatile taste metabolites in various PBFs.

The nutritive value and sensory profiles of the PBFs are mainly driven by their biochemical composition which also influences other important properties of PBFs, such as shelf life, nutritional stability, and economic value. Current analytical approaches largely depend on physicochemical estimations and sensory-based tests to evaluate flavor-related attributes in PBFs. However, they do not provide detailed information on biochemical composition or metabolic features associated with unique flavor profiles. There is a need for new approaches to provide more quantitative information about the biochemical composition of PBFs, as consumers’ expectations grow continually with respect to food quality. To this end, metabolomics can pave the way to a systematic understanding of flavor-associated metabolites. Notably, breeding programs have mainly focused on enhancing yield, leading to significant deterioration in flavor of many PBFs which is of major concern. As such, the scope of metabolomics in this area should not only focus on identification of flavor-associated metabolites, but also connecting those metabolites with taste and aroma to be further utilized for developing new PBFs with enhanced sensory characteristics and biomarker development related to unique sensorically active compounds. Notably, integrating sensory-associated metabolic profiling with other state-of-art technologies derived from big data seems a promising trend in this research area.

Among sensory attributes of PBFs, flavor is considered the most dominating quality attribute with the largest impact on consumer’s eating experience. The deterioration of flavor is of major concern among breeders and its complexity has hindered efforts to enhance or even maintain it. In addition, there exists a gap between plant scientists and food industrialists. To address this problem, gaining a better understanding of the flavor-associated metabolites and their synthetic and regulatory pathways seems a must which will accelerate the progress of breeding programs and would provide food scientists and/or industrialists with a rich repository to develop PBFs with enhanced flavors. As such, we organize this research topic and welcome all research articles and review papers focusing on flavor-related metabolite profiling, including both volatile aroma metabolites as well as non-volatile taste metabolites. Taken together, we aim to bridge plant scientists and food industrialists for the development of superior PBFs.

• Review articles :
o primary metabolites, peptides, or other compounds related to flavor, sensorial quality, organoleptic properties
o regulation of metabolites and pathway related to flavor

• Research articles :
o Flavor-related metabolism during development of plants as raw materials
o Flavor-related metabolism among plant species (biodiversity) or geographical region
o Discovery of novel flavor-related compounds/peptides in plants
o Discovery of reported flavor-related compound in new plant species

Please note that descriptive studies and those defining gene families or descriptive collection of transcripts, proteins, or metabolites, will not be considered for review unless they are expanded and provide mechanistic and/or physiological insights into the biological system or process being studied.

Keywords: chemodiversity, flavor-related compounds, metabolism, metabolite profiling, plant-based food (PBF), umami


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

There is a worldwide shift towards plant-based foods (PBFs) which offer a myriad of nutritional and functional benefits for human health promotion owing to their rich content of bioactive compounds. Flavor, texture, and color are key sensory attributes of a food product, among which flavor (taste and aroma) is a critical quality attribute with the largest impact on consumer appeal and acceptance. There are five basic tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami— along with the other sensation: astringency, spiciness and kokumi. The plant kingdom is remarkably rich in chemical (metabolic) diversity, harboring over 200,000 distinct metabolites in different plant materials, including fruit, seed, leaf, and stem, providing food industrialists with a rich resource of natural origin for the development of PBFs. A considerable fraction of these metabolites along with other bioactive compounds, such as peptides contribute to the flavors of PBFs, leading to numerous unique flavors, i.e., the contribution of glutathione to kokumi and glutamate to umami. Recently, metabolite profiling has extensively been exploited to analyze the diverse classes of flavor-related metabolites, including both volatile aroma metabolites as well as non-volatile taste metabolites in various PBFs.

The nutritive value and sensory profiles of the PBFs are mainly driven by their biochemical composition which also influences other important properties of PBFs, such as shelf life, nutritional stability, and economic value. Current analytical approaches largely depend on physicochemical estimations and sensory-based tests to evaluate flavor-related attributes in PBFs. However, they do not provide detailed information on biochemical composition or metabolic features associated with unique flavor profiles. There is a need for new approaches to provide more quantitative information about the biochemical composition of PBFs, as consumers’ expectations grow continually with respect to food quality. To this end, metabolomics can pave the way to a systematic understanding of flavor-associated metabolites. Notably, breeding programs have mainly focused on enhancing yield, leading to significant deterioration in flavor of many PBFs which is of major concern. As such, the scope of metabolomics in this area should not only focus on identification of flavor-associated metabolites, but also connecting those metabolites with taste and aroma to be further utilized for developing new PBFs with enhanced sensory characteristics and biomarker development related to unique sensorically active compounds. Notably, integrating sensory-associated metabolic profiling with other state-of-art technologies derived from big data seems a promising trend in this research area.

Among sensory attributes of PBFs, flavor is considered the most dominating quality attribute with the largest impact on consumer’s eating experience. The deterioration of flavor is of major concern among breeders and its complexity has hindered efforts to enhance or even maintain it. In addition, there exists a gap between plant scientists and food industrialists. To address this problem, gaining a better understanding of the flavor-associated metabolites and their synthetic and regulatory pathways seems a must which will accelerate the progress of breeding programs and would provide food scientists and/or industrialists with a rich repository to develop PBFs with enhanced flavors. As such, we organize this research topic and welcome all research articles and review papers focusing on flavor-related metabolite profiling, including both volatile aroma metabolites as well as non-volatile taste metabolites. Taken together, we aim to bridge plant scientists and food industrialists for the development of superior PBFs.

• Review articles :
o primary metabolites, peptides, or other compounds related to flavor, sensorial quality, organoleptic properties
o regulation of metabolites and pathway related to flavor

• Research articles :
o Flavor-related metabolism during development of plants as raw materials
o Flavor-related metabolism among plant species (biodiversity) or geographical region
o Discovery of novel flavor-related compounds/peptides in plants
o Discovery of reported flavor-related compound in new plant species

Please note that descriptive studies and those defining gene families or descriptive collection of transcripts, proteins, or metabolites, will not be considered for review unless they are expanded and provide mechanistic and/or physiological insights into the biological system or process being studied.

Keywords: chemodiversity, flavor-related compounds, metabolism, metabolite profiling, plant-based food (PBF), umami


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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