write an article for publication in an international food magazine

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21 culinary/food magazines & websites that pay writers.

Dear Writers,

here are twenty one publications that focus on the food and the culinary, whether in terms of cooking, culture, beer, etc.

Note that we’ve found payment rates and contact information for all of these publications, but also keep in mind that rates are not set in stone and may change.

If you want to learn how to approach these publications so that you can get published (and paid) by them, I highly recommend joining Writing Launch and taking their seven day crash course on pitching. That alone will give you a very solid foundation, in terms of getting published. You can get a free month of membership here.

— Jacob Jans

  • CHEESE is a magazine of culture. They explore people, place, and product. Each piece they “commission is to be focused on a specific cheese – you are telling the story of culture through the lens of a cheese.” “Ultimately this is a magazine about people, so even stories about place, need to be about the people and the community.” They’re open to short and long reads (between 750 and 2,000 words). They pay £75 for articles and £50 for photos. If interested, send your pitches to [email protected] . To learn more, read their pitching guidelines .
  • Life & Thyme is a print magazine and website that specializes in culinary storytelling and food journalism. They welcome contributors from all over the globe. They typically pay $200 to $500 per story. To become a contributor, refer to this page .
  • Whetstone Magazine is a print and digital magazine about global food culture and origins. According to their founder , they pay $300 per piece. Send your pitches to [email protected]. To contact them, refer to this page .
  • Tastings is the quarterly electronic member newsletter of Food and Culinary Professionals, a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They are accepting queries for CPEU (continuing professional education units) articles. They pay $500 for an article of 2,000 words. To learn more, visit this page .
  • Eater is a national publication that covers the world of food and drink, with particular emphasis on restaurants. They are looking for reported stories rather than personal narratives. They want “stories where food and restaurants intersect with, illuminate, or are illuminated by other subjects: business, technology, history, science, politics, society, activism, identity, the arts, pop culture, etc.” According to payment reports, they pay an average of $0.31 per word. To learn more, refer to this page .
  • Smart Mouth E-Newsletter is a twice-monthly newsletter that is a companion to the Smart Mouth podcast. They pay $400 for “300 to 500-word posts, either essays or reported, about food/culture/food culture topics.” They pay $200 for “200 word-ish blurbs about a recommended restaurant or dish at a restaurant, with an excellent (excellent!) photo of its food to accompany the post.” For details, visit this page .  Also, read this case study from a writer who was published by them.
  • TheFoodellers is a food travel website. They are always looking for “articles on inspirational travel, photo stories, tips, top XX’s, your experiences traveling the world, your recipes, and your food travel experiences in the world.” They pay $20 to $50 per article. They also give a link to the writer’s website. To learn more, visit this page .
  • Saveur Magazine is a guide for “passionate cooks, stylish entertainers, and culinary explorers.” They welcome pitches from authors who have amazing stories to tell about food and travel. According to payment reports, they pay up to $0.30 per word. To find out more, visit this page.
  • Plate Magazine explores the culinary world to meet the most innovative chefs of the industry and uncover interesting food and drink ideas. Each issue of the magazine focuses on a singular culinary theme. According to payment reports, they pay $1.00 per word. To learn more, visit this page.
  • Modern Farmer “ aims to tell compelling stories for an audience of people who care about where their food comes from.” They publish journalism about the “people, policy, plants, animals, and technology of agriculture.” According to our sources, the pay up to $150 per article. To learn more, read their submissions guidelines.
  • Civil Eats is a source for daily news about the American food system. They are seeking pitches about all things food and agriculture, and are especially interested in pitches from writers with experience in “policy, climate, school meals, race, and science.” Reported features start at $500, and shorter interviews, reviews, profiles, and other short pieces start at $400. To learn more, refer to their FAQs for contributors .
  • The Spruce Eats features recipes, cooking videos, actionable tips, and more. They are seeking new contributors in 2021 as they “ramp up content outside of recipes, lists, and how-to guides.” They are looking for pieces on how we eat and cook. They “can be deep dives into a food trend, an opus about an ingredient/dish you’re obsessed with, profiles on cool makers, cookbook authors, etc.” Their rates start at $225. For details, refer to this Twitter post and this pitch form . For more information about them, refer to this page .
  • Beer Kulture is a nonprofit that is “building trust & strengthening communities by using craft beer to foster inclusion, equity & diversity.” They accept pitches for their blog. In their blog, they share the world experience from an unfiltered perspective – raw, uncut, and real. They encourage pitches from “Black, African American, Hispanic, Native North American, and Pacific Islander and other BIOPIC kandidates.” They pay $150 to $200 per post. To learn how to send them a pitch, refer to this page .
  • Craft Beer and Brewing is “a magazine and online community for people who love to drink and make great beer.” They offer news, tips, recipes, reviews, and more. According to one payment report, they paid $0.04 per word. To contact them, refer to this page .
  • Good Beer Hunting produces “strategic beer brands, intellectually honest editorial, beverage industry analysis, and a deep-dive podcast.” Their voice is “human, friendly, and confident.” They pay $700 for features, $325 for mini-features, up to $200 for Sightlines pieces, $100 for blog posts, and $250 for podcasts. To learn more, refer to their style guide .
  • Eaten is a print magazine focused on food history. They publish 3 times a year. The magazine is “filled with a cornucopia of old recipes, enlightening gastronomic essays, and the fascinating and forgotten tales of the people who have grown, cooked, and enjoyed all things edible over the centuries.” According to one payment report, they paid $200 for a reported story of 1,000 words. To receive their calls for pitches, refer to this page .
  • Pipette Magazine is an independent print magazine about natural wine. They publish 3 times a year. They are looking for pitches about natural wine from experienced writers. They pay $200 to $350. For details, refer to their editor and publisher’s Twitter post . To contact them, refer to this page .
  • Wine Enthusiast Magazine features wine ratings, reviews, recipe ideas, pairing information, news, and guides. They welcome proposals from freelance writers about wine, fine food and travel. They also accept story ideas for their website. According to one payment report, they paid $1.00 per word for a 700-word profile or interview. To learn more, read their submission guidelines .
  • Bon Appétit is a magazine that features recipes, cooking tips, reviews, and more. They are seeking “mid-to-longform reported articles that reflect the food world right now; profiles of fascinating, awesome people in food; hot takes on minuscule details like folding pizza; and personal essays with a strong angle.” Payment reports indicate that they pay up to $0.50 per word. To pitch, visit this page .
  • The Dirty Spoon is a radio show and an online journal about the people behind our meals. They seek short essays about consumable culture and interviews with those who make what we consume. Essays and interviews are usually 500 to 1,500 words. According to their editor-at-large , they pay an honorarium of $50. Submit or pitch an idea at [email protected] . To learn more, visit this page .
  • Foodbeast covers the latest food and drink news from around the world. According to one payment report, they paid $0.10 per word. To contact them, refer to this page .

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write an article for publication in an international food magazine

Eater is a national publication dedicated to reporting on, telling stories about, and critically examining the world of food and drink, with a particular focus on restaurants. Eater covers the ways dining intersects with culture, whether through travel, film and television, trends, shopping, policy, or how people cook and eat at home. Our take on food culture is broad, curious, skeptical, and equally hospitable to the serious and the absurd.

We are actively seeking pitches from journalists, writers, academics, and other contributors of all backgrounds, especially those whose voices are often underrepresented in media. Food and restaurants are among the most dynamic and powerful lenses for storytelling, and we particularly enjoy hearing from writers whose interests, experiences, and areas of expertise originate outside of the food world.

All accepted stories go through a collaborative editorial process, and all are paid at competitive rates.

How to submit:

Across the board, we’re looking for pitches that give a clear, concise summary of the subject, angle, or thesis of the proposed piece, and your anticipated story structure. We’re looking for pitches that contain answers, not questions . (Or, if you don’t have answers yet, an explanation of why you don’t — and the reason shouldn’t be “I haven’t started the reporting.”) Your pitch should also serve as an example of your writing style and tone. Please familiarize yourself with our archives to get a sense of the kind of stories we publish. We are not looking for: cooking show recaps, stunt pieces, defenses of specific diet and wellness practices, linear travelogues, dining reviews, or humor pieces that aren’t actually funny.

All submissions should include a very short explanation of who you are and why you’re qualified to cover this story, along with links to previously published pieces and/or your online portfolio. We appreciate all pitches and aim to respond to each one as soon as possible. Note that we do often receive pitches that are similar to each other or to our existing assignments. If we’re interested in your pitch, we’ll discuss rates, deadlines, scope, kill fees (if applicable), and other expectations with you upfront. We’ll also discuss potential expenses, travel, or risks, and provide press credentials when necessary. All accepted stories are paid at competitive rates based on the scope and type of work.

Reports: Eater’s reports section assigns original, reported stories and are usually assigned with a lead time of a few days to several weeks. Everything from dining trends and the particulars of restaurant operations , to food world curiosities , to where food intersects with culture at large is fair game, and we’re particularly interested in stories that center workers and underrepresented communities. Pitches should not only identify an interesting topic or trend, but offer some case-making around its place in history or culture and a thesis or forward-thinking statement. Send pitches to [email protected] .

Travel: Eater Travel is most interested in pieces and perspectives from locals and natives, or people with a deep connection to the culture being covered — we’re generally not interested in parachute journalism, and especially not stories reported during one’s vacation. We love pieces that spotlight the interesting ways in which food and culture intersect to provide insight and perspective on a place — international or otherwise. In general, travel pitches should conform to the above story guidelines. Send pitches to [email protected] .

Voices: Voices is Eater’s first-person section, where writers discuss a broad range of topics through the lens of their personal experiences and make an argument for a certain way of seeing things. We are particularly interested in featuring people who are not writers by trade; if you have an important story to tell, we will work closely with you to turn your story into a published piece. Pitches should include an explanation of who you are, your position on the topic, why you’re qualified to write about it, and a clear rundown of the points of your argument. Send to [email protected] .

Shopping: Eater shopping stories are rooted in discovery and service; and they must always provide shoppable links for readers to bring the items discussed into their own homes. We’re seeking short spotlights on a single distinctive item for our Buy This Thing column, guides to specific cooking projects for our Starter Kit series , product roundups sources from industry experts, as well as reported explainers on specific products. Send pitches to [email protected] .

Eater at Home: Eater at Home seeks stories that combine service with a strong narrative, and relate to the broader culture of cooking that exists beyond the kitchen. Stories that explore ingredients, cooking trends, and food culture; thoughtful essays attached to recipes; critiques of home cooking culture; reported explainers on ingredients and techniques; and nuanced and well-informed hot takes are all welcome, as is a healthy dose of humor and skepticism. We’re not trying to give you 15 different recipes that will change the way you make roast chicken, but we are interested in asking why cooking publications can’t stop giving us roast chicken recipes. Send pitches to: [email protected]

Video: Eater accepts pitches for video content from freelance filmmakers and video producers with experience in storytelling and working in a collaborative environment. Ideal pitches contain strong story lines and deep insight backed by an authoritative food voice. We’re more likely to green light one-off/feature content that aligns with our existing series programming, as opposed to pitches for hosted/new series-based content. We are also interested in cooking-related pitches that are grounded in entertainment, as opposed to recipe-driven. All videos should work across multiple platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. To submit: Please send your video pitch along with links to previous work to [email protected] .

Visuals: Eater works with freelance illustrators and designers for much of our written work, including travel packages , reported packages , explainers , and features . We’re always trying to expand our roster of artists and are open to receiving portfolios for consideration for future projects. To submit: Please send links to your work to [email protected] .

Cities: Interested in writing an article or map for a specific Eater city? Here is where to send pitches for each of Eater’s city sites — we recommend clicking into each city for specifics on what that local site is looking for.

Publishing on Eater:

If we decide to work with you, you’ll receive an agreement with key terms clearly defined, typically sent through our freelance management platform called Shortlist. Through the editing process, we believe clear, thoughtful communication is both our responsibility and yours. Freelancers are expected to follow both Eater’s statement of ethics and our Vox Media Values , which includes collaborating well and giving and receiving feedback respectfully. We also follow those standards: If you experience a problem working with us, we encourage you to discuss it with your editor or our legal team. We also offer a hotline for reporting concerns about conduct anonymously.

We provide edited drafts before publication, and commit to appropriately credit all contributors. After publication, we pay in a timely manner in accordance with your agreement (typically within 30 days via the Shortlist platform), including reimbursement for any agreed-upon expenses.

By submitting a pitch to Vox Media, you acknowledge that your pitch may be similar or identical to content submitted by others, or to materials developed by or on behalf of Vox Media and that it shall have the right to use such other content or materials without any obligation to you. Neither the submission of your pitch nor Vox Media’s review of it constitutes or creates an implied contract or other financial or confidential relationship between you and Vox Media. You shall have no right to compensation or reimbursement of any kind by Vox Media in connection with the submission of your pitch. If and when Vox Media elects to proceed and assign work to you based on your pitch, the terms of any such assignment shall be subject to a separate agreement between you and Vox Media. Vox Media has no obligation to review, keep, or return any materials you submit.

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Food magazine Masterclass

How to publish an independent food magazine

There's a bigger appetite than ever for food writing, whether you want to cover eateries or recipes, hot trends or historical menus. But as with the restaurant business, grabbing a piece of the pie isn't easy. If you're interested in launching your own foodie title, you need to know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and who you're doing it for. In this illuminating evening course, three publishers explain give you the inside scoop on how it's done. Led by publisher Steven Watson, Guardian writer Tim Hayward talks about the evolution of his personal indie food mag, Fire & Knives, while David Lane of new start-up The Gourmand discusses the triumphs and tribulations of his recent launch.

This is your chance to pick the brains of editors and publishers who've done the hard work. Find out how to recruit writers, deal with PRs, arrange distribution and seduce advertisers (or learn to live without them), learn the truth about blagging comp meals, and get a realistic picture of how much your new publication is going to cost you to set up and run – and whether or not you'll turn a profit.

Tutor profiles

Steven Watson is the founder of innovative magazine distributor Stack, which he founded to help independent publishers find a wider readership. He also co-founded the Printout events in east London, and regularly speaks on independent publishing. A keen champion of the UK and global magazine scene, Steve has written for and edited magazines for the last 10 years.

Tim Hayward is publisher of Gin & It magazine and Fire & Knives, which he also edits. In his day job he's a food writer with a column in the FT, he presents the Radio 4 Food programme and his first book Food DIY will be published by Penguin in July. Tim lives in Cambridge where he runs a restaurant and bakery called Fitzbillies.

David Lane is the co-founder and editor of The Gourmand and runs the design studio Inventory. He has lectured at Camberwell College of Art, The University of Brighton, Kingston University, the London College of Fashion and Central St Martins College of Art and Design. He has written articles on design and publishing for various publications. He is a keen cook.

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Dates: Tuesday 9 April 2013 Times: 6.30pm-9.30pm Location: The Guardian/ Observer offices, London, N1 9GU Price: £39 (inclusive of VAT, booking fee and refreshments) Maximum course size: 80

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Nick

In This Post:

How to write an article for a magazine.

Pitching a magazine is a whole other beast. When you land a print placement, however, you'll score major credibility points as a writer or industry expert.

How to Write an Article for a Magazine

Writing an article for your local newspaper, trade magazines, or national magazines is simpler than you think. But simple doesn’t mean easy.

Freelance writers and industry leaders alike want to land a feature article in a print publication, because magazine writing projects authority and expertise. Media publications often reserve their print edition for the best magazine articles, and a features editor or managing editor will be highly selective with which freelance writers they tap for various article opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Magazine and newspaper bylines are considered very reputable, since these publications have limited space.
  • The timing of your pitch is important, as magazines are produced weeks or even months in advance.
  • It's good to be on editors' radar, as they often are shuffling an issue up until the 11th hour, and may want to assign you a piece with quick turnaround to fill a hole.

It’s not just the high quality of the article that makes print pitching different. In magazine journalism , brands often put their issues together months in advance to ensure they’re printed, shipped, and sold on schedule.

In addition to pitching a good magazine article, you also need to send your query letter at the right time in the magazine production process before you start writing. Newspaper articles don’t require as long of a lead time. It all depends on the publication’s submission guidelines.

