Flavor Consulting at Arthur D. Little, Inc.

Nadia Berenstein

In the increasingly competitive market for processed foods after the Second World War, flavor assumed new importance in product design and development as companies struggled to gain advantage and entice repeat buyers.

This paper examines the flavor profile, a novel sensory evaluation method developed by chemists at Arthur D. Little, Inc. (ADL), the storied Cambridge, MA consulting firm. Introduced in 1949, the flavor profile claimed to offer a reliable way of measuring and describing the subjective sensory qualities of products.

Drawing extensively on archival material, I document the circumstances surrounding the development of the flavor profile at ADL, examine its uses, and consider the conditions that led to its widespread adoption by the food industry. 

By considering the flavor profile as both a scientific instrument for flavor measurement, and a practical tool for flavor design and development, I hope to illuminate a dark corner in the history of food industrialization: the values, ideologies, and contingencies that shaped how foods were made to taste in the postwar period.