Chief Flavorist Luke J.W. Haffenden, Ph.D., Talks Trends of Interest & Industry Journey

Haffenden shares, 'My career in the food and beverage industry has always centered on the innovative application of flavors, a path significantly shaped by mentors who championed boundless exploration.'
Haffenden shares, "My career in the food and beverage industry has always centered on the innovative application of flavors, a path significantly shaped by mentors who championed boundless exploration."
courtesy of Mosaic Flavors

Luke J.W. Haffenden, Ph.D.

Position: Chief Flavorist

Company: Mosaic Flavors

Current location: Montreal

What led you to the flavor industry?

Growing up, the flavor industry was my backdrop and playground. As a young child, I accompanied my father, the late John D. Haffenden, on sales visits for several flavor houses and joined in dinners with clients and their families. This early exposure paved the way for my involvement in two family-operated flavor houses, where I had the chance to observe, learn, and contribute across various departments. My commitment to this path was tested during my chemistry studies, leading me to explore other avenues through lab work. Yet, it became clear that my passion for flavors was undeniable. I was drawn to the unique blend of science and art it represented, realizing it was where my true interests lay.

Read this article in Perfumer & Flavorist+'s April 2024 issue.

What applications do you primarily formulate for? Has this changed since you first began your career?

My career in the food and beverage industry has always centered on the innovative application of flavors, a path significantly shaped by mentors who championed boundless exploration. Starting in flavor houses before co-owning and leading an R&D department, I've focused on marrying the art and science of flavor to enhance consumer products across beverages, processed foods, confectionery, and dairy.

This journey has been about pushing boundaries, driven by a commitment to innovation and excellence. Working collaboratively with food scientists and product developers, we've navigated the complexities of flavor appeal and regulatory compliance, constantly seeking creative solutions to meet consumer expectations and trends.

Technological advancements have been pivotal, enabling us to explore new flavor applications and meet the evolving dietary needs of a global audience. My work aims to leverage these innovations, ensuring flavors not only comply with regulations but also captivate the consumer's palate.

What are some of the current trends that are exciting you at the moment?

The trend that captivates me most is the emergence of multisensory flavor experiences. There's a growing realization that the conventional flavor experience, rooted in taste and smell, can be profoundly enriched or altered through additional sensory inputs. While this insight has long been a staple among food and beverage product developers, sensory scientists, and marketers, it's now gaining traction in restaurants, clubs, events, bars, and during product launches. We inhabit a world rich in multisensory experiences, yet seldom do we engage more than two senses at any given moment.

Similarly, the allure of internationally inspired flavors holds significant interest for me. Each culture and country on our diverse planet harbors unique flavors awaiting discovery. These distinct tastes offer invaluable insights into the vast palette of global cuisine, underscoring the importance of exploring and integrating these flavors into broader culinary practices.

Are there any formulations you would consider timeless? Why?

Timeless flavors are those that have maintained their appeal across generations and cultures, integral to both traditional and modern cuisines worldwide.

Vanilla, with its sweet, comforting aroma, and chocolate, known for its rich indulgence, are staples in desserts. Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange bring a refreshing tang to both sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon, with its warm, spicy sweetness, and garlic, valued for its aromatic depth, are key in a variety of recipes. Ginger, offering zesty warmth, and mint, known for its cooling freshness, enhance dishes ranging from beverages to savory meals. The fundamental seasoning of pepper, in its black, white, and red varieties, adds essential heat and complexity. Honey, a natural sweetener with a rich, floral taste, has been cherished for centuries for both its flavor and nutritional benefits. Lastly, the tomato, with its balance of sweetness and acidity, proves versatile in countless culinary applications.

These flavors have transcended trends, embodying the essence of culinary tradition and innovation, and continue to be celebrated for their versatility and enduring popularity in kitchens around the globe.

Advice for people coming into the flavor field?

I recommend staying informed about the current state of the industry and anticipating its future direction. Like many sectors, the flavor and fragrance industry will undergo rapid transformations due to advancements in technology, including automation and artificial intelligence. These innovations promise to expedite changes and deepen our comprehension of various processes.

Beginning your career in a flavor house offers a vibrant and dynamic environment, serving as an excellent springboard into various roles within food and beverage companies. My advice? Dive in and embrace the opportunities this field provides. Even a few years of experience in flavors can open numerous doors, broadening your career prospects significantly.

Are the types of projects you're working on changing over time? How are the creative demands of the job evolving?

The landscape of flavor development has seen a marked rise in projects centered around nutraceutical, cannabis, and vegan applications. Yet, this innovation is paralleled by a tightening in regulatory standards and client-imposed restrictions. These measures, while aimed at ensuring safety and compliance, have become more stringent over time, affecting the creative process, influencing the cost of flavors, and adding complexity to business operations. This environment demands that flavorists expand their creative horizons, even as they work with limited resources.

Contrastingly, the current era's rapid pace, fueled by connectivity and social media, has spurred consumers and product developers to seek out new flavor trends. The demand for flavors with international inspiration, limited-time offers, and special editions exemplifies this trend. Such projects inject a dose of excitement into the work, as they typically require a high degree of creativity. Despite the surge in trendy flavors, it's likely that the preference for classic, lower-risk flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry—those with widespread acceptance—will persist. These enduring favorites continue to dominate over more fleeting taste trends.

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