Related: How to Pitch an Article: 72 Outlet How-Tos

If you’d love to one day write an opinion article, pen a personal essay, or just get more freelance writing jobs with popular magazines, here is what to keep in mind in magazine writing.

Writing for Magazines: A Coveted Byline

Before the internet, media was mainly delivered through print journalism. A freelance writer or aspiring magazine writer would send a query letter to the editor, and magazine editors would decide which magazine articles to pursue, based not only on the article ideas themselves, but also how well they balance one another, based on personal experience.

In print, there is a finite amount of space on the page. In contrast, websites can publish all the articles — they just create a new URL for every article — so the constraint is editor and writer labor, not lack of space or word count. Article placement in a magazine has greater merit and is considered more valuable, even if it’s a local magazine.

Important : It can be tough to pitch a big feature story right out of the gate. Consider pitching a smaller story in the 700-1,200 word range first to build rapport with an editor.

Many of today’s magazines have been around for decades, if not longer, and they’ve built up a track record for editorial quality and influence. We assume that, if someone has written for a reputable magazine or national publications for a particular topic, they are a skilled freelance writer.

In our digital age, many of the most established brands continue to publish a physical magazine, even if the magazine’s readership has declined, because it cements their status as an influential publication. Often, if you write a magazine article, it will also be used online.

This was the case for me when writing an article for OUT magazine. My entire article was accepted, and received a two-page spread in the mag, but it was also published as a post online.

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

Pro tip: acquire physical copies of your placements so you can document them and use them online, ethically.

How to Pitch a Magazine in 3 Steps

Pitching a physical magazine is similar to other pitching efforts. The single most important factor to a winning pitch is that it’s relevant to the magazine’s target audience. The following three steps will help you ensure your pitch is on point every time; even if your pitch isn’t accepted, editors keep an eye on staff writers and other writers who consistently send relevant pitches, and eventually you will see progress.

Step 1: Research Current and Upcoming Magazine Topics

Read the magazine! What you think a magazine covers based on what you read ten years ago may not be what the outlet covers at all anymore. Browse both the publication’s website and the physical magazine itself to get a sense of their writing and what the brand is currently covering. Look at the news articles and writing styles.

Additionally, for physical magazines, it’s worth your time to poke around online for either a media kit or an editorial calendar . These kits are sales PDFs a magazine makes publicly available to attract prospective advertisers. The kit comes out in the fall or winter each year for the upcoming year, and lists the planned theme of every issue. This can be helpful intel when pitching big publications.

To see what the online version of a brand has previously covered, you can do a web search on Google for that specific site. Start your search with “site:www.outletdomain.com”, then search a topic. In this example, I searched past coverage of Gen Z on Entrepreneur’s website.

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

The "site:" command in a Google search query will let you filter search results to a particular website.

Knowing an outlet will help you tailor your article pitch to fit the voice, style, and format of the target publication.

Step 2: To Locate Gatekeepers, Find a Masthead

Now comes the tricky part: pitching the editor or decision-maker who oversees print coverage. Luckily, most magazines’ editors and other personnel responsible for bringing a magazine to life will be credited in both the physical issue and online. This list is called a masthead.

A major magazine will engage many writers and other contractors to bring an issue to life, but the staff who are listed on the masthead are almost always directly involved in the production process. This is helpful research material.

For example, searching “Allure masthead” led me directly to their digital masthead page.

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

The Allure masthead. Screenshot captured November 1, 2022.

From the masthead, do some digging on where these different editors are hanging out outline. Are they on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram? Are they writing articles for magazines as well? What stories are they currently publishing? Also track down their email address.

Step 3: Craft a Strong, Print-Specific Pitch

In print article pitching, every word needs to earn its way onto the page. Your article pitch should have a compelling idea and a fresh perspective; specify whether you want to be considered for print publication, online publication, or both.

Most PR pitches are templates, press releases, or cookie-cutter stock pitches. The key to getting momentum in an article pitch is to hook the editor or journalist in the first couple of sentences. Indicate that your article pitch is not a stock pitch, and make a case for why this article is a perfect fit for them.

Pitch Your Next Magazine Article Today

Article pitching can feel overwhelming at first, but at the end of the day, story ideas just like yours are what make it to newsstands and get read by millions. Remain pleasantly persistent, and eventually your pitching efforts will pay off.

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World Nutrition Journal

Submission Preparation Checklist

  • The submission has not been previously published, nor is it before another journal for consideration (or an explanation has been provided in Comments to the Editor).
  • Your cover page with author names and whatever contact information you want to provide should be submitted as as a second, separate file from your paper. This is necessary for double blind peer review.
  • The submission file is in OpenOffice, Microsoft Word, or RTF document file format.
  • Where available, DOIs have been provided. URLs (website addresses) for free full-text references have been provided.
  • The text is single-spaced; uses a 12-point font; employs italics, rather than underlining (except with URL addresses).
  • The text adheres to the stylistic and bibliographic requirements outlined in the Author Guidelines.
  • Permission has been obtained in writing for any photograph, table, or figure copied from an existing publication. This must be shared with the editors upon request. Images obtained from the Internet should be accompanied by website addresses to indicate their source. Permission should be obtained from originators or owners of images wherever possible.
  • If an entire sentence or more is copied from any existing publication, it has been placed in quotes and where it was obtained from has been cited. (Copying a sentence or more without doing this is plagiarism.)
  • All illustrations, figures, and tables are placed within the text at the appropriate points, rather than at the end.
  • You have considered whether you need to write an abstract. It greatly increases readership for longer evidence-based articles (with references). The words in the abstract may be searchable, making your article easier to find.
  • You may skip most fields where meta-data are called for, but using relevant key words not in your title or abstract will let more readers find your article in searches.
  • If an artificial intelligence (AI) tool was used to assist us in writing this manuscript, we have provided the editor with an explanatory statement.

Author Guidelines

World Nutrition charges neither authors nor readers. It is funded via World Public Health Nutrition Association membership fees and engages in no advertising or marketing activities. Authors are requested to kindly consider joining WPHNA (https://wphna.org/membership) fees for which are lower for certain groups. Editors and peer reviews work on journal tasks on a strictly volunteer basis. The journal is editorially independent of the Association and thus free from conflicts of interest. It is published quarterly, on the last days of March, June, September, and December. It is a permanent journal. If events ever suggest that the Association will cease to exist, steps will be taken to ensure that the content of World Nutrition remains available online. Authors are readers are requested to be aware that the name of the journal is simply World Nutrition. Another journal added the word "journal" to that, starting up in 2016, 6 years after World Nutrition began to publish.

Authors can submit previously unpublished original research, literature reviews, editorials, commentaries, book reviews or letters to the editor. It is unethical and unacceptable to submit an article to more than one publisher or journal at the same time. (Each one does a lot of work to review and edit your submission and none want to publish something already published elsewhere.) If you would like to publish an article similar to or translated from one published in another in another language, contact the editor to discuss this before submitting it. 

Substantive critique of previously published articles in the journal are welcomed and if warranted will be published. The authors of any such critiques article will be given the opportunity to publish a response in the same issue. If you would like to contribute a regular column to the journal, please contact the Editor-in-Chief to discuss this. 

There are no limits to the length of submissions, but literature reviews longer than 2000 words should be preceded by an abstract. Adding an abstract to any submission on the metadata page will increase its visibility because each word on the metadata page is searchable. Do not copy anything directly from the internet into your Word document. First remove all hidden formatting, for example by copying first to Notepad. 

All submissions are reviewed by the editors. Research papers, literature reviews, and evidence-based commentaries will be sent for peer review. Peer reviewer and author identities are masked to make peer reviews anonymous. Usually at least two of them must be complete before they are shared with authors. All submitted material will be handled in confidence except for the purposes of review AND in order to investigate possible misconduct.

When authors are provided with reviewer responses, they should revise the manuscript accordingly. For substantive comments from peer reviewers, authors should explain their response if they believe the reviewer is incorrect; or explain how the requested revision is beyond the scope of the article. 

We request that authors disclose the use of AI in writing their manuscript. Here are two examples of the kind of language we request be used: 

  • "We used the AI tool ChatGPT to generate a draft of our manuscript."
  • "We used the AI tool LaMDA to translate our manuscript from Spanish to English."

                Typesetting

Research papers are sent for professional typesetting. Authors can see how they will look here . The World Public Health Nutrition Association has set aside a budget for this that will currently pay about $100 per article. Costs above this will have to be paid by authors. (We pay $6/500 words plus $7/table or figure.) 

Authors of literature reviews or commentaries can pay for typesetting on request. For currently paid up members, WPHNA will cover typesetting costs as well up to the amount one author has paid for membership fees. 

                Referencing

We encourage authors to use referencing liberally. In academic publishing, references are meant to buttress arguments, establish facts, and give credit where it's due. We ask that you refer to original research, however, rather than literature reviews. So-called "daisy-chain" referencing far too often is responsible for maintaining myths and using poorly done research as "evidence." 

WN uses a simple author-date system of referencing because this is easier for authors who do not have access to reference management software. If that is difficult for you, just let us know; we can accept other systems except for research papers, which must use the author-date system. If you do have reference management software, the Chicago author-date style produces a reference list that is easier to read than the default author-date style.

Authors are encouraged, wherever possible, to add URLs (website addresses) to each reference available online at no cost. Each citation must be associated with one of the entries in the alphabetized reference list at the end of the document. Please include the DOI number in all references wherever possible. (Note that these serve as URLs. Clicking on one or pasting it into a browser leads directly to the article.)

In the text, as close as possible to where mention of a reference is needed, the surname of only the author (or both if there are two; first author followed by "et al." if there are more than two), a comma, and then the year of the publication, should be placed in one set of parentheses. Thus, the first reference below would be cited in the text as (Awashi et al, 2013). Alternatively, one can write something like, "As Awashi et al (2013) have pointed out." If you cite two references with the same author and year, label one Smith, 2016a and the next Smith, 2016b.  (Reference management software will instead place the full author and date automatically.)

Here are examples of the reference formats used in WN. 

  • Journal articles 

Awasthi S, Peto R, Read S, et al. 2013. Vitamin A supplementation every 6 months with retinol in 1 million preschool children in North India: Devta, a cluster-randomised trial. Lancet 381:1469–77. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62125-4

In the reference list, the first three authors are listed before et al. There is a period at the end but no periods are used after authors' initials. A period is placed after the date and again after the article name. The journal name is followed by the volume number, a colon and then the page numbers with no spaces--and a fourth period. It is optional to include the issue number for journals where pagination is sequential throughout a volume. It is optional to list entire page numbers in the page range at the end.

  • Books and reports follow a similar format: author, date, title. Then comes city of publication followed by colon and the name of the publisher. Each important word, along with the first and last words in a title are capitalized.

Beaton GH, Aronson KJ, Edmonston B, et al. 1993. Effectiveness of Vitamin A Supplementation in the Control of Young Child Morbidity and Mortality in Developing Countries. Geneva: Administrative Committee on Coordination-Subcommittee on Nutrition (ACC/SCN). https://www.unscn.org/web/archives_resources/files/Policy_paper_No_13.pdf

  • Book chapters or articles within an edited book . The book should be referenced as in the example above, except the author(s) are usually editors, identified as First comes the name of the author(s) of the chapter and year. Then the title of the chapter. This is followed by "In:", then the names of the editors, followed by "Eds.", then the title of the book, the city and the publisher. Last comes the page numbers of the chapter referred to.

Allen, C. 2007. Bacteria, bioterrorism, and the geranium ladies of Guatemala. In: Cabezas AL, Reese E, Waller M, editors. Wages of empire: neoliberal policies, repression, and women's poverty. Boulder (CO): Paradigm Press. p. 169-177.

ADD YOUR METADATA

As part of the submissions process, you will be required to fill in a page asking for a range of information. These metadata are shared widely on the internet and thus assist people in finding your paper, for example in Google Scholar searches. So be complete. Add each author's name in the correct order. When you type in the names of disciplines involved (example: public health nutrition) or key words (example: infant feeding), you must place a comma at the end of each and then hit return or they will all be combined into a single word--and thus be useless. Since every word in an abstract entered as metadata will be searchable, you might want to write one even if you feel your paper is too short to actually need one. Choose key words that are relevant but not in your abstract. 

If your manuscript is accepted, you will be requested to send an image for your paper. This image will then appear beside your title on the table of contents. Either use an image of your own or upload one available free and with no copyright restrictions from the internet.  

WORLD NUTRITION'S PERSPECTIVE ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST

In the context of the journal World Nutrition, conflict of interest (CoI) can be defined as "a situation that is present when there is a meaningful risk that a primary professional interest might be unduly influenced by incompatible interests."  Awareness of CoI's are important to authors and readers in maintaining the integrity of World Nutrition.

                An example

Professor Joe Smith and Professor Judy Alvarez have been in professional conflict with each other for over a decade. His field is sports nutrition and he publishes reviews that convincingly demonstrate that declines in exercise are more important in explaining the obesity epidemic than anything having to do with diet. Her field is public health nutrition and she publishes equally convincing evidence that it's the change in diet characterized by increased consumption of ultra-processed foods and sugars that's mainly to blame. Each considers that the other has a biased view of the literature. Either or both may be correct. However, both professors can honestly declare they have no conflicts of interest when they publish.

Their disagreement with each other and even their skewed views of the literature are not due to conflicts of interest beyond what may be due to the usual loyalty we tend to feel for our professional fields—which of course are also our source of income. In this scientific dispute, most public health nutrition people might be assumed to have some kind of bias on the diet side, and most in sports nutrition might be assumed to have a bias in the other direction. In most contexts, we would not call those differences in perspectives evidence of conflicts of interest.

However, suppose a company producing weightlifting equipment funds a research program for Prof Smith comparing the effectiveness of aerobic exercise with increasing muscle mass for reducing many non-communicable diseases. Smith warns them their money will not influence his views. But nevertheless, if he publishes a paper weighing the evidence for which type of exercise is best for overall health, he should declare a conflict of interest. His views and what he writes may not have changed at all. But his credibility as an objective expert on this aerobics vs muscle mass issue has changed.

Now suppose a food advocacy group funds Prof Alvarez' research program on the impact of ultra-processed food. This funding may not have changed her views, her research objectivity, or even the subtleties of how she expresses herself on the diet vs exercise issue. But now she must declare a potential conflict of interest and her credibility must be viewed within this context.

The existence of a conflict of interest does not mean that someone is corrupt. They might not have allowed this CoI to influence what they think, how they do their research, or what they write. But the risk is there. The perception that this conflict MIGHT influence them is unavoidable.

A good deal of research does suggest that many researchers allow CoI to influence not only their judgement but something about how they do, analyze or report research. For example, published studies by drug companies routinely report a higher efficacy for those drugs than studies of the same drugs funded by others. Being suspicious of authors with CoI is not the same as drawing conclusions about the integrity of any particular author, but it is important to be aware of the risks CoI pose.

                Journal policy

All authors who submit manuscripts to be considered for publication in World Nutrition are asked to provide detailed information about all conflicting interests related to the topics of the manuscript.

These would be relevant financial interests, activities, relationships, and affiliations including, but not limited to, employment, funding and grants received or pending, consultancies, honoraria, membership in speakers' bureaus, stock ownership and options, expert testimony, royalties, and patents planned, pending, or issued. These disclosures should describe any potential conflicts of interest involving the work under consideration for publication (during the time involving the work, from initial conception and planning to present), any relevant financial activities outside the submitted work (over the 5 years prior to submission), and any other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing what is written in the submitted work (based on all relationships that were present during the 5 years prior to submission).

Authors who are uncertain about what constitutes a relevant financial interest or relationship for an individual author or relevant support for the work being reported should err on the side of complete disclosure, or contact the editorial office for clarification.

For all accepted manuscripts, summaries of the CoIs will be published in an Acknowledgment section of the article to ensure they are disclosed to readers.

World Nutrition will, at its discretion, consider publishing papers whose authors have only minor conflicts of interest. However, if CoIs are judged to be so severe that the integrity of the article is in doubt, the manuscript may be rejected for that reason alone or published with a simultaneous commentary about that CoI and/or presenting an opposing point of view.

