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Ethyl Butyrate

Contact Author George S. Clark
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Ethyl butyrate is one of a group of aroma chemicals, which is often slighted or even held in the minds of many in our industry in benign contempt. One industrial colleague summed up this mentaI niche to which ethyl butyrate has been relegated in the statement: “Ethyl butyrate, I’ve always thought of it as finger nail polish remover.”

There is some organoleptic validity to this attitude, as there exists a large group of C4-C12 esters and ketones, which present fruity impressions in an almost unending spectrum of overlap in one tone or another (see “substitutes”). Some of these materials do find use in the industrial solvent area. Ethyl butyrate's isomer, n-butyl acetate, shares some of its organoleptic profile, yet commercially (with respect to consumption values) is a lacquer solvent, although some small volumes are consumed in flavors. About 230,000,000 lbs. a year of n-butyl acetate are consumed in the paint industry in the U.S. every year, while probably less than 20,000 lbs. are used in the flavor and fragrance industry the world over.

Ethyl butymte is a prime example of a large grouping of aliphatic esters found in nature mainly in the fruit of plants. For shout a centu~, it has been produced synthetically for use mainly in the flavor indust~. Only minute amounts of this product are consumed in the fragrance industqy What peaks one? interest in ethyl butyrate is tbe recent activity in its commercial production via biotechnology. The result is in effect that ethyl butyrate is really a number of products--one synthetic and the others natural.

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