If you’re a food lover, then definitely you might have a liking for processed foods. But most of us never even think of how this tasteful delight is created or who creates this delight for us. Making the food taste exactly as the consumer wants is a huge task, and this enormous task is undertaken by flavor chemists or food flavorists. They are the scientists who blend chemistry and art to invent perfect flavors. Creating this “magic taste” is a very lengthy process. From sourcing and comparing thousands of variety of ingredients to employing super tasters, these food flavorists know exactly how the consumer would like a particular food’s taste to be and how to gain their loyalty.
The flavor industry originally was born somewhere in the latter part of nineteenth-century with oil distillation and/or botanical extraction being the main source of raw materials, which very often had a strong link with the pharmaceutical industry. During those times, making a flavor was completely a creative process because of very less knowledge of natural ingredients or discovery of identified chemicals.
But at this present time, the creation of exciting flavors is already a lucrative billion-dollar industry worldwide. The flavorists work day and night innovating natural and artificial flavors that need to match their client’s desire and end consumers. They explore, discover and fix/mix various aromatic oils, essences, extracts, and chemical to come up with that “perfect taste.” It requires a lot of thought, science and patience to develop a unique flavor and make the food flavorsome.
The flavor manufacturers create a great variety of flavors for foods & beverages, confectioneries, pharmaceuticals, oral care products, cosmetics and nutrition products. The flavorists not only create flavors for the sake of taste, but they are aware that these flavors also need to be safe for consumption (free from allergic reaction/toxicity). These flavors should also have the ability to safeguard foods from loss of flavor while cooking, oxidation, transportation or during storage. So, one can say that their job does not just involve making exciting flavors which satisfy the consumer’s palate but also to help driving innovation-led growth for foods & beverages companies.
Besides creating or duplicating flavors, the flavor chemists also need to have a great palate. They are the professionals who use chemistry to manoeuvre natural and artificial flavors. They keep on experimenting with new flavors or recipe, organize food festivals or events to taste new cuisine, calling on all the super-tasters and chefs. The new flavor that they intend to introduce into the market should be best or up to the mark to meet the demands of today’s modern consumers.
As our sense of taste is very complex, flavor manufacturers need to have global insights and agility to adapt to new and changing trends, and willingness to use the latest technology to cater demands of a very diverse consumer base. Therefore, the biggest challenge for flavor chemists is to create a global flavor with the right kind of mix that can create excitement in the market as well as in the consumers’ mind.
Currently, there are multiple flavors manufacturing companies that are creating and introducing new flavors in the market for wide-ranging products. In this current race of capturing the local or global market, coming up with new flavors is very crucial. But as we all know, it’s not always possible for a company to come up with new flavors every time, so flavor companies also keep upgrading their current flavors to offer better taste than the previous ones.
Once they have decided on which flavor to create, such as apple or grapes, the food chemists obtain its flavor molecules to thoroughly analyse it. The flavorists use scientific literature in this process and various lab techniques like Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). The toughest part of this process is to figure out or imitate the original taste.
For instance, while processing the fruit flavor, the ultimate goal is to make a bursting flavor sensation and a controlled or delayed-release. The flavorists can surprisingly make a different kind of flavors from a single source.
The main motto of flavor companies is to provide consumers with the exact taste they crave for. They want their consumers to buy their foods & beverages products time and again. The unique flavor which they create brings business, so a particular high selling flavor is considered as very valuable and companies prefer to keep its production process a secrete. They breathtakingly source and experiment with thousands of ingredients and compounds to come up with that great flavor. They need to keep on tasting, experimenting and trying to come up with a formula that consumers desire the most.
For example, when the food chemist is trying to imitate the taste of chocolate, they may use different aromatic ingredients responsible for distinct profiles which are also found in other food materials. Once the ingredients are selected, the flavorist will use them to match the desired profiles and design the exact flavor that they are trying to mimic. They also use mathematical assistance to make big or minute adjustments as they need to be careful because of the tendency of one chemical reacting with another, which may make or break the flavor.
The list of artificial or natural flavors that are being used in a particular food can be extensive. Sometimes, it may take approximately 300 or more individual ingredients to prepare a certain food with a particular flavor and to help maintain the flavor balance. The use or quantity of such compounds may vary depending on what kind of flavor (light or strong) the manufacturer is trying to achieve.
Food manufacturers are finding it very hard to keep abreast with the volatile food & beverages market, growing population and dwindling resources. They need to cater to every region, gender and age differently. Generally speaking, one thing is for sure, the flavoring industry is the biggest facilitator for food & beverages industry. Foods & beverages processing business totally depend on flavor manufacturers to create the necessary appetite in consumers.