Once their paper is published, authors are encouraged to offer a copy on Research Gate, Academia, and to announce it, providing a link to it on Facebook, Twitter, and other websites to spread awareness of your work. There are no limitations to what you do with your published paper because you retain all copyrights. For example, many authors wish to deposit a copy of their paper in an institutional or other repository of their choice. Our policy is that authors may deposit:

  • Submitted version
  • Accepted version (Author Accepted Manuscript)
  • Published version (Version of Record)

 in an institutional or other repository of their choice without embargo.

Publication Ethics and Retraction Policy

Research on human subjects or animals must include a statement that an institutional research board/ethics committee has approved your research in advance or waved it. Indicate the name of the IRB. Approval is not needed for secondary analyses, project evaluations, and data obtained via routine project monitoring. 

World Nutrition follows COPE guidelines. Most relevant publication ethical issues are addressed above. The process for dealing with undisclosed conflicts of interest if discovered can be found here . Papers found to be based on plagiarism, series errors, or falsification will be retracted. Guidelines for this process are available here . We take plagiarism seriously. We define it as copying a sentence or more from another author. We ask that you avoid copying too much even from your own previously published work. Our methods for dealing with it are illustrated here .

World Nutrition  operates the following policy for making corrections to its peer-reviewed content. Publishable amendments must be represented by a formal online notice because they affect the publication record and/or the scientific accuracy of published information. These fall into one of three categories: erratum, corrigendum or retraction.

Erratum: Notification of an important error made by the journal that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of a paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.

Corrigendum : Notification of an important error made by the author(s) that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.

Retraction: Notification of invalid results. All co-authors sign a retraction specifying the error, stating briefly how the conclusions are affected, and submit it for publication. In cases where one or more co-authors disagree, the publishing team will seek advice from independent referees and utilize the type of amendment that seems most appropriate, noting the dissenting author(s) in the text of the published version.

If you use a large language model, including ChatGPT to write part of your paper, please indicate this in your methods section.

Copyright Notice

Authors retain all copyrights. In making a submission to World Nutrition, they are certifying that all material is theirs except quotations, as indicated, and that they have obtained permission for any photos, tables, or graphics taken from other publications or websites. 

Privacy Statement

The names and email addresses entered in this journal site will be used exclusively for the stated purposes of this journal and will not be made available for any other purpose or to any other party.

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How to Write a Magazine Article

Last Updated: October 11, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Gerald Posner . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 930,983 times.

Magazine articles can be a big boost for seasoned freelance writers or writers who are trying to jump-start their writing careers. In fact, there are no clear qualifications required for writing magazine articles except for a strong writing voice, a passion for research, and the ability to target your article pitches to the right publications. Though it may seem like magazines may be fading in the digital age, national magazines continue to thrive and can pay their writers $1 a word. [1] X Research source To write a good magazine article, you should focus on generating strong article ideas and crafting and revising the article with high attention to detail.

Generating Article Ideas

Step 1 Analyze publications you enjoy reading.

  • Check if the bylines match the names on the masthead. If the names on the bylines do not match the masthead names, this may be an indication that the publication hires freelance writers to contribute to its issues.
  • Look for the names and contact information of editors for specific areas. If you’re interested in writing about pop culture, identify the name and contact information of the arts editor. If you’re more interested in writing about current events, look for the name and contact information of the managing editor or the features editor. You should avoid contacting the executive editor or the editor-in-chief as they are too high up the chain and you will likely not interact with them as a freelance writer.
  • Note recent topics or issues covered in the publication and the angle or spin on the topics. Does the publication seem to go for more controversial takes on a topic or a more objective approach? Does the publication seem open to experimentation in form and content or are they more traditional?
  • Look at the headlines used by the publication and how the articles begin. Note if the headlines are shocking or vague. Check if the articles start with a quote, a statistic, or an anecdote. This will give you a good sense of the writing style that gets published in that particular publication.
  • Note the types of sources quoted in the articles. Are they academic or more laymen? Are there many sources quoted, or many different types of sources quoted?
  • Pay attention to how writers wrap up their articles in the publication. Do they end on a poignant quote? An interesting image? Or do they have a bold, concluding thought?

Step 2 Consider recent trends or topics you talked about with a friend or peer.

  • These inspiring conversations do not need to be about global problems or a large issue. Having conversations with your neighbors, your friends, and your peers can allow you to discuss local topics that could then turn into an article idea for a local magazine.

Step 3 Look up upcoming events in your area.

  • You should also look through your local newspaper for human interest stories that may have national relevance. You could then take the local story and pitch it to a magazine. You may come across a local story that feels incomplete or full of unanswered questions. This could then act as a story idea for a magazine article.

Step 4 Consider what other writers are publishing.

  • You can also set your Google alerts to notify you if keywords on topics of interest appear online. If you have Twitter or Instagram, you can use the hashtag option to search trending topics or issues that you can turn into article ideas.

Step 5 Think of a new angle on a familiar topic.

  • For example, rather than write about the psychological problems of social media on teenagers, which has been done many times in many different magazines, perhaps you can focus on a demographic that is not often discussed about social media: seniors and the elderly. This will give you a fresh approach to the topic and ensure your article is not just regurgitating a familiar angle.

Crafting the Article

Step 1 Research your article idea using sources like books and published texts.

  • Look for content written by experts in the field that relates to your article idea. If you are doing a magazine article on dying bee populations in California, for example, you should try to read texts written by at least two bee experts and/or a beekeeper who studies bee populations in California.
  • You should ensure any texts you use as part of your research are credible and accurate. Be wary of websites online that contain lots of advertisements or those that are not affiliated with a professionally recognized association or field of study. Make sure you check if any of the claims made by an author have been disputed by other experts in the field or have been challenged by other experts. Try to present a well-rounded approach to your research so you do not appear biased or slanted in your research.

Step 2 Locate individuals who could be good sources.

  • You can also do an online search for individuals who may serve as good expert sources based in your area. If you need a legal source, you may ask other freelance writers who they use or ask for a contact at a police station or in the legal system.

Step 3 Interview your sources.

  • Prepare a list of questions before the interview. Research the source’s background and level of expertise. Be specific in your questions, as interviewees usually like to see that you have done previous research and are aware of the source’s background.
  • Ask open-ended questions, avoid yes or no questions. For example, rather than asking, "Did you witness the test trials of this drug?" You can present an open-ended question, "What can you tell me about the test trials of this drug?" Be an active listener and try to minimize the amount of talking you do during the interview. The interview should be about the subject, not about you.
  • Make sure you end the interview with the question: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you about this topic that I should know about?” You can also ask for referrals to other sources by asking, “Who disagrees with you on your stance on this issue?” and “Who else should I talk to about this issue?”
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the source with follow-up questions as your research continues. As well, if you have any controversial or possibly offensive questions to ask the subject, save them for last.

Step 4 Transcribe your interviews.

  • The best way to transcribe your interviews is to sit down with headphones plugged into your tape recorder and set aside a few hours to type out the interviews. There is no short and quick way to transcribe unless you decide to use a transcription service, which will charge you a fee for transcribing your interviews.

Step 5 Create an article outline.

  • Your outline should include the main point or angle of the article in the introduction, followed by supporting points in the article body, and a restatement or further development of your main point or angle in your conclusion section.
  • The structure of your article will depend on the type of article you are writing. If you are writing an article on an interview with a noteworthy individual, your outline may be more straightforward and begin with the start of the interview and move to the end of the interview. But if you are writing an investigative report, you may start with the most relevant statements or statements that relate to recent news and work backward to the least relevant or more big picture statements. [10] X Research source
  • Keep in mind the word count of the article, as specified by your editor. You should keep the first draft within the word count or just above the word count so you do not lose track of your main point. Most editors will be clear about the required word count of the article and will expect you not to go over the word count, for example, 500 words for smaller articles and 2,000-3,000 words for a feature article. Most magazines prefer short and sweet over long and overly detailed, with a maximum of 12 pages, including graphics and images. [11] X Research source
  • You should also decide if you are going to include images or graphics in the article and where these graphics are going to come from. You may contribute your own photography or the publication may provide a photographer. If you are using graphics, you may need to have a graphic designer re create existing graphics or get permission to use the existing graphics.

Step 6 Use a hook first line.

  • Use an interesting or surprising example: This could be a personal experience that relates to the article topic or a key moment in an interview with a source that relates to the article topic. For example, you may start an article on beekeeping in California by using a discussion you had with a source: "Darryl Bernhardt never thought he would end up becoming the foremost expert on beekeeping in California."
  • Try a provocative quotation: This could be from a source from your research that raises interesting questions or introduces your angle on the topic. For example, you may quote a source who has a surprising stance on bee populations: "'Bees are more confused than ever,' Darryl Bernhart, the foremost expert in bees in California, tells me."
  • Use a vivid anecdote: An anecdote is a short story that carries moral or symbolic weight. Think of an anecdote that might be a poetic or powerful way to open your article. For example, you may relate a short story about coming across abandoned bee hives in California with one of your sources, an expert in bee populations in California.
  • Come up with a thought provoking question: Think of a question that will get your reader thinking and engaged in your topic, or that may surprise them. For example, for an article on beekeeping you may start with the question: "What if all the bees in California disappeared one day?"

Step 7 Weave in quotes from experts or reliable sources.

  • You want to avoid leaning too much on quotations to write the article for you. A good rule of thumb is to expand on a quotation once you use it and only use quotations when they feel necessary and impactful. The quotations should support the main angle of your article and back up any claims being made in the article.

Step 8 End on a strong concluding statement that illuminates or expands on your article topic.

  • You may want to lean on a strong quote from a source that feels like it points to future developments relating to the topic or the ongoing nature of the topic. Ending the article on a quote may also give the article more credibility, as you are allowing your sources to provide context for the reader.

Revising the Article

Step 1 Discuss the article with your editor.

  • Having a conversation about the article with your editor can offer you a set of professional eyes who can make sure the article fits within the writing style of the publication and reaches its best possible draft. You should be open to editor feedback and work with your editor to improve the draft of the article.

Step 2 Apply editor and peer feedback to the article.

  • You should also get a copy of the publication’s style sheet or contributors guidelines and make sure the article follows these rules and guidelines. Your article should adhere to these guidelines to ensure it is ready for publication by your deadline.

Step 3 Revise the article for flow and structure.

  • Most publications accept electronic submissions of articles. Talk with your editor to determine the best way to submit the revised article.

Sample Articles

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

Expert Q&A

Gerald Posner

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Expert Interview

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

Thanks for reading our article! If you'd like to learn more about writing an article, check out our in-depth interview with Gerald Posner .

  • ↑ http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/tips-on-writing-a-good-feature-for-magazines.html
  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/20-ways-to-generate-article-ideas-in-20-minutes-or-less
  • ↑ http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/jun03/eight-tips-for-getting-published-in-magazines-6036
  • ↑ http://www.thepenmagazine.net/20-steps-to-write-a-good-article/
  • ↑ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R5f2VV58pw
  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-nonfiction/how-many-different-kinds-of-articles-are-there
  • ↑ http://libguides.unf.edu/c.php?g=177086&p=1163719

About This Article

Gerald Posner

To write a magazine article, start by researching your topic and interviewing experts in the field. Next, create an outline of the main points you want to cover so you don’t go off topic. Then, start the article with a hook that will grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading. As you write, incorporate quotes from your research, but be careful to stick to your editor’s word count, such as 500 words for a small article or 2,000 words for a feature. Finally, conclude with a statement that expands on your topic, but leaves the reader wanting to learn more. For tips on how to smoothly navigate the revision process with an editor, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write an Article for a Magazine: Expert Tips and Tricks

By: Author Paul Jenkins

Posted on Published: June 14, 2023  - Last updated: June 23, 2023

Categories Writing

Magazine writing is a unique form of art that requires writers to carefully blend elements of storytelling, informative research, and reader engagement. Crafting an article for a magazine demands a flair for creative writing and an understanding of the submission process and the specific expectations of the magazine’s audience.

With a clear idea of the subject matter and a strong knack for storytelling, anyone can venture into the world of magazine writing and make a lasting impact on the readers.

The journey of writing a magazine article begins with understanding the fundamentals of magazine articles and their unique characteristics. It requires a thorough understanding of the target market, a well-defined topic, and an unmistakable voice to engage readers.

By focusing on these aspects, writers can create articles that resonate with a magazine’s audience, leading to potential ongoing collaborations and publication opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Magazine writing involves a blend of storytelling, research, and reader engagement.
  • Understanding the target audience and article topic is crucial to success.
  • Focusing on writing quality and a unique voice can lead to ongoing publication opportunities.

Understanding Magazine Articles

Types of magazine articles.

Magazine articles can differ significantly from newspaper articles or other forms of writing . Several types of magazine articles include features, profiles, news stories, and opinion pieces. Feature articles are in-depth stories that provide substantial information about a specific subject, often written by freelance writers.

Profiles focus on an individual or organization, showcasing their accomplishments or perspective. News stories are shorter pieces that report timely events and updates, while opinion pieces allow writers to share their viewpoints on relevant matters.

The Purpose of a Magazine Article

The primary purpose of a magazine article is to entertain, inform, or educate its readers in an engaging and visually appealing manner. Magazine writing is crafted with the reader in mind, considering their interests, knowledge level, and preferences.

The tone, structure, and style may vary depending on the target audience and the magazine’s genre. This approach allows for a more flexible, creative, and conversational writing form than news articles or research reports.

Magazine articles are an excellent medium for freelance writers to showcase their writing skills and expertise on specific subjects. Whether they’re writing feature articles, profiles, or opinion pieces, consistency, factual accuracy, and a strong connection with the reader are essential elements of successful magazine writing.

Developing Your Article Idea

Finding a story idea.

Developing a great article idea starts with finding a unique and compelling story. As a freelance writer, you must stay updated on current events, trends, and niche topics that can spark curiosity in the readers.

Browse newspapers, magazine websites, blogs, and social media platforms to stay informed and derive inspiration for your topic. Engage in conversation with others or join online forums and groups that cater to your subject area for fresh insights.

Remember to select a theme familiar to you or one with expertise. This approach strengthens your article’s credibility and offers readers a fresh perspective.

Pitching to Magazine Editors

Once you’ve generated a story idea, the next step is to pitch your concept to magazine editors. Start by researching and building a list of potential magazines or publications suited to your topic. Keep in mind the target audience and interests of each publication.

Instead of submitting a complete article, compose a concise and engaging query letter. This letter should encompass a brief introduction, the main idea of your article, your writing credentials, and any previously published work or relevant experience.

When crafting your pitch, aim for clarity and brevity. Magazine editors often receive numerous submissions, so make sure your pitch stands out.

Tailor the tone of your query letter according to the general style of the target magazine, and consider mentioning specific sections or columns you believe your article would fit.

Patience and persistence are key attributes of successful freelance writers. Always be prepared to pitch your article idea to different magazine editors, and do not hesitate to ask for feedback in case of rejection. Refining and adapting your story ideas will increase your chances of getting published.

Remember to follow the guidelines and protocols established by the magazine or publication when submitting your query letter or article pitches. Also, some magazines may prefer to work with writers with prior experience or published work in their portfolios.

Consider starting with smaller publications or creating a blog to build your credibility and portfolio. With a well-developed article idea and a strong pitch, you’re on the right path to becoming a successful magazine writer.

Writing the Article

The writing process.

The writing process for a magazine article generally involves detailed research, outlining, and drafting before arriving at the final piece. To create a compelling article, identify your target audience and understand their preferences.

This will allow you to tailor your content to suit their needs and expectations. Next, gather relevant information and conduct interviews with experts, if necessary.

Once you have enough material, create an outline, organizing your thoughts and ideas logically. This helps ensure a smooth flow and lets you focus on each section as you write.

Revising your work several times is essential, checking for grammar, punctuation, and clarity. Ensure your language is concise and straightforward, making it accessible to a broad range of readers.

Creating an Engaging Opening

An engaging opening is critical in capturing the reader’s attention and setting the tone for the entire article. Begin your piece with a strong hook, such as an intriguing anecdote, a surprising fact, or a thought-provoking question. This will entice readers to continue reading and maintain their interest throughout the piece.

Remember that different publications may have varying preferences, so tailor your opening accordingly.

