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As part of our ongoing series* of expert insights into the future of the flavor and fragrance industry, Marie Wright, flavor creation manager, International Flavors and Fragrances, shares her thoughts on the future of the art and science of flavor creation. Share your feedback and thoughts here.
The science of consumer behavior has become an ever-increasing influence on the way food products are designed and brought to market. Studies of consumer behaviors and preferences are used to determine the best profiles in the context that they will be “liked” by the most consumers. Has this emerging understanding information doomed the role of the creative flavorist? Will the next generation of flavors be made by super computers, changing the ingredients to simply meet the highest preference, or will artistry survive?
I have always been very proud to describe my profession as a creative one. There is something really cool about being an artist; I have the opportunity to create something new, something people love and that they develop a deep emotional connection with. The best description I can give of my work is “the artistry of taste.”
The artistry of creating flavors is learned through example and experience. Like any form of art, mastering the creation of flavors involves a passion for learning new styles and techniques. Over time, one’s individual creative style emerges based on one’s influences, challenges and experiences. The artistry lies in the ability of a flavorist to allow the right side of the brain to work harmoniously with the left. A successful flavorist can imagine the taste and smell of a complex mixture of components. A master flavorist—just like artists such as Van Gogh, Rothko or Pollock—has developed his or her own unique style and ability to create taste.
In the 1980s our industry was vigorous and highly dynamic, with a diverse range of flavor and fragrance companies. It was a time of discovery and a time when each new chemical was a distinct point of differentiation. There was much excitement when new molecules became available to fuel the creative drive. Creating new, unique (and more natural tasting) flavors was the driving force for all leading companies. New molecules were the spearhead of technology and the market was very much ready to accept the distinctive new flavors that were created.