The company that brought certified sweet onions to Vidalia is conducting a new kind of test to help assure onion sweetness.

National Onion Labs releases sweetness testing tool

National Onion Labs Inc., Collins, Ga., is offering its trademarked Pungency Plus sweet onion flavor certification program.

While the industry standard pyruvic acid pungency testing measures total flavor strength, it cannot discriminate between good and poor-tasting onions, said David Burrell, president and chief executive officer. That’s because onions possess many different flavor profiles, with heat being the largest contributor to pungency.

“For over seven years, we have been working on developing testing parameters to identify the other flavors that contribute negatively to an onion’s taste,” he said. “If you talk with old-timers, they say sweet onions aren’t what they used to be. We believe this new test will help further refine the sweet onion category and improve the quality of products that go to the consumer.”

As many new sweet onion varieties have been released during the past decade, traditional pungency testing can’t always adequately measure those onions’ taste, Burrell said. He said some onions can score low pyruvic acid numbers but still taste too strong with unpleasant flavors.

The new testing program tries to overcome those shortcomings through measuring and reporting an onion’s complete consumer taste experience of heat, flavor strength, aftertaste and sweetness, Burrell said.

Since 1998, National Onion Labs has conducted field surveys and tested onions for customers in more than a dozen U.S. states and 14 countries.