Organizing Your Content

Organizing your content is essential in creating a coherent and easy-to-read article. Consider segmenting your piece into sub-sections, using headings to clarify the flow and make the content more digestible. Here are some tips for organizing your content effectively:

  • Utilize bullet points or numbered lists to convey information in a simple, organized manner
  • Highlight crucial points with bold text to draw readers’ attention
  • Use tables to present data or comparisons that may be difficult to express in plain text

As you organize your content, keep your target audience in mind and prioritize readability and comprehension. Avoid making exaggerated or false claims, damaging your credibility and negatively impacting the reader’s experience.

Remember to adhere to the submission guidelines provided by the magazine, as each publication may have different preferences and requirements. Following these steps and maintaining a clear, confident tone can create an engaging and informative magazine article that resonates with your readers.

Polishing Your Article

Proofreading and editing.

Before submitting your article to a magazine, ensure it is polished and error-free. Start by proofreading for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, making your article look more professional and credible. Using tools like grammar checkers is a good idea, but an experienced writer should also manually review their piece as the software might not detect some mistakes.

Editing your article is crucial, as it helps refine the structure and flow of your writing. Eliminate redundant or unnecessary words and reorganize paragraphs if needed. Consider asking a peer or a mentor to review it for an unbiased perspective.

Keep the magazine’s desired writing style in mind, and adapt your article suitably. For example, a news article may require a concise and informative tone, while a feature in a magazine on pop culture may call for a more conversational and engaging approach.

Using Appropriate Language and Style

To make your article stand out, it is essential to use appropriate language and style. Unlike online publication or social media writing, magazine journalism usually demands a more refined and professional tone. Focus on using a clear, neutral, knowledgeable voice conveying confidence and expertise.

Here are some tips to ensure your article fits the magazine’s desired style:

  • Ensure you have a compelling subject line that captures the reader’s attention.
  • Depending on the type of article you’re writing, decide if your piece should follow a more scholarly approach, like in a scholarly journal, or a more relaxed, opinion-based style found in lifestyle magazines.
  • Use relevant examples to support your points, but avoid making exaggerated or false claims.
  • Consider your audience and their interests. Choose the right vocabulary to engage them without making the content too pretentious or complicated.

By carefully proofreading and editing your work and using appropriate language and style, you can ensure your magazine article shines. Remember to stay true to your voice and the magazine’s requirements, and maintain a professional tone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key components of a magazine article.

A magazine article typically includes a headline, introduction, body, and conclusion. The headline should be striking and attention-grabbing to capture the reader’s interest. The introduction sets the context and tone of the piece while giving the reader a taste of what to expect.

The body of the article is where the main content and message are conveyed, with vital information, examples, and analysis.

The conclusion summarizes the article by summarizing the main points and often providing a call to action or a thought-provoking question.

What is an effective writing style for a magazine article?

An effective writing style for a magazine article should be clear, concise, and engaging. It is essential to cater to the target audience by using language that resonates with them and addressing relevant topics. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and easily digestible, and avoid jargon unless the publication targets industry professionals.

Adopting a conversational tone while maintaining professionalism usually works well in magazine writing.

How should the introduction be written for a magazine article?

The introduction of a magazine article should engage the reader right from the start by grabbing their attention with a hook. This can be an interesting anecdote, a fascinating fact, or a provocative question. The introduction should also establish the flow of the rest of the article by providing brief context or outlining the piece’s structure.

What are the best practices for structuring a magazine article?

The structure of a magazine article should be well-organized and easy to follow. This often means using subheadings, bullet points, or numbered lists to break up the text and emphasize important content. Start with the most important information, then move on to supporting details and background information. Maintain a logical, coherent flow between paragraphs, ensuring each section builds on the previous one.

How can I make my magazine article engaging and informative?

To make a magazine article engaging and informative, focus on finding the right balance between providing valuable information and keeping the reader entertained. Use anecdotes, personal stories, and real-life examples to make the content relatable and genuine. When applicable, include engaging visuals (such as photos or illustrations), as they aid comprehension and make the article more appealing. Finally, address the reader directly when possible, making them feel more involved in the narrative.

What are some useful tips for editing and proofreading a magazine article?

When editing and proofreading a magazine article, focus on the bigger picture, such as organization and flow. Ensure that the structure is logical and transitions are smooth and seamless. Then, move on to sentence-level editing, examining grammar, punctuation, and style consistency. Ensure that redundancies and jargon are eliminated and that the voice and tone match the target audience and publication. Lastly, proofread for typos and errors, preferably using a fresh pair of eyes or a professional editing tool.

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  • Write for Magazines: 21 Publications That Pay $500+ Per Assignment

Evan Jensen

1. AARP, The Magazine

2. alaska beyond, 3. the atlantic, 4. chatelaine magazine, 5. delta sky, 6. discover magazine, 7. early american life, 8. earth island journal, 9. eating well, 10. enroute, 11. family circle, 13. green entrepreneur, 14. hakai magazine, 15. hemispheres, 16. kitplanes, 17. liisbeth, 18. popular science, 20. smithsonian, 21. the sun, get paid to write for magazines.

Get Paid $500+ to Write for Magazines. Makealivingwriting.com

It’s a great way to make a living writing if you pitch the right publications. How about $500 or more per assignment?

If you’ve been cranking out magazine stories for $50 to $150 a pop, you may be wondering if that’s really even possible. That’s often the going rate for local, regional, or small-circulation magazines.

If you want to write for magazines, and have limited experience, these are great places to get some clips, and earn some money, but it shouldn’t be your last stop.

Many consumer and trade magazines pay $500 or more per assignment. And the pitching process is pretty much the same as smaller pubs:

  • Identify a magazine you want to write for
  • Study the submission guidelines
  • Develop a solid story idea
  • Do a little research and interview a source
  • Write a killer query letter, and pitch your story idea to an editor

If you can do that, you’ve got the chops to get paid well to write for any magazine on the market . But you need to know where to look for those $500-plus assignments. Check out these 21 magazines to find freelance writing jobs .

Here’s an interesting fact about the magazine published for readers over age 50. AARP has the highest circulation of any magazine in the United States, with more than 35 million subscribers.

That also means it pays well, on average $1/word or $1,500 per assignment. Publishes news, features, how-tos, and essays about money, health and fitness, food, travel, relationships, and more for over-50 readers.

AARP  may be a tough magazine to crack for newbies, but it’s not impossible. Smart networking efforts and a solid story idea helped Freelance Writers Den member Willi Morris land an assignment with AARP , one of her dream clients.

Contact: Senior Editor George Mannes or Features Editor George Blooston

Not all in-flight magazines openly publish writer’s guidelines, but  Alaska Beyond is one that does. About 75 percent of this magazine is written by freelancers. Best way to break in: Pitch a short piece for “The Feed” department. Then you’re a lot more likely to land higher paying assignments (up to $700) for travel, news, and feature stories.

Contact: Editor Paul Frichtl

If you want to write for The Atlantic , a magazine that covers news and analysis on politics, business, culture, technology, national, international and political life, read this by former Atlantic staffer Garance Franke-Ruta: “ How (not) to pitch: A guide for freelance writers .”

FYI –  The Atlantic is also open to working with new freelancers. It’s where Freelance Writers Den member Douglas Fitzpatrick landed his first magazine assignment as a newbie for a piece about the career trajectory of Donald Trump.

Want to write for  The Atlantic?  Study the magazine and  pitch an idea with a query first . Pays $150 to $1,600 depending on assignment.

Contact: See department staff info here

Chatelaine is a popular monthly women’s magazine in Canada that covers health and fitness, finance, social issues, fashion, beauty, food, and home decor. It’s target audience is active women ages 25 to 54.

“The Health section covers the latest news and studies, gives fitness and workout tips and explores hot-button issues,” says Managing Editor Laura Brown. Query with a story idea first. Pays an average of $1/word or $1,500 per assignment.

Contact:  Managing Editor Laura Brown

If you’re interested in writing for custom pubs for airlines, pitch the in-flight magazine Delta Sky . Carol Tice happens to be a regular contributor, including a  story in the November 2018 issue.

Pitch story ideas about food, sports, lifestyle, business, and travel (including international destinations). The current issue includes stories about destinations around the world like Seoul, Korea, Beijing, China, Grenada, and must-see places across the U.S.

Contact: Editor Sarah Elbert

If you customized your search in  Writer’s Market to find magazines that pay the highest rate, this is one that would rise to the top of the list. How about $2/word or $3,000 for a 1,500-word feature story.

This science-based magazines features stories about medical research, scientific breakthroughs, technology, physics, space travel, and even paleontology. Keep in mind it’s written for a lay audience, so academic language won’t get you an assignment.

Want to write for Discover? Here’s some advice from freelancer  Susan Etchey : “The only way a new writer has a chance to get the attention of its editors is to have an explosive, compelling untold science story to tell.”

Contact: Senior Editor  Gemma Tarlach  or another member of the  editorial team .

From colonization to life in the mid-1800s, this magazine features stories about history, architecture, antiques, crafts, and travel destinations for people interested in early American life.

In the most recent issue, you’ll learn about rolling pins from the Colonial era, the evolution of the bald eagle as America’s mascot, brewing in the 1700s, and more.

Know how to dig up the bones to pitch a story about early American life? It’s worth the effort. This pub pays an average of $500 to $2,000 per assignment.

Contact: Executive Editor Jenmarie Andrews

If you want to write for  Earth Island Journal , follow the first rule of writing for any magazine. Read it. Study back issues.

In the current issue, you’ll learn about Donald Trumps rhetoric about the environment, the trouble with hydroponic growing and our food supply, bee conservation, a curious new way to clean up trash, and more.

Pays an average of $1,000 per assignment for stories about science, technology, the environment, and people making a difference.

Contact: Editor Maureen Nandini Mitra

Get in line at the grocery story, and you might see this magazine on the news stand. But it’s not just a magazine filled with recipes, photos of tasty food, and tips for healthy eating.

There’s a lot more “meat” in the pages of Eating Well that explains the science behind the taste, textures, and flavors that make food delicious. If you can combine smart storytelling with science and food, write a query letter and pitch an idea.  Eating Well pays an average of $1/word.

Contact :  Associate Nutrition Editor Julia Westbrook  or another member of the editorial team.

Glamping, conservation efforts, fishing for a record-setting marlin, and a Canadian’s guide to the Louvre. Those are just a few of the the types of stories featured in Air Canad’s in-flight magazine enRoute.

“We engage our audience through intelligent writing, insight, humour and spot-on service journalism,” says Editor-in-chief Jean-François Légaré. Study the guidelines, back issues, and  media kit  before pitching a story idea.

Contact: Editor Caitlin Walsh Miller

How do you run a house, pursue a career, take care of kids, eat healthy, look good, and feel good? It’s the kind of answers you’ll find in the articles published in Family Circle magazine. It’s a national women’s magazine with a circulation of around 4.2 million readers, and a healthy budget to pay freelancers $1/word.

Need some story ideas? In the current issue, you’ll find stories about raising teenagers, the struggle to lose weight and keep it off, popular vacation spots for kids, and more

Contact:  Associate Editor Caroline Mullen or another member of the editorial staff .

Carol Tice spend over a decade writing about business, commerce, entrepreneurship, finance, and big businesses like Amazon and Microsoft. And it was the perfect proving ground for her to land a long-term gig writing for Forbes.

This business magazine is among the most recognized for publishing stories about the people, businesses, and trends in entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership, and more. And it’s good for freelancers. Forbes pays an average of $1/word and up.

In the most current issue, you’ll learn about tennis phenom Serena Williams smart investing strategies. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the deal to build Trump Tower. You’ll be exposed to a new perspective on climate change truths that may impact everyone’s bottom line, and more.

Contact: Senior Editor Susan Adams or another member of the editorial staff.

Last year, Entrepreneur  magazine launched  GreenEntrepreneur.com , to give readers that latest news about entrepreneurship, business, technology and lifestyle aspects of the cannabis industry.

“Rarely does a new industry explode with the exponential success that the legal marijuana trade has experienced,” Entrepreneur Media President Bill Shaw, said in a press release.

If you want to write for  Green Entrepreneur , study the guidelines and pitch a story idea about the cannabis industry. Pays up to $1.50/word.

Looking for story ideas? The latest buzz in Green Entrepreneur includes stories about a new weed vaporizor that may popularize smoking marijuana, a $400 million shopping spree spent on cannabis, the latest news about legalization, and more.

Contact:  Executive Editor Jonathan Small

If you want to write about archaeology, ecology, biology, geology, and oceanography of marine coastal environments, take a closer look at Hakai magazine.

You’ve got the chops to write for this magazine that pays up to $1/word if you have solid journalism experience, research skills, and the ability to interview sources.

“We are interested in great stories and strong voices,” says Editor Jude Isabella. “We tilt toward science and environmental stories, but we’re also interested in people and communities and how they interact with coastal ecosystems.”

Pitch short news stories about coastal environmental topics (500 to 800 words), or an in-depth feature (1,000 to 5,000 words).

If you can provide video (five minutes or less) or content for an infographic, to go with your story, your chances of acceptance go up.

Contact:   Editor Jude Isabella

The United Airlines in-flight magazine,  Hemispheres , happens to be one of two in-flight magazines listed in  Writer’s Market  listed with a $$$ pay rate.

Translation: This magazine pays freelancers an average of $750 to $1,500 per assignment. Publishes stories about global culture, adventure, business, entertainment, and sports .

Inside the current issue, you’ll find stories about must-see-and-do activities in Chicago, insights on life, career and relationships from actress Kristen Bell, moon-landing anniversary celebration tips, and more.

Contact: Editor Ellen Carpenter

This is what the Wright Brothers inspired more than 100 years ago:  build a plane from a kit, and fly it.

You might not think a highly-niche magazine with a small circulation (about 72,000 readers). But Kitplanes pays well enough to be included in this list, up to $1,000 per assignment.

Pitch story ideas about building and design, flight testing, construction techniques, personal experience, and features on the people and businesses who are involved in building personal aircraft.

Contact: Editor Paul Dye

Before you pitch a story idea to this feminist-focused magazine that covers entrepreneurship, innovation, social issues, and the politics and policies of business, be sure to read the LiisBeth Manifesto .

If you can pitch a story idea that jives with that about people and businesses making a difference, you’re on your way landing an assignment that pays up to $1,500 U.S. You best bet for a well-paid assignment…pitch a story idea for a profile, how-to, or investigative feature.

Contact:  Editor Margaret Webb — This email no longer works. Per the publication guidelines, you can send queries to [email protected] – or do some sleuthing and find another editor contact!

If science and technology writing for an educated lay audience is your niche, don’t waste another minute waiting to pitch Popular Science. It’s one of the oldest magazines still in existence with roots dating back to the late 1800s.

It’s got a circulation of about 1.5 million readers, and a healthy budget to pay freelancers. How about $2/word or $1,000-plus per assignment?

Need story ideas? In the current issue, you’ll read about new threats posed by the Zika virus, rapidly-evolving drone technology, a cookie-test kitchen in outer space, and more.

Contact: Senior Editor Rachel Feltman

When Sierra magazine editor Jason Mark stepped into his new role a few years ago, he had just walked through Nevada’s Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, surrounded by massive wildfires. That solo experience shaped his mission to lead this magazine dedicated to causes to protect the planet, natural spaces, and outdoor recreation.

“I keep thinking about that trip to the Sierra, which seems emblematic of the challenges facing the environmental movement today,” says Mark. “We want to celebrate and enjoy the big, open spaces we love. At the same time, we have to be always on guard to protect those places. ”

This is the magazine for Sierra Club members. Pitch story ideas about outdoor adventure, environmental issues, and people on a mission to “explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.” Pays $1/word and up per assignment.

Contact: Editor Jason Mark

Did you know the Smithsonian Institute includes 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and 2.7 million square feet of indoor space? There’s a lot to know and a lot to learn about the past, present and future of science, technology, the environment, and even the universe.

And you can write about it for the  Smithsonian  magazine and get paid well. The  Smithsonian  pays freelancers $1-$3/per word, which means a $500 assignment is more than realistic. So how do you break into this magazine?

“There has to be something surprising and narratively interesting there,” says  Senior Editor Jenny Rothenberg Gritz . “If the story is about the natural world, either the person you’re writing about has to be super charismatic and interesting, or something done about the issue has to be amazing.”

Contact: Associate Editor Thomas Stackpole or another member of the editorial staff.

Here’s an interesting way to differentiate yourself as a news and literary magazine…no advertising. That’s the Sun’s approach to focus on great writing.

