Noni Smell, Deciphered

Noni, also known as cheesefruit or the Indian mulberry,  is a fruit that many people have seen before, even if they do not realize it. While it is not usually eaten in Singapore due to its strong smell, many noni trees still grow by roadsides, and its fruit is commonly made into juice and curry products in some countries.

Noni’s strong, cheesy aroma is the first thing that most people notice upon their first encounter with it. This has led to the name of ‘cheesefruit’ arising among some Pacific islands!

At ChemoPower, we decided to perform aroma analysis on noni to see if we could determine the compounds contributing to its strong smell. A noni sample was subject to headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), followed by analysis with ChemoPower’s proprietary SmartDalton and MoleculeDB technology.

We discovered 37 unique compounds from noni aroma, a high proportion of which were acids. The two most abundant acids we found were octanoic acid and hexanoic acid, which comprised 75% of the sample. These are likely to be major contributors to noni’s characteristic smell, as according to online scent analysis, these two acids give off ‘rancid, cheesy aromas’.

Octanoic acid and hexanoic acid, noni’s most common compounds

In addition, ChemoPower also managed to identify several sulfur-based compounds in the sample. Sulfur is known as a particularly pungent compound, and its presence also contributes to the overall noni aroma.

Dimethyl disulfide, one of the sulfur compounds in noni

ChemoPower’s analysis results tally well with results from other noni-related studies, indicating that our analysis is highly accurate. The presence of both sulfur and octanoic and hexanoic acids in such high amounts goes a long way towards explaining why noni smells the way it does.

Identifying noni compounds using SmartDalton


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