Throughout most of my career as a flavorist the industry has been driven to a large extent by its gradually increasing ability to analyze nature. For some flavorists, nature presents a complete template to be painstakingly recreated and tentatively optimized. For other flavorists, and I count myself amongst this latter group, nature is not really seen as an ideal or fixed template. Nevertheless, even for us, nature is at the very least a rich source of ideas and guidance. Raw materials that are highly useful, difficult to replace and yet are not found in nature are a source of mild irritation and frustration. Allyl hexanoate (FEMA# 2032, CAS# 123-68-2) was, for many years, in this category. The eventual discovery of this chemical in nature did not do much to lessen the frustration because it was present at levels far too low to have much effect. This was especially true of pineapple flavors, where allyl hexanoate had seemed to be central to achieving a realistic profile.
The discovery of dec-9-en-2-one (FEMA# 4706, CAS# 35194-30-0; principal FEMA name: 9-decen-2-one) in pineapples went a long way toward solving the problem. The character of this chemical is somewhat similar to allyl hexanoate. It is sharp and fruity in a similar way to allyl hexanoate and instantly recognizable as pineapple. It fits equally well into pineapple flavors, adding brightness and freshness. In some ways it is preferable because it has a higher level of the dry, almost dusty, note that is reminiscent of the fresh fruit.