This magazine has been around for 40-plus years, and is looking for essays, interviews, and story ideas about political and cultural issues. The Sun  pays up to $2,000 per assignment.

“We’ve been described in many ways,” says Editor and Publisher Sy Safransky. “Celebratory, fierce, unflinching, thoughtful, truthful, dark, darkly funny, tender.”

And it shows in recent articles on food inequalities in the U.S., an outsider’s view from inside the commercial fishing industry, the uncanny sense for home that dog’s have, and more.

Contact: Senior Editor Andrew Snee or another member of the editorial staff .

If you’re looking for magazines that pay $500 or more per assignment, this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Lots of magazines pay pro rates.

  • Check Writer’s Market (print or online) for more. Skip over the magazines that pay low rates, and focus those that pay $1/word or more.
  • Get in touch with the editors at custom pubs and trade magazines . These mags frequently work with freelance writers and pay pro rates, but aren’t as easy to find as consumer pubs in Writer’s Market .
  • Keep on pitching. Then work through the process to study the magazine, develop a story idea, and write a killer query letter. If you can do this for magazines that pay lower-rates, you can do it for bigger magazines that pay top dollar.

What well-paying magazines do you write for? Tell us in the comments below.

Evan Jensen is a contributing writer for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

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Writing an article

Topic outline.

The purpose of an article is often to inform and persuade the reader. 

Articles give the reader information about a certain topic, bringing together and discussing different perspectives to provide a balanced argument which lets the reader make up their own mind about the topic. 

Articles can also be used to persuade the reader that a certain viewpoint is correct. For example, articles in newspapers or magazines might express a particular viewpoint or perspective; this may be positive or negative depending on the topic. 

The ways you use language and organise your ideas when writing an article will depend on the audience and the purpose you are writing for.

  • think about the audience that the article is for – w hen writing an article, you do not usually know your readers personally and so you will need to think about their likely interests and experience before you write
  • how you expect, or want, your audience to react – re member that the tone of most articles should be semi-formal, so before deciding on your tone imagine your article being read out loud and how that might sound to your reader. For example, an article reviewing a film may be humorous, even sarcastic, but that would not work well for more serious readers or topics
  • the purpose for the article – is th e purpose, or reason, for writing your article to persuade your readers to agree with you or to invite your readers to think about different points of view and decide for themselves? For example, do you need to sound reliable and well informed, or choose words that strongly convey a particular emotion?
  • how to keep your readers interest – ima gine how boring it would be for your reader if you used the same kind of sentences and simple repetitive vocabulary all the way through your article. Try to include a range of grammatical structures and relevant vocabulary to make sure that your reader wants to keep reading.
  • Plan a route through your article before you start writing it – th e structure of an article is usually in three parts. For example:
  • An introduction – engage your reader’s interest and introduce your argument or the main points of the topic to be discussed.
  • A middle – develop relevant and interesting points about the topic to interest and/or convince your readers to think about a particular perspective.
  • An end – d raw your points together and leave your reader with a clear impression of the argument you want them to believe or the viewpoints you would like them to consider.
  • Organise your ideas into paragraphs as appropriate – this will help you to develop and support your points convincingly, to build your argument and/or offer a full explanation of a particular point of view.
  • Show your reader at a glance what your article is about – articles usually have a suitable headline to attract their readers’ attention and you can choose to use subheadings (a bit like mini headlines) to help break your article up and move your reader on. Do not overdo these, but well-chosen subheadings can help to catch and keep your reader’s attention, as well as sum up the main points you are making.
  • Show the connections between ideas in sentences and paragraphs – for example, where a new point or idea follows on from what you have already said you might use linking words or phrases such as, 'in addition’, ‘likewise’ or ‘similarly’.
  • Example of an article

write an article for publication in an international food magazine

More From Forbes

Beloved food magazine saveur is back in print.

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Olga Bacha is a cook at Beit Douma, a 19th-century villa in rural Douma, Lebanon

If you know, you know.

Many of us tip-toeing around the hospitality industry were devastated when SAVEUR turned its last page three years ago after more than twenty-five years as one of the most sought after food magazines in print. The rich imagery and international focus within its pages was enough to make avid subscribers feel like it was their birthday each time an issue arrived. And, though many of us have made peace with the world of food media online—another beast to contend with having plenty of pros and cons—there is simply nothing like diving into to a full print magazine. Complete with meaty stories, vibrant photography, lush paper, and enticing recipes, the act of reading a well-made magazine is an occasion all its own.

Well, Bienvenue ! It is time to grab the fuzzy slippers or cocktail attire and celebrate because SAVEUR is back and has just released its new issue. Forbes had the pleasure of sitting with Editor-in-Chief Kat Craddock to discuss the experience of breathing new life into the magazine.

Forbes : So, what can old and new fans look forward to in the new SAVEUR?

Craddock : Like any legacy pub that's been around for so long, SAVEUR has evolved over the years. In working on this relaunch, our team spent a lot of time in our archives, and we leaned hard into the parts of the magazine that still sparkle from back in the 90s and early aughts—of course our founding editors' emphasis on global cuisine, lots of luxe, ambitious original photography, and also some of the more widely loved story rubrics and design details. We have many loyal readers who have stuck with us since the beginning and some have remarked on the “vintage SAVEUR” vibe underpinning the new issue.

SAVEUR Editor-in-Chief, Kat Craddock

Forbes: Indeed. I myself have held onto several old issues because the aesthetic was so appealing and one issue contained so much. It was like being able to travel without leaving your house.

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Craddock: That said, we're operating under a very new business model now. And the way we—as a society—report and write about food and other cultures has evolved too. While we're tapping into nostalgia, I had no intention of copy-pasting a template just because it was groundbreaking in 1994. There are some OG SAVEUR writers and photographers in the mix, and there are a lot of new voices in the issue too, and we are working more with creative talent based in the places we're covering.

Forbes: And some of the differences?

Craddock: For one, the advertising market is vastly different than it was 30, even 10 years ago. And, there are obviously a lot of things that digital media does better than print—so for a print publication to succeed, it has to be built around the types of content that don't necessarily translate to a screen. We're playing around a lot with scale—both in terms of photography and illustration, and also in long- and super-short-format storytelling.

Every issue will also include a hand-inserted collectible recipe card illustrated by a different artist. We also thought a lot about the nuances of paper quality, printing, binding. Thin paper tears, shows through, feels cheap and disposable—but when paper stock gets too thick, it starts feeling like a text book or promotional pamphlet, and loses some of its “magazine-y” charm. A lot of SAVEUR readers are collectors who keep their magazines around and cook out of them for years, so we worked closely with an art book printer to make issues that are going to last , to hold together, and to keep looking beautiful, but that still feel like something you can roll up, tuck in a bag, and bring on a plane or to the beach.

From the Eat The World/Destination section on Marseille in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue out now.

Forbes: What challenges do you think you’ll face or have already faced in bringing SAVEUR back to print?

Craddock: Starting the print part of the business back up from scratch was incredibly liberating but also very scary, so I'm thrilled at how well it has been received. The way we're printing is expensive and it's important to me that we're compensating our contributors fairly. By traditional standards, of course I know that $25 is expensive for a magazine.

Forbes: You have an interesting perspective having been on various sides of the industry, from restaurants and kitchens to writing and publishing.

Craddock: [Yes] , I worked in restaurant kitchens for 10 years and I'm sensitive to the fact that a lot of our most loyal readers are in the F&B industry, that they may not have a lot of expendable income. Our new price point is in-line with many of the other indie pubs out there, but we're a legacy brand that sold for a lot less in previous iterations. We had to work hard on making a product that looked and felt luxurious, and “worth it.” I think we did! We're actually completely sold out of this issue (although copies are still available at retailers across the US ).

Forbes: Are there any other extensions you are planning to add to the world of SAVEUR like events, etc.?

Craddock: Oh my gosh, so many events! Back before the pandemic, we had a great dinner series going in our old test kitchen space. Now that our team is remote, we're expanding on the old SAVEUR Suppers model to include Salons and Soirées outside of our home base in New York as well. As we promote the relaunch this spring and summer, many of our events will be cohosted with our new retail partners. We'll be popping up in the cellar space over at Murray's Cheese in New York and at Colibri in Portland, next month, then we'll be doing events with Market Hall Foods [in Oakland] and Hi Desert Times [Twentynine Palms] in California in May. Maybe a few more later in the summer.

Forbes: There are products too, right?

Craddock: Our licensed cookware business is still humming along nicely—we recently launched a new carbon steel line that is my personal favorite—and we partnered with the guys over at Burlap & Barrel on a trio of spice blends inspired by three of the most popular recipes in our archives. Our travel editor, Benjamin Kemper, spent the last year growing our online destination-driven service content—travel is an important part of our brand and there's a lot we can offer in that space that clearly differentiates SAVEUR from other food brands.

Forbes: And “Place Settings,” the podcast?

Craddock: [The podcast] is on a back burner but definitely still simmering, and we're developing a new pod concept tied to our events programming as well. Our team is tiny and our focus has been centered around the print relaunch over the past year; now that those new systems are in place, we're gearing up to leverage experiential and multimedia programming to support and promote our print and digital content.

Forbes: Thanks so much for sharing such insight on the new SAVEUR.

With 164 pages, 30 recipes, and reporting from 10 countries, the new issue is packed with a book’s worth of culinary stories and adventures. From Lebanon, Marseille, and Puglia, to Nara, West Africa, and Colombia—not to mention towns across the U.S.— readers have a few months to devour this new issue before the Fall/Winter edition hits stands later this year.

More from the Eat The World/Destination section on Marseille; pictured here is an apero of marinated ... [+] anchovies and natural wine with the sommelier-chef duo, Nickola Tur and Max Tuckwell of Ivresse wine bar.

Note: I have the great pleasure of being a future contributor in Saveur’s Fall/Winter 2024 issue.

Kristin L. Wolfe

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  • Published: 26 March 2024

Predicting and improving complex beer flavor through machine learning

  • Michiel Schreurs   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9449-5619 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Supinya Piampongsant 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Miguel Roncoroni   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7461-1427 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Lloyd Cool   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9936-3124 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ,
  • Beatriz Herrera-Malaver   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5096-9974 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Christophe Vanderaa   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7443-5427 4 ,
  • Florian A. Theßeling 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Łukasz Kreft   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7620-4657 5 ,
  • Alexander Botzki   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-6691-4233 5 ,
  • Philippe Malcorps 6 ,
  • Luk Daenen 6 ,
  • Tom Wenseleers   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-1434-861X 4 &
  • Kevin J. Verstrepen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3077-6219 1 , 2 , 3  

Nature Communications volume  15 , Article number:  2368 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Chemical engineering
  • Gas chromatography
  • Machine learning
  • Metabolomics
  • Taste receptors

The perception and appreciation of food flavor depends on many interacting chemical compounds and external factors, and therefore proves challenging to understand and predict. Here, we combine extensive chemical and sensory analyses of 250 different beers to train machine learning models that allow predicting flavor and consumer appreciation. For each beer, we measure over 200 chemical properties, perform quantitative descriptive sensory analysis with a trained tasting panel and map data from over 180,000 consumer reviews to train 10 different machine learning models. The best-performing algorithm, Gradient Boosting, yields models that significantly outperform predictions based on conventional statistics and accurately predict complex food features and consumer appreciation from chemical profiles. Model dissection allows identifying specific and unexpected compounds as drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Adding these compounds results in variants of commercial alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers with improved consumer appreciation. Together, our study reveals how big data and machine learning uncover complex links between food chemistry, flavor and consumer perception, and lays the foundation to develop novel, tailored foods with superior flavors.

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Introduction

Predicting and understanding food perception and appreciation is one of the major challenges in food science. Accurate modeling of food flavor and appreciation could yield important opportunities for both producers and consumers, including quality control, product fingerprinting, counterfeit detection, spoilage detection, and the development of new products and product combinations (food pairing) 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 . Accurate models for flavor and consumer appreciation would contribute greatly to our scientific understanding of how humans perceive and appreciate flavor. Moreover, accurate predictive models would also facilitate and standardize existing food assessment methods and could supplement or replace assessments by trained and consumer tasting panels, which are variable, expensive and time-consuming 7 , 8 , 9 . Lastly, apart from providing objective, quantitative, accurate and contextual information that can help producers, models can also guide consumers in understanding their personal preferences 10 .

Despite the myriad of applications, predicting food flavor and appreciation from its chemical properties remains a largely elusive goal in sensory science, especially for complex food and beverages 11 , 12 . A key obstacle is the immense number of flavor-active chemicals underlying food flavor. Flavor compounds can vary widely in chemical structure and concentration, making them technically challenging and labor-intensive to quantify, even in the face of innovations in metabolomics, such as non-targeted metabolic fingerprinting 13 , 14 . Moreover, sensory analysis is perhaps even more complicated. Flavor perception is highly complex, resulting from hundreds of different molecules interacting at the physiochemical and sensorial level. Sensory perception is often non-linear, characterized by complex and concentration-dependent synergistic and antagonistic effects 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 that are further convoluted by the genetics, environment, culture and psychology of consumers 22 , 23 , 24 . Perceived flavor is therefore difficult to measure, with problems of sensitivity, accuracy, and reproducibility that can only be resolved by gathering sufficiently large datasets 25 . Trained tasting panels are considered the prime source of quality sensory data, but require meticulous training, are low throughput and high cost. Public databases containing consumer reviews of food products could provide a valuable alternative, especially for studying appreciation scores, which do not require formal training 25 . Public databases offer the advantage of amassing large amounts of data, increasing the statistical power to identify potential drivers of appreciation. However, public datasets suffer from biases, including a bias in the volunteers that contribute to the database, as well as confounding factors such as price, cult status and psychological conformity towards previous ratings of the product.

Classical multivariate statistics and machine learning methods have been used to predict flavor of specific compounds by, for example, linking structural properties of a compound to its potential biological activities or linking concentrations of specific compounds to sensory profiles 1 , 26 . Importantly, most previous studies focused on predicting organoleptic properties of single compounds (often based on their chemical structure) 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , thus ignoring the fact that these compounds are present in a complex matrix in food or beverages and excluding complex interactions between compounds. Moreover, the classical statistics commonly used in sensory science 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 require a large sample size and sufficient variance amongst predictors to create accurate models. They are not fit for studying an extensive set of hundreds of interacting flavor compounds, since they are sensitive to outliers, have a high tendency to overfit and are less suited for non-linear and discontinuous relationships 40 .

In this study, we combine extensive chemical analyses and sensory data of a set of different commercial beers with machine learning approaches to develop models that predict taste, smell, mouthfeel and appreciation from compound concentrations. Beer is particularly suited to model the relationship between chemistry, flavor and appreciation. First, beer is a complex product, consisting of thousands of flavor compounds that partake in complex sensory interactions 41 , 42 , 43 . This chemical diversity arises from the raw materials (malt, yeast, hops, water and spices) and biochemical conversions during the brewing process (kilning, mashing, boiling, fermentation, maturation and aging) 44 , 45 . Second, the advent of the internet saw beer consumers embrace online review platforms, such as RateBeer (ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV) and BeerAdvocate (Next Glass, inc.). In this way, the beer community provides massive data sets of beer flavor and appreciation scores, creating extraordinarily large sensory databases to complement the analyses of our professional sensory panel. Specifically, we characterize over 200 chemical properties of 250 commercial beers, spread across 22 beer styles, and link these to the descriptive sensory profiling data of a 16-person in-house trained tasting panel and data acquired from over 180,000 public consumer reviews. These unique and extensive datasets enable us to train a suite of machine learning models to predict flavor and appreciation from a beer’s chemical profile. Dissection of the best-performing models allows us to pinpoint specific compounds as potential drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Follow-up experiments confirm the importance of these compounds and ultimately allow us to significantly improve the flavor and appreciation of selected commercial beers. Together, our study represents a significant step towards understanding complex flavors and reinforces the value of machine learning to develop and refine complex foods. In this way, it represents a stepping stone for further computer-aided food engineering applications 46 .

