Saliva is expected to be of significance for the perception of food stimuli in the mouth. Mixing the food with saliva, including breakdown and dilution, is considered to be of large importance for semi-solids as these products are masticated without chewing. It is known that there are large variations in composition of saliva originating from different glands and different subjects. In this study we investigated how variations in salivary characteristics affect sensory perception. Eighteen trained subjects participated in the study. Saliva was collected at rest and during three types of stimulation (odour, parafilm chewing and citric acid), and flow rates were determined. The collected saliva was analyzed for protein concentration, buffer capacity, mucin level and α-amylase activity. The salivary components measured in this study varied considerably among subjects, but also within subjects as a result of different means of stimulation. Variations in salivary components were correlated with sensory perception of a number of flavour, mouth feel and after feel attributes in the semi-solids mayonnaise and custard dessert. Total protein concentration and α-amylase activity were observed to correlate most strongly with texture perception. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.