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Process Flavors: Achieving Acceptability Amidst Changing Demands

Posted: August 26, 2009

The Society of Flavor Chemists’ 2009 Flavor Symposium will take place October 8–9 at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village in Princeton, New Jersey.

Previously: Natural Flavors: That Was Then, This is Now

“Our society changes, and we have to respond to that,” says Symrise principal flavorist Doug Young. Process flavors in particular have witnessed an ongoing cycle of changing consumer attitudes and concerns and subsequent ingredient substitutions, resulting in complex hurdles to acceptable flavors. Young’s forthcoming presentation at the 2009 Flavor Symposium will include a number of demonstrational formulas and flavors that will help illustrate these changes.

The creation/design of process flavors once relied on hydrolyzed vegetable proteins (HVP) as a key part of the flavorist’s product portfolio, but those fell out of favor due to concerns over monosodium glutamate (MSG) intolerance. Yeasts were among the replacement materials brought to bear, yet those also declined in popularity. The use of animal products, meanwhile, has posed health and safety concerns.

And that’s just the beginning. Today, says Young, flavorists work in an environment in which health is the major issue, whether it be calls for GMO-free, organic, all-natural or low-sodium products. The flavorist describes organic as “probably our biggest hurdle” in terms of assembling sufficient ingredients with which to render an acceptable process flavor. “The reality is, very few things fit that category,” he says. To add to the complications, Young points out that some customers are now requesting that no Chinese-origin materials be used in their products, creating major supply chain headaches. While the motivation for such a request is easy to understand, given the number of safety issues in recent years, the difficulties are daunting.

So how can flavor manufacturers help their customers have realistic expectations? “You have to talk to the customer,” says Young. “In the case of all-natural, there is no definition. The [US Department of Agriculture] has one, but the [US Food and Drug Administration] doesn’t. So, as a product developer, you need to work with your customer to have very serious discussions about what they will accept and what they will not accept. You can’t go without that. To operate successfully, you need that communication.”