To generate a comprehensive dataset on beer flavor, we selected 250 commercial Belgian beers across 22 different beer styles (Supplementary Fig.  S1 ). Beers with ≤ 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) were classified as non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic. Blonds and Tripels constitute a significant portion of the dataset (12.4% and 11.2%, respectively) reflecting their presence on the Belgian beer market and the heterogeneity of beers within these styles. By contrast, lager beers are less diverse and dominated by a handful of brands. Rare styles such as Brut or Faro make up only a small fraction of the dataset (2% and 1%, respectively) because fewer of these beers are produced and because they are dominated by distinct characteristics in terms of flavor and chemical composition.

Extensive analysis identifies relationships between chemical compounds in beer

For each beer, we measured 226 different chemical properties, including common brewing parameters such as alcohol content, iso-alpha acids, pH, sugar concentration 47 , and over 200 flavor compounds (Methods, Supplementary Table  S1 ). A large portion (37.2%) are terpenoids arising from hopping, responsible for herbal and fruity flavors 16 , 48 . A second major category are yeast metabolites, such as esters and alcohols, that result in fruity and solvent notes 48 , 49 , 50 . Other measured compounds are primarily derived from malt, or other microbes such as non- Saccharomyces yeasts and bacteria (‘wild flora’). Compounds that arise from spices or staling are labeled under ‘Others’. Five attributes (caloric value, total acids and total ester, hop aroma and sulfur compounds) are calculated from multiple individually measured compounds.

As a first step in identifying relationships between chemical properties, we determined correlations between the concentrations of the compounds (Fig.  1 , upper panel, Supplementary Data  1 and 2 , and Supplementary Fig.  S2 . For the sake of clarity, only a subset of the measured compounds is shown in Fig.  1 ). Compounds of the same origin typically show a positive correlation, while absence of correlation hints at parameters varying independently. For example, the hop aroma compounds citronellol, and alpha-terpineol show moderate correlations with each other (Spearman’s rho=0.39 and 0.57), but not with the bittering hop component iso-alpha acids (Spearman’s rho=0.16 and −0.07). This illustrates how brewers can independently modify hop aroma and bitterness by selecting hop varieties and dosage time. If hops are added early in the boiling phase, chemical conversions increase bitterness while aromas evaporate, conversely, late addition of hops preserves aroma but limits bitterness 51 . Similarly, hop-derived iso-alpha acids show a strong anti-correlation with lactic acid and acetic acid, likely reflecting growth inhibition of lactic acid and acetic acid bacteria, or the consequent use of fewer hops in sour beer styles, such as West Flanders ales and Fruit beers, that rely on these bacteria for their distinct flavors 52 . Finally, yeast-derived esters (ethyl acetate, ethyl decanoate, ethyl hexanoate, ethyl octanoate) and alcohols (ethanol, isoamyl alcohol, isobutanol, and glycerol), correlate with Spearman coefficients above 0.5, suggesting that these secondary metabolites are correlated with the yeast genetic background and/or fermentation parameters and may be difficult to influence individually, although the choice of yeast strain may offer some control 53 .

figure 1

Spearman rank correlations are shown. Descriptors are grouped according to their origin (malt (blue), hops (green), yeast (red), wild flora (yellow), Others (black)), and sensory aspect (aroma, taste, palate, and overall appreciation). Please note that for the chemical compounds, for the sake of clarity, only a subset of the total number of measured compounds is shown, with an emphasis on the key compounds for each source. For more details, see the main text and Methods section. Chemical data can be found in Supplementary Data  1 , correlations between all chemical compounds are depicted in Supplementary Fig.  S2 and correlation values can be found in Supplementary Data  2 . See Supplementary Data  4 for sensory panel assessments and Supplementary Data  5 for correlation values between all sensory descriptors.

Interestingly, different beer styles show distinct patterns for some flavor compounds (Supplementary Fig.  S3 ). These observations agree with expectations for key beer styles, and serve as a control for our measurements. For instance, Stouts generally show high values for color (darker), while hoppy beers contain elevated levels of iso-alpha acids, compounds associated with bitter hop taste. Acetic and lactic acid are not prevalent in most beers, with notable exceptions such as Kriek, Lambic, Faro, West Flanders ales and Flanders Old Brown, which use acid-producing bacteria ( Lactobacillus and Pediococcus ) or unconventional yeast ( Brettanomyces ) 54 , 55 . Glycerol, ethanol and esters show similar distributions across all beer styles, reflecting their common origin as products of yeast metabolism during fermentation 45 , 53 . Finally, low/no-alcohol beers contain low concentrations of glycerol and esters. This is in line with the production process for most of the low/no-alcohol beers in our dataset, which are produced through limiting fermentation or by stripping away alcohol via evaporation or dialysis, with both methods having the unintended side-effect of reducing the amount of flavor compounds in the final beer 56 , 57 .

Besides expected associations, our data also reveals less trivial associations between beer styles and specific parameters. For example, geraniol and citronellol, two monoterpenoids responsible for citrus, floral and rose flavors and characteristic of Citra hops, are found in relatively high amounts in Christmas, Saison, and Brett/co-fermented beers, where they may originate from terpenoid-rich spices such as coriander seeds instead of hops 58 .

Tasting panel assessments reveal sensorial relationships in beer

To assess the sensory profile of each beer, a trained tasting panel evaluated each of the 250 beers for 50 sensory attributes, including different hop, malt and yeast flavors, off-flavors and spices. Panelists used a tasting sheet (Supplementary Data  3 ) to score the different attributes. Panel consistency was evaluated by repeating 12 samples across different sessions and performing ANOVA. In 95% of cases no significant difference was found across sessions ( p  > 0.05), indicating good panel consistency (Supplementary Table  S2 ).

Aroma and taste perception reported by the trained panel are often linked (Fig.  1 , bottom left panel and Supplementary Data  4 and 5 ), with high correlations between hops aroma and taste (Spearman’s rho=0.83). Bitter taste was found to correlate with hop aroma and taste in general (Spearman’s rho=0.80 and 0.69), and particularly with “grassy” noble hops (Spearman’s rho=0.75). Barnyard flavor, most often associated with sour beers, is identified together with stale hops (Spearman’s rho=0.97) that are used in these beers. Lactic and acetic acid, which often co-occur, are correlated (Spearman’s rho=0.66). Interestingly, sweetness and bitterness are anti-correlated (Spearman’s rho = −0.48), confirming the hypothesis that they mask each other 59 , 60 . Beer body is highly correlated with alcohol (Spearman’s rho = 0.79), and overall appreciation is found to correlate with multiple aspects that describe beer mouthfeel (alcohol, carbonation; Spearman’s rho= 0.32, 0.39), as well as with hop and ester aroma intensity (Spearman’s rho=0.39 and 0.35).

Similar to the chemical analyses, sensorial analyses confirmed typical features of specific beer styles (Supplementary Fig.  S4 ). For example, sour beers (Faro, Flanders Old Brown, Fruit beer, Kriek, Lambic, West Flanders ale) were rated acidic, with flavors of both acetic and lactic acid. Hoppy beers were found to be bitter and showed hop-associated aromas like citrus and tropical fruit. Malt taste is most detected among scotch, stout/porters, and strong ales, while low/no-alcohol beers, which often have a reputation for being ‘worty’ (reminiscent of unfermented, sweet malt extract) appear in the middle. Unsurprisingly, hop aromas are most strongly detected among hoppy beers. Like its chemical counterpart (Supplementary Fig.  S3 ), acidity shows a right-skewed distribution, with the most acidic beers being Krieks, Lambics, and West Flanders ales.

Tasting panel assessments of specific flavors correlate with chemical composition

We find that the concentrations of several chemical compounds strongly correlate with specific aroma or taste, as evaluated by the tasting panel (Fig.  2 , Supplementary Fig.  S5 , Supplementary Data  6 ). In some cases, these correlations confirm expectations and serve as a useful control for data quality. For example, iso-alpha acids, the bittering compounds in hops, strongly correlate with bitterness (Spearman’s rho=0.68), while ethanol and glycerol correlate with tasters’ perceptions of alcohol and body, the mouthfeel sensation of fullness (Spearman’s rho=0.82/0.62 and 0.72/0.57 respectively) and darker color from roasted malts is a good indication of malt perception (Spearman’s rho=0.54).

figure 2

Heatmap colors indicate Spearman’s Rho. Axes are organized according to sensory categories (aroma, taste, mouthfeel, overall), chemical categories and chemical sources in beer (malt (blue), hops (green), yeast (red), wild flora (yellow), Others (black)). See Supplementary Data  6 for all correlation values.

Interestingly, for some relationships between chemical compounds and perceived flavor, correlations are weaker than expected. For example, the rose-smelling phenethyl acetate only weakly correlates with floral aroma. This hints at more complex relationships and interactions between compounds and suggests a need for a more complex model than simple correlations. Lastly, we uncovered unexpected correlations. For instance, the esters ethyl decanoate and ethyl octanoate appear to correlate slightly with hop perception and bitterness, possibly due to their fruity flavor. Iron is anti-correlated with hop aromas and bitterness, most likely because it is also anti-correlated with iso-alpha acids. This could be a sign of metal chelation of hop acids 61 , given that our analyses measure unbound hop acids and total iron content, or could result from the higher iron content in dark and Fruit beers, which typically have less hoppy and bitter flavors 62 .

Public consumer reviews complement expert panel data

To complement and expand the sensory data of our trained tasting panel, we collected 180,000 reviews of our 250 beers from the online consumer review platform RateBeer. This provided numerical scores for beer appearance, aroma, taste, palate, overall quality as well as the average overall score.

Public datasets are known to suffer from biases, such as price, cult status and psychological conformity towards previous ratings of a product. For example, prices correlate with appreciation scores for these online consumer reviews (rho=0.49, Supplementary Fig.  S6 ), but not for our trained tasting panel (rho=0.19). This suggests that prices affect consumer appreciation, which has been reported in wine 63 , while blind tastings are unaffected. Moreover, we observe that some beer styles, like lagers and non-alcoholic beers, generally receive lower scores, reflecting that online reviewers are mostly beer aficionados with a preference for specialty beers over lager beers. In general, we find a modest correlation between our trained panel’s overall appreciation score and the online consumer appreciation scores (Fig.  3 , rho=0.29). Apart from the aforementioned biases in the online datasets, serving temperature, sample freshness and surroundings, which are all tightly controlled during the tasting panel sessions, can vary tremendously across online consumers and can further contribute to (among others, appreciation) differences between the two categories of tasters. Importantly, in contrast to the overall appreciation scores, for many sensory aspects the results from the professional panel correlated well with results obtained from RateBeer reviews. Correlations were highest for features that are relatively easy to recognize even for untrained tasters, like bitterness, sweetness, alcohol and malt aroma (Fig.  3 and below).

figure 3

RateBeer text mining results can be found in Supplementary Data  7 . Rho values shown are Spearman correlation values, with asterisks indicating significant correlations ( p  < 0.05, two-sided). All p values were smaller than 0.001, except for Esters aroma (0.0553), Esters taste (0.3275), Esters aroma—banana (0.0019), Coriander (0.0508) and Diacetyl (0.0134).

Besides collecting consumer appreciation from these online reviews, we developed automated text analysis tools to gather additional data from review texts (Supplementary Data  7 ). Processing review texts on the RateBeer database yielded comparable results to the scores given by the trained panel for many common sensory aspects, including acidity, bitterness, sweetness, alcohol, malt, and hop tastes (Fig.  3 ). This is in line with what would be expected, since these attributes require less training for accurate assessment and are less influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, serving glass and odors in the environment. Consumer reviews also correlate well with our trained panel for 4-vinyl guaiacol, a compound associated with a very characteristic aroma. By contrast, correlations for more specific aromas like ester, coriander or diacetyl are underrepresented in the online reviews, underscoring the importance of using a trained tasting panel and standardized tasting sheets with explicit factors to be scored for evaluating specific aspects of a beer. Taken together, our results suggest that public reviews are trustworthy for some, but not all, flavor features and can complement or substitute taste panel data for these sensory aspects.

Models can predict beer sensory profiles from chemical data

The rich datasets of chemical analyses, tasting panel assessments and public reviews gathered in the first part of this study provided us with a unique opportunity to develop predictive models that link chemical data to sensorial features. Given the complexity of beer flavor, basic statistical tools such as correlations or linear regression may not always be the most suitable for making accurate predictions. Instead, we applied different machine learning models that can model both simple linear and complex interactive relationships. Specifically, we constructed a set of regression models to predict (a) trained panel scores for beer flavor and quality and (b) public reviews’ appreciation scores from beer chemical profiles. We trained and tested 10 different models (Methods), 3 linear regression-based models (simple linear regression with first-order interactions (LR), lasso regression with first-order interactions (Lasso), partial least squares regressor (PLSR)), 5 decision tree models (AdaBoost regressor (ABR), extra trees (ET), gradient boosting regressor (GBR), random forest (RF) and XGBoost regressor (XGBR)), 1 support vector regression (SVR), and 1 artificial neural network (ANN) model.

To compare the performance of our machine learning models, the dataset was randomly split into a training and test set, stratified by beer style. After a model was trained on data in the training set, its performance was evaluated on its ability to predict the test dataset obtained from multi-output models (based on the coefficient of determination, see Methods). Additionally, individual-attribute models were ranked per descriptor and the average rank was calculated, as proposed by Korneva et al. 64 . Importantly, both ways of evaluating the models’ performance agreed in general. Performance of the different models varied (Table  1 ). It should be noted that all models perform better at predicting RateBeer results than results from our trained tasting panel. One reason could be that sensory data is inherently variable, and this variability is averaged out with the large number of public reviews from RateBeer. Additionally, all tree-based models perform better at predicting taste than aroma. Linear models (LR) performed particularly poorly, with negative R 2 values, due to severe overfitting (training set R 2  = 1). Overfitting is a common issue in linear models with many parameters and limited samples, especially with interaction terms further amplifying the number of parameters. L1 regularization (Lasso) successfully overcomes this overfitting, out-competing multiple tree-based models on the RateBeer dataset. Similarly, the dimensionality reduction of PLSR avoids overfitting and improves performance, to some extent. Still, tree-based models (ABR, ET, GBR, RF and XGBR) show the best performance, out-competing the linear models (LR, Lasso, PLSR) commonly used in sensory science 65 .

GBR models showed the best overall performance in predicting sensory responses from chemical information, with R 2 values up to 0.75 depending on the predicted sensory feature (Supplementary Table  S4 ). The GBR models predict consumer appreciation (RateBeer) better than our trained panel’s appreciation (R 2 value of 0.67 compared to R 2 value of 0.09) (Supplementary Table  S3 and Supplementary Table  S4 ). ANN models showed intermediate performance, likely because neural networks typically perform best with larger datasets 66 . The SVR shows intermediate performance, mostly due to the weak predictions of specific attributes that lower the overall performance (Supplementary Table  S4 ).

Model dissection identifies specific, unexpected compounds as drivers of consumer appreciation

Next, we leveraged our models to infer important contributors to sensory perception and consumer appreciation. Consumer preference is a crucial sensory aspects, because a product that shows low consumer appreciation scores often does not succeed commercially 25 . Additionally, the requirement for a large number of representative evaluators makes consumer trials one of the more costly and time-consuming aspects of product development. Hence, a model for predicting chemical drivers of overall appreciation would be a welcome addition to the available toolbox for food development and optimization.

Since GBR models on our RateBeer dataset showed the best overall performance, we focused on these models. Specifically, we used two approaches to identify important contributors. First, rankings of the most important predictors for each sensorial trait in the GBR models were obtained based on impurity-based feature importance (mean decrease in impurity). High-ranked parameters were hypothesized to be either the true causal chemical properties underlying the trait, to correlate with the actual causal properties, or to take part in sensory interactions affecting the trait 67 (Fig.  4A ). In a second approach, we used SHAP 68 to determine which parameters contributed most to the model for making predictions of consumer appreciation (Fig.  4B ). SHAP calculates parameter contributions to model predictions on a per-sample basis, which can be aggregated into an importance score.

figure 4

A The impurity-based feature importance (mean deviance in impurity, MDI) calculated from the Gradient Boosting Regression (GBR) model predicting RateBeer appreciation scores. The top 15 highest ranked chemical properties are shown. B SHAP summary plot for the top 15 parameters contributing to our GBR model. Each point on the graph represents a sample from our dataset. The color represents the concentration of that parameter, with bluer colors representing low values and redder colors representing higher values. Greater absolute values on the horizontal axis indicate a higher impact of the parameter on the prediction of the model. C Spearman correlations between the 15 most important chemical properties and consumer overall appreciation. Numbers indicate the Spearman Rho correlation coefficient, and the rank of this correlation compared to all other correlations. The top 15 important compounds were determined using SHAP (panel B).

