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    Genuine sensory experts: Five water sommeliers at Krones

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    12. July 2022
    6:15 min.

    No two waters are alike. As with almost everything, it’s the small details that make the difference. And for water, they are so small that genuine experts are required who can detect even the tiniest of sensory differences between the various mineral waters available. Five Krones colleagues completed a water sommelier training programme, which has taught them to develop precisely that ability, enabling them to advise our customers to better effect.

    Beer, wine, whisk(e)y – tastings have become quite popular for alcoholic beverages. But have you ever taken part in a water tasting? Almost certainly not, because most people pay little or no attention to the mineral water they are drinking.

    However, we’re actually doing water an injustice because it does in fact have many facets: “Its taste changes depending on its mineral composition. A lot of calcium gives you a furred tongue, magnesium tastes sweetish in weak concentrations but bitter in high concentrations, and the trace element silicate makes for a full-bodied taste experience,” explains Jörg Berger, who is in charge of the sales team for water treatment systems. And he knows exactly what he’s talking about because the graduate chemical engineer, in addition to the usual tasks entailed by his job, also functions as a water sommelier. He is one of five working for Krones who completed his training at the Doemens Academy in March 2022 together with his two sales colleagues Martin Rominger and Maximilian Keil, and with Florian Köglmeier from Process Technology and Maximilian Frammelsberger from KIC Krones.

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    Five Krones colleagues who have successfully completed water sommelier training and can now advise water companies on how to produce exactly the water they want: Florian Köglmeier, Martin Rominger, Jörg Berger, Maximilian Keil and Maximilian Frammelsberger (left to right).

    Wanted: Special instinct for sensory nuances

    The requisite two-week course at the Doemens Academy is unique worldwide because there is probably no other training programme of comparable length that goes into such detail or offers such exacting tasting training sessions. The course was most definitely in a class of its own, especially the practical part of it: “We started by training our taste buds to detect tastes like salty, bitter, sweet and sour. We then put what we had just learned to good use on various mineral waters, identifying their constituents,” says Maximilian Frammelsberger. “Both theoretically and practically, we were taught all about the minerals and salts found in water, and how they affect its taste.”

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    To start with, the participants had to heighten their sense of taste.

    In retrospect, the course proved highly intensive and was extremely demanding. To quote Jörg Berger: “To be honest, when we started I found it hard to imagine that we’d be able to take a comprehensive exam after just two short weeks. But an incessant stream of tastings, in which we sampled the most varied range of mineral waters, and the in-depth explanations given by our lecturer which were based on sound scientific data helped us understand it all. We soon found ourselves detecting even the tiniest taste differences, describing them and internalising the effects that individual minerals and trace elements have on a water’s taste and our perception of it.”

    The exam combined theory – a water’s numerous ingredients and their nutritionally important aspects – and practice: In several tasting sessions, the participants had to identify minerals like magnesium, calcium, etc. in the water they drank. But that was not all. They also had to detect certain mineral compositions and assign them to individual mineral waters. Waters with different carbonation levels were also part of the exam. The participants had to line them up in the correct sequence in a blind tasting. “Yet another task was to draw up a water list, similar to a wine list you get in restaurants. Based on various mineral water brands, we described their mineral content, origin or taste, and gave appropriate recommendations,” says Maximilian Frammelsberger.

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    Magnesium, calcium, silicate: Water’s taste changes, depending on its mineral composition.

    The goal: To assist customers with expert knowledge

    The idea of taking this training course was born during joint customer projects. The water market is booming, and there is a similarly steep rise in demand for new water treatment systems. “It’s above all in regions where a lot of water is consumed due to extreme heat or a ban on alcohol that large numbers of different mineral water brands can be found,” says Maximilian Keil.

    And since more and more people have recently developed a heightened awareness of the importance of a healthy diet, the five colleagues decided to gain more in-depth knowledge on the subject of water. Martin Rominger sums up: “For us in sales and marketing, it’s incredibly important to be able to draw upon this huge fund of expertise, so we can give customers comprehensive, professional advice right from the start. But it is equally essential for our staff working in technical departments to know more about water as a product, so they can choose optimally matched systems and minerals.”

    Why is “Water Design” necessary?

    Accounting for a share of over one-fifth of the worldwide beverage market, packaged water is the clear Number One in the list of top global beverages – with no sign of any let-up in the trend. At first glance, mineral water might be expected to have the least exacting requirements in terms of its production process. But when you look at the ingredients of various brands, you quickly realise that exactly the opposite is true. Minerals, in particular, must be added more and more frequently. The reasons for this are many and varied.

    Increasing pollution of our natural environment does not stop at raw water, which also loses all minerals during the intensive yet indispensable treatment process. So these minerals must be added back during the conditioning phase.

    The market is yet another driver of water-brand proliferation. This is because consumers, either for health-related reasons or because of their personal lifestyle (age, gender, origin), increasingly opt for fresh and maximally natural products which contain no ingredients that might be harmful to their body (like sugar, for example) and which have been fortified with substances held to benefit their health, like silicates, magnesium, electrolytes or collagen. Producers respond to these wishes by creating specifically matched water formulas in order to directly target the different groups.

    But water pure and simple is not just the world’s most important staple, it is also the main ingredient of most other beverage categories like CSDs, all alcoholic beverages and plant-based drinks. And for all of these, impeccable raw-water quality is, of course, a basic prerequisite for making top-notch products.

    12. July 2022
    6:15 min.

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