inewtrition – Food Product Development Company

Flavour wheels in the food industry

by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

Raphaelle has over 25 years’ experience in the ideation,
development, and commercialisation of food chemistry,
food science, food technology, and nutrition.

New food development innovation wheel

In the symphony of culinary creation, flavour reigns as the maestro. The delicate balance of taste, aroma, and sensation guides the palates of food industry experts. Enter the flavour wheel, an ingenious tool that transcends mere gustatory enjoyment. It’s a visual and conceptual compass, mapping the intricate landscape of flavours, and it’s a secret weapon wielded by culinary innovators, chefs, and food scientists.

The origin of the flavour wheel can be traced back to the late 1970s, with its first appearance in the realm of beer. However, the concept truly gained momentum in the mid-1980s with the development of the Wine Aroma Wheel. Crafted by Ann Noble, a sensory chemist and professor emerita at the University of California at Davis, this innovative tool demystified the world of wine. People armed with the wheel could confidently explore wineries in Napa or the Bordeaux region, engaging intelligently in tastings. This marked the beginning of a trend that would revolutionise flavour analysis. Coffee followed suit with its own wheel in 1995, and more recently underwent a comprehensive scientific makeover, showcasing the ongoing evolution and importance of this concept in the food and beverage industry.

A palate’s compass

A flavour wheel is a graphical representation of flavour components found in foods and beverages. It breaks down taste experiences into individual elements, helping experts pinpoint and communicate nuances that the average palate might miss. Think of it as a colour wheel for tastes, an interface that translates the complexity of flavours into an organised visual aid.

A flavour wheel is more than a simple diagram; it’s a meticulously crafted roadmap to the world of tastes and aromas. Developing one requires a blend of scientific acumen, sensory expertise, and a touch of artistic finesse. Below is an example of a wheel developed by the University of Queensland for Westholme in Australia for wagyu beef. As you can see, the creation of a flavour wheel is a fusion of scientific rigour and artistic representation. It’s not merely a compilation of tastes but a distilled essence of sensory experiences. A well-crafted wheel captures the nuances of flavours, enabling experts and enthusiasts alike to explore the intricate tapestry of taste.

Industry use cases

Imagine sipping a robust red wine. As it swirls and dances on your tongue, your brain processes a medley of sensations. A flavour wheel allows connoisseurs to dissect this experience. Is it more fruity or earthy? Does it carry a hint of oak or a whisper of spice? By referring to a flavour wheel, experts can articulate these subtleties, deepening our appreciation of culinary creations.

Flavour wheels are omnipresent in the food and beverage landscape. Craft breweries employ them to design distinctive beers, while chocolatiers use them to refine the interplay of cacao notes. In fine dining, chefs use flavour wheels to fine-tune multi-layered dishes, elevating dining into an art form. They’re also an indispensable tool in quality control, ensuring that products meet specific taste expectations consistently.

Beyond enhancing our sensory appreciation, flavour wheels serve as a launchpad for culinary innovation. Food industry experts, from seasoned chefs to inventive product developers, rely on these wheels to blend, pair, and concoct new taste experiences. The wheel’s structure inspires fresh combinations and helps create harmonious dishes or products.

Pros and cons

While the flavour wheel stands as an iconic tool, celebrated for its ability to unravel the intricacies of taste, like any tool, it has its strengths and weaknesses when compared to other scientific sensory tools. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of the flavour wheel in this critical examination.


  • Accessible Language: The beauty of flavour wheels lies in their simplicity. They offer a common language to describe complex taste experiences, bridging the gap between experts and enthusiasts. This accessibility fosters broader understanding and appreciation of flavours.
  • Visual Aid: A picture is worth a thousand words. The visual representation of a flavour wheel is a powerful aid, providing an instant grasp of taste components and their relationships. This quick comprehension aids in discussions, quality control, and even new product development.
  • Creative Inspiration: The structure of flavour wheels encourages creative innovation. Chefs, brewers, and product developers can seamlessly experiment with flavour combinations, leading to novel culinary delights.


  • Subjectivity: Despite their utility, flavour wheels still lean on subjective interpretations. A particular flavour’s position might vary from person to person, leading to inconsistent assessments. This subjectivity poses challenges in scientific applications requiring precise measurements.
  • Simplification: While accessibility is an advantage, it can also be a limitation. The reduction of complex flavours into discrete categories might oversimplify intricate taste profiles, potentially neglecting subtle nuances.
  • Lack of Quantification: Flavour wheels excel at qualitative descriptions but struggle with quantitative measurements. For precise analysis and research, tools like Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) provide accurate quantification of flavour compounds.
  • Not a Sandalone tool for NPD: The flavour wheel is just one of many tools that should be used from a product development and formulation perspective. To successfully innovate, several aspects must be taken into account and at inewtrition we have developed our own innovation wheel.

New food development innovation wheel

The journey of flavour exploration is endless. From the tang of citrus to the umami richness of aged cheese, every taste sensation has its place on the wheel. For industry experts, these wheels aren’t just diagrams – they’re passports to uncharted gustatory territories. They embody the fusion of science and creativity that defines the food industry, inviting us all to savour the beauty of flavours, one wheel turn at a time. The flavour wheel undoubtedly has its merits, offering a user-friendly entry point into the diverse world of flavours. Its visual and intuitive nature drives creativity and simplifies communication. However, it’s essential to acknowledge its limitations. In scientific and quantitative contexts, other tools like GC-MS or electronic noses can provide deeper insights and greater precision.

In the end, the flavour wheel remains an invaluable tool for sensory exploration, education, and creative brainstorming. It’s an artistic palette that invites us to savour and understand the artistry of taste. But just like any masterpiece, its role is part of a larger canvas, which includes a spectrum of scientific tools and methods, each contributing to the symphony of culinary understanding.

Trust industry-leading nutrition experts to create perfectly paired flavour solutions. Book a consultation with Dr Raphaëlle O’Connor.

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