Both approaches identified ethyl acetate as the most predictive parameter for beer appreciation (Fig.  4 ). Ethyl acetate is the most abundant ester in beer with a typical ‘fruity’, ‘solvent’ and ‘alcoholic’ flavor, but is often considered less important than other esters like isoamyl acetate. The second most important parameter identified by SHAP is ethanol, the most abundant beer compound after water. Apart from directly contributing to beer flavor and mouthfeel, ethanol drastically influences the physical properties of beer, dictating how easily volatile compounds escape the beer matrix to contribute to beer aroma 69 . Importantly, it should also be noted that the importance of ethanol for appreciation is likely inflated by the very low appreciation scores of non-alcoholic beers (Supplementary Fig.  S4 ). Despite not often being considered a driver of beer appreciation, protein level also ranks highly in both approaches, possibly due to its effect on mouthfeel and body 70 . Lactic acid, which contributes to the tart taste of sour beers, is the fourth most important parameter identified by SHAP, possibly due to the generally high appreciation of sour beers in our dataset.

Interestingly, some of the most important predictive parameters for our model are not well-established as beer flavors or are even commonly regarded as being negative for beer quality. For example, our models identify methanethiol and ethyl phenyl acetate, an ester commonly linked to beer staling 71 , as a key factor contributing to beer appreciation. Although there is no doubt that high concentrations of these compounds are considered unpleasant, the positive effects of modest concentrations are not yet known 72 , 73 .

To compare our approach to conventional statistics, we evaluated how well the 15 most important SHAP-derived parameters correlate with consumer appreciation (Fig.  4C ). Interestingly, only 6 of the properties derived by SHAP rank amongst the top 15 most correlated parameters. For some chemical compounds, the correlations are so low that they would have likely been considered unimportant. For example, lactic acid, the fourth most important parameter, shows a bimodal distribution for appreciation, with sour beers forming a separate cluster, that is missed entirely by the Spearman correlation. Additionally, the correlation plots reveal outliers, emphasizing the need for robust analysis tools. Together, this highlights the need for alternative models, like the Gradient Boosting model, that better grasp the complexity of (beer) flavor.

Finally, to observe the relationships between these chemical properties and their predicted targets, partial dependence plots were constructed for the six most important predictors of consumer appreciation 74 , 75 , 76 (Supplementary Fig.  S7 ). One-way partial dependence plots show how a change in concentration affects the predicted appreciation. These plots reveal an important limitation of our models: appreciation predictions remain constant at ever-increasing concentrations. This implies that once a threshold concentration is reached, further increasing the concentration does not affect appreciation. This is false, as it is well-documented that certain compounds become unpleasant at high concentrations, including ethyl acetate (‘nail polish’) 77 and methanethiol (‘sulfury’ and ‘rotten cabbage’) 78 . The inability of our models to grasp that flavor compounds have optimal levels, above which they become negative, is a consequence of working with commercial beer brands where (off-)flavors are rarely too high to negatively impact the product. The two-way partial dependence plots show how changing the concentration of two compounds influences predicted appreciation, visualizing their interactions (Supplementary Fig.  S7 ). In our case, the top 5 parameters are dominated by additive or synergistic interactions, with high concentrations for both compounds resulting in the highest predicted appreciation.

To assess the robustness of our best-performing models and model predictions, we performed 100 iterations of the GBR, RF and ET models. In general, all iterations of the models yielded similar performance (Supplementary Fig.  S8 ). Moreover, the main predictors (including the top predictors ethanol and ethyl acetate) remained virtually the same, especially for GBR and RF. For the iterations of the ET model, we did observe more variation in the top predictors, which is likely a consequence of the model’s inherent random architecture in combination with co-correlations between certain predictors. However, even in this case, several of the top predictors (ethanol and ethyl acetate) remain unchanged, although their rank in importance changes (Supplementary Fig.  S8 ).

Next, we investigated if a combination of RateBeer and trained panel data into one consolidated dataset would lead to stronger models, under the hypothesis that such a model would suffer less from bias in the datasets. A GBR model was trained to predict appreciation on the combined dataset. This model underperformed compared to the RateBeer model, both in the native case and when including a dataset identifier (R 2  = 0.67, 0.26 and 0.42 respectively). For the latter, the dataset identifier is the most important feature (Supplementary Fig.  S9 ), while most of the feature importance remains unchanged, with ethyl acetate and ethanol ranking highest, like in the original model trained only on RateBeer data. It seems that the large variation in the panel dataset introduces noise, weakening the models’ performances and reliability. In addition, it seems reasonable to assume that both datasets are fundamentally different, with the panel dataset obtained by blind tastings by a trained professional panel.

Lastly, we evaluated whether beer style identifiers would further enhance the model’s performance. A GBR model was trained with parameters that explicitly encoded the styles of the samples. This did not improve model performance (R2 = 0.66 with style information vs R2 = 0.67). The most important chemical features are consistent with the model trained without style information (eg. ethanol and ethyl acetate), and with the exception of the most preferred (strong ale) and least preferred (low/no-alcohol) styles, none of the styles were among the most important features (Supplementary Fig.  S9 , Supplementary Table  S5 and S6 ). This is likely due to a combination of style-specific chemical signatures, such as iso-alpha acids and lactic acid, that implicitly convey style information to the original models, as well as the low number of samples belonging to some styles, making it difficult for the model to learn style-specific patterns. Moreover, beer styles are not rigorously defined, with some styles overlapping in features and some beers being misattributed to a specific style, all of which leads to more noise in models that use style parameters.

Model validation

To test if our predictive models give insight into beer appreciation, we set up experiments aimed at improving existing commercial beers. We specifically selected overall appreciation as the trait to be examined because of its complexity and commercial relevance. Beer flavor comprises a complex bouquet rather than single aromas and tastes 53 . Hence, adding a single compound to the extent that a difference is noticeable may lead to an unbalanced, artificial flavor. Therefore, we evaluated the effect of combinations of compounds. Because Blond beers represent the most extensive style in our dataset, we selected a beer from this style as the starting material for these experiments (Beer 64 in Supplementary Data  1 ).

In the first set of experiments, we adjusted the concentrations of compounds that made up the most important predictors of overall appreciation (ethyl acetate, ethanol, lactic acid, ethyl phenyl acetate) together with correlated compounds (ethyl hexanoate, isoamyl acetate, glycerol), bringing them up to 95 th percentile ethanol-normalized concentrations (Methods) within the Blond group (‘Spiked’ concentration in Fig.  5A ). Compared to controls, the spiked beers were found to have significantly improved overall appreciation among trained panelists, with panelist noting increased intensity of ester flavors, sweetness, alcohol, and body fullness (Fig.  5B ). To disentangle the contribution of ethanol to these results, a second experiment was performed without the addition of ethanol. This resulted in a similar outcome, including increased perception of alcohol and overall appreciation.

figure 5

Adding the top chemical compounds, identified as best predictors of appreciation by our model, into poorly appreciated beers results in increased appreciation from our trained panel. Results of sensory tests between base beers and those spiked with compounds identified as the best predictors by the model. A Blond and Non/Low-alcohol (0.0% ABV) base beers were brought up to 95th-percentile ethanol-normalized concentrations within each style. B For each sensory attribute, tasters indicated the more intense sample and selected the sample they preferred. The numbers above the bars correspond to the p values that indicate significant changes in perceived flavor (two-sided binomial test: alpha 0.05, n  = 20 or 13).

In a last experiment, we tested whether using the model’s predictions can boost the appreciation of a non-alcoholic beer (beer 223 in Supplementary Data  1 ). Again, the addition of a mixture of predicted compounds (omitting ethanol, in this case) resulted in a significant increase in appreciation, body, ester flavor and sweetness.

Predicting flavor and consumer appreciation from chemical composition is one of the ultimate goals of sensory science. A reliable, systematic and unbiased way to link chemical profiles to flavor and food appreciation would be a significant asset to the food and beverage industry. Such tools would substantially aid in quality control and recipe development, offer an efficient and cost-effective alternative to pilot studies and consumer trials and would ultimately allow food manufacturers to produce superior, tailor-made products that better meet the demands of specific consumer groups more efficiently.

A limited set of studies have previously tried, to varying degrees of success, to predict beer flavor and beer popularity based on (a limited set of) chemical compounds and flavors 79 , 80 . Current sensitive, high-throughput technologies allow measuring an unprecedented number of chemical compounds and properties in a large set of samples, yielding a dataset that can train models that help close the gaps between chemistry and flavor, even for a complex natural product like beer. To our knowledge, no previous research gathered data at this scale (250 samples, 226 chemical parameters, 50 sensory attributes and 5 consumer scores) to disentangle and validate the chemical aspects driving beer preference using various machine-learning techniques. We find that modern machine learning models outperform conventional statistical tools, such as correlations and linear models, and can successfully predict flavor appreciation from chemical composition. This could be attributed to the natural incorporation of interactions and non-linear or discontinuous effects in machine learning models, which are not easily grasped by the linear model architecture. While linear models and partial least squares regression represent the most widespread statistical approaches in sensory science, in part because they allow interpretation 65 , 81 , 82 , modern machine learning methods allow for building better predictive models while preserving the possibility to dissect and exploit the underlying patterns. Of the 10 different models we trained, tree-based models, such as our best performing GBR, showed the best overall performance in predicting sensory responses from chemical information, outcompeting artificial neural networks. This agrees with previous reports for models trained on tabular data 83 . Our results are in line with the findings of Colantonio et al. who also identified the gradient boosting architecture as performing best at predicting appreciation and flavor (of tomatoes and blueberries, in their specific study) 26 . Importantly, besides our larger experimental scale, we were able to directly confirm our models’ predictions in vivo.

Our study confirms that flavor compound concentration does not always correlate with perception, suggesting complex interactions that are often missed by more conventional statistics and simple models. Specifically, we find that tree-based algorithms may perform best in developing models that link complex food chemistry with aroma. Furthermore, we show that massive datasets of untrained consumer reviews provide a valuable source of data, that can complement or even replace trained tasting panels, especially for appreciation and basic flavors, such as sweetness and bitterness. This holds despite biases that are known to occur in such datasets, such as price or conformity bias. Moreover, GBR models predict taste better than aroma. This is likely because taste (e.g. bitterness) often directly relates to the corresponding chemical measurements (e.g., iso-alpha acids), whereas such a link is less clear for aromas, which often result from the interplay between multiple volatile compounds. We also find that our models are best at predicting acidity and alcohol, likely because there is a direct relation between the measured chemical compounds (acids and ethanol) and the corresponding perceived sensorial attribute (acidity and alcohol), and because even untrained consumers are generally able to recognize these flavors and aromas.

The predictions of our final models, trained on review data, hold even for blind tastings with small groups of trained tasters, as demonstrated by our ability to validate specific compounds as drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Since adding a single compound to the extent of a noticeable difference may result in an unbalanced flavor profile, we specifically tested our identified key drivers as a combination of compounds. While this approach does not allow us to validate if a particular single compound would affect flavor and/or appreciation, our experiments do show that this combination of compounds increases consumer appreciation.

It is important to stress that, while it represents an important step forward, our approach still has several major limitations. A key weakness of the GBR model architecture is that amongst co-correlating variables, the largest main effect is consistently preferred for model building. As a result, co-correlating variables often have artificially low importance scores, both for impurity and SHAP-based methods, like we observed in the comparison to the more randomized Extra Trees models. This implies that chemicals identified as key drivers of a specific sensory feature by GBR might not be the true causative compounds, but rather co-correlate with the actual causative chemical. For example, the high importance of ethyl acetate could be (partially) attributed to the total ester content, ethanol or ethyl hexanoate (rho=0.77, rho=0.72 and rho=0.68), while ethyl phenylacetate could hide the importance of prenyl isobutyrate and ethyl benzoate (rho=0.77 and rho=0.76). Expanding our GBR model to include beer style as a parameter did not yield additional power or insight. This is likely due to style-specific chemical signatures, such as iso-alpha acids and lactic acid, that implicitly convey style information to the original model, as well as the smaller sample size per style, limiting the power to uncover style-specific patterns. This can be partly attributed to the curse of dimensionality, where the high number of parameters results in the models mainly incorporating single parameter effects, rather than complex interactions such as style-dependent effects 67 . A larger number of samples may overcome some of these limitations and offer more insight into style-specific effects. On the other hand, beer style is not a rigid scientific classification, and beers within one style often differ a lot, which further complicates the analysis of style as a model factor.

Our study is limited to beers from Belgian breweries. Although these beers cover a large portion of the beer styles available globally, some beer styles and consumer patterns may be missing, while other features might be overrepresented. For example, many Belgian ales exhibit yeast-driven flavor profiles, which is reflected in the chemical drivers of appreciation discovered by this study. In future work, expanding the scope to include diverse markets and beer styles could lead to the identification of even more drivers of appreciation and better models for special niche products that were not present in our beer set.

In addition to inherent limitations of GBR models, there are also some limitations associated with studying food aroma. Even if our chemical analyses measured most of the known aroma compounds, the total number of flavor compounds in complex foods like beer is still larger than the subset we were able to measure in this study. For example, hop-derived thiols, that influence flavor at very low concentrations, are notoriously difficult to measure in a high-throughput experiment. Moreover, consumer perception remains subjective and prone to biases that are difficult to avoid. It is also important to stress that the models are still immature and that more extensive datasets will be crucial for developing more complete models in the future. Besides more samples and parameters, our dataset does not include any demographic information about the tasters. Including such data could lead to better models that grasp external factors like age and culture. Another limitation is that our set of beers consists of high-quality end-products and lacks beers that are unfit for sale, which limits the current model in accurately predicting products that are appreciated very badly. Finally, while models could be readily applied in quality control, their use in sensory science and product development is restrained by their inability to discern causal relationships. Given that the models cannot distinguish compounds that genuinely drive consumer perception from those that merely correlate, validation experiments are essential to identify true causative compounds.

Despite the inherent limitations, dissection of our models enabled us to pinpoint specific molecules as potential drivers of beer aroma and consumer appreciation, including compounds that were unexpected and would not have been identified using standard approaches. Important drivers of beer appreciation uncovered by our models include protein levels, ethyl acetate, ethyl phenyl acetate and lactic acid. Currently, many brewers already use lactic acid to acidify their brewing water and ensure optimal pH for enzymatic activity during the mashing process. Our results suggest that adding lactic acid can also improve beer appreciation, although its individual effect remains to be tested. Interestingly, ethanol appears to be unnecessary to improve beer appreciation, both for blond beer and alcohol-free beer. Given the growing consumer interest in alcohol-free beer, with a predicted annual market growth of >7% 84 , it is relevant for brewers to know what compounds can further increase consumer appreciation of these beers. Hence, our model may readily provide avenues to further improve the flavor and consumer appreciation of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, which is generally considered one of the key challenges for future beer production.

Whereas we see a direct implementation of our results for the development of superior alcohol-free beverages and other food products, our study can also serve as a stepping stone for the development of novel alcohol-containing beverages. We want to echo the growing body of scientific evidence for the negative effects of alcohol consumption, both on the individual level by the mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic effects of ethanol 85 , 86 , as well as the burden on society caused by alcohol abuse and addiction. We encourage the use of our results for the production of healthier, tastier products, including novel and improved beverages with lower alcohol contents. Furthermore, we strongly discourage the use of these technologies to improve the appreciation or addictive properties of harmful substances.

The present work demonstrates that despite some important remaining hurdles, combining the latest developments in chemical analyses, sensory analysis and modern machine learning methods offers exciting avenues for food chemistry and engineering. Soon, these tools may provide solutions in quality control and recipe development, as well as new approaches to sensory science and flavor research.

Beer selection

250 commercial Belgian beers were selected to cover the broad diversity of beer styles and corresponding diversity in chemical composition and aroma. See Supplementary Fig.  S1 .

Chemical dataset

Sample preparation.

Beers within their expiration date were purchased from commercial retailers. Samples were prepared in biological duplicates at room temperature, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Bottle pressure was measured with a manual pressure device (Steinfurth Mess-Systeme GmbH) and used to calculate CO 2 concentration. The beer was poured through two filter papers (Macherey-Nagel, 500713032 MN 713 ¼) to remove carbon dioxide and prevent spontaneous foaming. Samples were then prepared for measurements by targeted Headspace-Gas Chromatography-Flame Ionization Detector/Flame Photometric Detector (HS-GC-FID/FPD), Headspace-Solid Phase Microextraction-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (HS-SPME-GC-MS), colorimetric analysis, enzymatic analysis, Near-Infrared (NIR) analysis, as described in the sections below. The mean values of biological duplicates are reported for each compound.

HS-GC-FID/FPD

HS-GC-FID/FPD (Shimadzu GC 2010 Plus) was used to measure higher alcohols, acetaldehyde, esters, 4-vinyl guaicol, and sulfur compounds. Each measurement comprised 5 ml of sample pipetted into a 20 ml glass vial containing 1.75 g NaCl (VWR, 27810.295). 100 µl of 2-heptanol (Sigma-Aldrich, H3003) (internal standard) solution in ethanol (Fisher Chemical, E/0650DF/C17) was added for a final concentration of 2.44 mg/L. Samples were flushed with nitrogen for 10 s, sealed with a silicone septum, stored at −80 °C and analyzed in batches of 20.

The GC was equipped with a DB-WAXetr column (length, 30 m; internal diameter, 0.32 mm; layer thickness, 0.50 µm; Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) to the FID and an HP-5 column (length, 30 m; internal diameter, 0.25 mm; layer thickness, 0.25 µm; Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) to the FPD. N 2 was used as the carrier gas. Samples were incubated for 20 min at 70 °C in the headspace autosampler (Flow rate, 35 cm/s; Injection volume, 1000 µL; Injection mode, split; Combi PAL autosampler, CTC analytics, Switzerland). The injector, FID and FPD temperatures were kept at 250 °C. The GC oven temperature was first held at 50 °C for 5 min and then allowed to rise to 80 °C at a rate of 5 °C/min, followed by a second ramp of 4 °C/min until 200 °C kept for 3 min and a final ramp of (4 °C/min) until 230 °C for 1 min. Results were analyzed with the GCSolution software version 2.4 (Shimadzu, Kyoto, Japan). The GC was calibrated with a 5% EtOH solution (VWR International) containing the volatiles under study (Supplementary Table  S7 ).

HS-SPME-GC-MS

HS-SPME-GC-MS (Shimadzu GCMS-QP-2010 Ultra) was used to measure additional volatile compounds, mainly comprising terpenoids and esters. Samples were analyzed by HS-SPME using a triphase DVB/Carboxen/PDMS 50/30 μm SPME fiber (Supelco Co., Bellefonte, PA, USA) followed by gas chromatography (Thermo Fisher Scientific Trace 1300 series, USA) coupled to a mass spectrometer (Thermo Fisher Scientific ISQ series MS) equipped with a TriPlus RSH autosampler. 5 ml of degassed beer sample was placed in 20 ml vials containing 1.75 g NaCl (VWR, 27810.295). 5 µl internal standard mix was added, containing 2-heptanol (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, H3003), 4-fluorobenzaldehyde (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, 128376), 2,3-hexanedione (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, 144169) and guaiacol (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, W253200) in ethanol (Fisher Chemical, E/0650DF/C17). Each sample was incubated at 60 °C in the autosampler oven with constant agitation. After 5 min equilibration, the SPME fiber was exposed to the sample headspace for 30 min. The compounds trapped on the fiber were thermally desorbed in the injection port of the chromatograph by heating the fiber for 15 min at 270 °C.

The GC-MS was equipped with a low polarity RXi-5Sil MS column (length, 20 m; internal diameter, 0.18 mm; layer thickness, 0.18 µm; Restek, Bellefonte, PA, USA). Injection was performed in splitless mode at 320 °C, a split flow of 9 ml/min, a purge flow of 5 ml/min and an open valve time of 3 min. To obtain a pulsed injection, a programmed gas flow was used whereby the helium gas flow was set at 2.7 mL/min for 0.1 min, followed by a decrease in flow of 20 ml/min to the normal 0.9 mL/min. The temperature was first held at 30 °C for 3 min and then allowed to rise to 80 °C at a rate of 7 °C/min, followed by a second ramp of 2 °C/min till 125 °C and a final ramp of 8 °C/min with a final temperature of 270 °C.

Mass acquisition range was 33 to 550 amu at a scan rate of 5 scans/s. Electron impact ionization energy was 70 eV. The interface and ion source were kept at 275 °C and 250 °C, respectively. A mix of linear n-alkanes (from C7 to C40, Supelco Co.) was injected into the GC-MS under identical conditions to serve as external retention index markers. Identification and quantification of the compounds were performed using an in-house developed R script as described in Goelen et al. and Reher et al. 87 , 88 (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ). Briefly, chromatograms were analyzed using AMDIS (v2.71) 89 to separate overlapping peaks and obtain pure compound spectra. The NIST MS Search software (v2.0 g) in combination with the NIST2017, FFNSC3 and Adams4 libraries were used to manually identify the empirical spectra, taking into account the expected retention time. After background subtraction and correcting for retention time shifts between samples run on different days based on alkane ladders, compound elution profiles were extracted and integrated using a file with 284 target compounds of interest, which were either recovered in our identified AMDIS list of spectra or were known to occur in beer. Compound elution profiles were estimated for every peak in every chromatogram over a time-restricted window using weighted non-negative least square analysis after which peak areas were integrated 87 , 88 . Batch effect correction was performed by normalizing against the most stable internal standard compound, 4-fluorobenzaldehyde. Out of all 284 target compounds that were analyzed, 167 were visually judged to have reliable elution profiles and were used for final analysis.

Discrete photometric and enzymatic analysis

Discrete photometric and enzymatic analysis (Thermo Scientific TM Gallery TM Plus Beermaster Discrete Analyzer) was used to measure acetic acid, ammonia, beta-glucan, iso-alpha acids, color, sugars, glycerol, iron, pH, protein, and sulfite. 2 ml of sample volume was used for the analyses. Information regarding the reagents and standard solutions used for analyses and calibrations is included in Supplementary Table  S7 and Supplementary Table  S9 .

NIR analyses

NIR analysis (Anton Paar Alcolyzer Beer ME System) was used to measure ethanol. Measurements comprised 50 ml of sample, and a 10% EtOH solution was used for calibration.

Correlation calculations

Pairwise Spearman Rank correlations were calculated between all chemical properties.

Sensory dataset

Trained panel.

Our trained tasting panel consisted of volunteers who gave prior verbal informed consent. All compounds used for the validation experiment were of food-grade quality. The tasting sessions were approved by the Social and Societal Ethics Committee of the KU Leuven (G-2022-5677-R2(MAR)). All online reviewers agreed to the Terms and Conditions of the RateBeer website.

Sensory analysis was performed according to the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) Sensory Analysis Methods 90 . 30 volunteers were screened through a series of triangle tests. The sixteen most sensitive and consistent tasters were retained as taste panel members. The resulting panel was diverse in age [22–42, mean: 29], sex [56% male] and nationality [7 different countries]. The panel developed a consensus vocabulary to describe beer aroma, taste and mouthfeel. Panelists were trained to identify and score 50 different attributes, using a 7-point scale to rate attributes’ intensity. The scoring sheet is included as Supplementary Data  3 . Sensory assessments took place between 10–12 a.m. The beers were served in black-colored glasses. Per session, between 5 and 12 beers of the same style were tasted at 12 °C to 16 °C. Two reference beers were added to each set and indicated as ‘Reference 1 & 2’, allowing panel members to calibrate their ratings. Not all panelists were present at every tasting. Scores were scaled by standard deviation and mean-centered per taster. Values are represented as z-scores and clustered by Euclidean distance. Pairwise Spearman correlations were calculated between taste and aroma sensory attributes. Panel consistency was evaluated by repeating samples on different sessions and performing ANOVA to identify differences, using the ‘stats’ package (v4.2.2) in R (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ).

Online reviews from a public database

The ‘scrapy’ package in Python (v3.6) (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ). was used to collect 232,288 online reviews (mean=922, min=6, max=5343) from RateBeer, an online beer review database. Each review entry comprised 5 numerical scores (appearance, aroma, taste, palate and overall quality) and an optional review text. The total number of reviews per reviewer was collected separately. Numerical scores were scaled and centered per rater, and mean scores were calculated per beer.

For the review texts, the language was estimated using the packages ‘langdetect’ and ‘langid’ in Python. Reviews that were classified as English by both packages were kept. Reviewers with fewer than 100 entries overall were discarded. 181,025 reviews from >6000 reviewers from >40 countries remained. Text processing was done using the ‘nltk’ package in Python. Texts were corrected for slang and misspellings; proper nouns and rare words that are relevant to the beer context were specified and kept as-is (‘Chimay’,’Lambic’, etc.). A dictionary of semantically similar sensorial terms, for example ‘floral’ and ‘flower’, was created and collapsed together into one term. Words were stemmed and lemmatized to avoid identifying words such as ‘acid’ and ‘acidity’ as separate terms. Numbers and punctuation were removed.

Sentences from up to 50 randomly chosen reviews per beer were manually categorized according to the aspect of beer they describe (appearance, aroma, taste, palate, overall quality—not to be confused with the 5 numerical scores described above) or flagged as irrelevant if they contained no useful information. If a beer contained fewer than 50 reviews, all reviews were manually classified. This labeled data set was used to train a model that classified the rest of the sentences for all beers 91 . Sentences describing taste and aroma were extracted, and term frequency–inverse document frequency (TFIDF) was implemented to calculate enrichment scores for sensorial words per beer.

The sex of the tasting subject was not considered when building our sensory database. Instead, results from different panelists were averaged, both for our trained panel (56% male, 44% female) and the RateBeer reviews (70% male, 30% female for RateBeer as a whole).

Beer price collection and processing

Beer prices were collected from the following stores: Colruyt, Delhaize, Total Wine, BeerHawk, The Belgian Beer Shop, The Belgian Shop, and Beer of Belgium. Where applicable, prices were converted to Euros and normalized per liter. Spearman correlations were calculated between these prices and mean overall appreciation scores from RateBeer and the taste panel, respectively.

Pairwise Spearman Rank correlations were calculated between all sensory properties.

Machine learning models

Predictive modeling of sensory profiles from chemical data.

Regression models were constructed to predict (a) trained panel scores for beer flavors and quality from beer chemical profiles and (b) public reviews’ appreciation scores from beer chemical profiles. Z-scores were used to represent sensory attributes in both data sets. Chemical properties with log-normal distributions (Shapiro-Wilk test, p  <  0.05 ) were log-transformed. Missing chemical measurements (0.1% of all data) were replaced with mean values per attribute. Observations from 250 beers were randomly separated into a training set (70%, 175 beers) and a test set (30%, 75 beers), stratified per beer style. Chemical measurements (p = 231) were normalized based on the training set average and standard deviation. In total, three linear regression-based models: linear regression with first-order interaction terms (LR), lasso regression with first-order interaction terms (Lasso) and partial least squares regression (PLSR); five decision tree models, Adaboost regressor (ABR), Extra Trees (ET), Gradient Boosting regressor (GBR), Random Forest (RF) and XGBoost regressor (XGBR); one support vector machine model (SVR) and one artificial neural network model (ANN) were trained. The models were implemented using the ‘scikit-learn’ package (v1.2.2) and ‘xgboost’ package (v1.7.3) in Python (v3.9.16). Models were trained, and hyperparameters optimized, using five-fold cross-validated grid search with the coefficient of determination (R 2 ) as the evaluation metric. The ANN (scikit-learn’s MLPRegressor) was optimized using Bayesian Tree-Structured Parzen Estimator optimization with the ‘Optuna’ Python package (v3.2.0). Individual models were trained per attribute, and a multi-output model was trained on all attributes simultaneously.

Model dissection

GBR was found to outperform other methods, resulting in models with the highest average R 2 values in both trained panel and public review data sets. Impurity-based rankings of the most important predictors for each predicted sensorial trait were obtained using the ‘scikit-learn’ package. To observe the relationships between these chemical properties and their predicted targets, partial dependence plots (PDP) were constructed for the six most important predictors of consumer appreciation 74 , 75 .

The ‘SHAP’ package in Python (v0.41.0) was implemented to provide an alternative ranking of predictor importance and to visualize the predictors’ effects as a function of their concentration 68 .

Validation of causal chemical properties

To validate the effects of the most important model features on predicted sensory attributes, beers were spiked with the chemical compounds identified by the models and descriptive sensory analyses were carried out according to the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) protocol 90 .

Compound spiking was done 30 min before tasting. Compounds were spiked into fresh beer bottles, that were immediately resealed and inverted three times. Fresh bottles of beer were opened for the same duration, resealed, and inverted thrice, to serve as controls. Pairs of spiked samples and controls were served simultaneously, chilled and in dark glasses as outlined in the Trained panel section above. Tasters were instructed to select the glass with the higher flavor intensity for each attribute (directional difference test 92 ) and to select the glass they prefer.

The final concentration after spiking was equal to the within-style average, after normalizing by ethanol concentration. This was done to ensure balanced flavor profiles in the final spiked beer. The same methods were applied to improve a non-alcoholic beer. Compounds were the following: ethyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W241415), ethyl hexanoate (Merck KGaA, W243906), isoamyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W205508), phenethyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W285706), ethanol (96%, Colruyt), glycerol (Merck KGaA, W252506), lactic acid (Merck KGaA, 261106).

Significant differences in preference or perceived intensity were determined by performing the two-sided binomial test on each attribute.

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the  Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this work are available in the Supplementary Data files and have been deposited to Zenodo under accession code 10653704 93 . The RateBeer scores data are under restricted access, they are not publicly available as they are property of RateBeer (ZX Ventures, USA). Access can be obtained from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of RateBeer (ZX Ventures, USA).  Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code for training the machine learning models, analyzing the models, and generating the figures has been deposited to Zenodo under accession code 10653704 93 .

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Acknowledgements

We thank all lab members for their discussions and thank all tasting panel members for their contributions. Special thanks go out to Dr. Karin Voordeckers for her tremendous help in proofreading and improving the manuscript. M.S. was supported by a Baillet-Latour fellowship, L.C. acknowledges financial support from KU Leuven (C16/17/006), F.A.T. was supported by a PhD fellowship from FWO (1S08821N). Research in the lab of K.J.V. is supported by KU Leuven, FWO, VIB, VLAIO and the Brewing Science Serves Health Fund. Research in the lab of T.W. is supported by FWO (G.0A51.15) and KU Leuven (C16/17/006).

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These authors contributed equally: Michiel Schreurs, Supinya Piampongsant, Miguel Roncoroni.

Authors and Affiliations

VIB—KU Leuven Center for Microbiology, Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Michiel Schreurs, Supinya Piampongsant, Miguel Roncoroni, Lloyd Cool, Beatriz Herrera-Malaver, Florian A. Theßeling & Kevin J. Verstrepen

CMPG Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics, KU Leuven, Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Leuven Institute for Beer Research (LIBR), Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Laboratory of Socioecology and Social Evolution, KU Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium

Lloyd Cool, Christophe Vanderaa & Tom Wenseleers

VIB Bioinformatics Core, VIB, Rijvisschestraat 120, B-9052, Ghent, Belgium

Łukasz Kreft & Alexander Botzki

AB InBev SA/NV, Brouwerijplein 1, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium

Philippe Malcorps & Luk Daenen

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Contributions

S.P., M.S. and K.J.V. conceived the experiments. S.P., M.S. and K.J.V. designed the experiments. S.P., M.S., M.R., B.H. and F.A.T. performed the experiments. S.P., M.S., L.C., C.V., L.K., A.B., P.M., L.D., T.W. and K.J.V. contributed analysis ideas. S.P., M.S., L.C., C.V., T.W. and K.J.V. analyzed the data. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin J. Verstrepen .

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Competing interests.

K.J.V. is affiliated with bar.on. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Communications thanks Florian Bauer, Andrew John Macintosh and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. A peer review file is available.

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Schreurs, M., Piampongsant, S., Roncoroni, M. et al. Predicting and improving complex beer flavor through machine learning. Nat Commun 15 , 2368 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-46346-0

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