Any successful flavor creation project requires the satisfaction of three broad parameters—flavor target profile, health/regulatory/dietary guidelines and cost (whether in-use or otherwise). And in no other category are these parameters pulling in such disparate directions as process flavors. Consumers are looking for healthier foods that do not sacrifice taste at a price point that is at or below that of conventional offerings. Customers have a range of solutions available to them when developing products in the savory category. As a result, says Rebecca Wagner, business unit manager of emerging markets at FONA International, “the savory flavor itself has to fix a need to really be more costeffective than [simply] adding more MSG or a yeast extract. It has to fit that need or add an accent. Typically, for our customers, we are working on a very focused need that they have, and we understand all of their product parameters and are able to put it all together to create a solution that fits [that requirement]—as well as their consumers’ needs.”
“It all puts pressure on the flavor creator,” says Yogi Desai, senior flavorist at FONA International. “What do you do? How do you start? If you go project to project, each customer’s needs are different. As you customize the flavor for [them], you can always find the winning solution.”
Complex Consumer Demands
Consumers, taking cues from media regarding ingredient statements, are making process flavor suppliers’ jobs more complicated, notes Wagner. “If they weren’t turning the label around,” she says, “they definitely are now.” As a result, says Wagner, flavor suppliers are pursuing formulations that reduce or eliminate sodium, monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable proteins (HVP), genetically modified organisms (GMO), trans fats, allergens, and more. “Consumers want to be able to read the ingredient statement and know what they’re consuming,” Wagner continues. “They want to be able to feel good about lower sodium, or that [the product] doesn’t have the MSG.” And, she notes, as concerns over childhood obesity grow, parents are increasingly asking, “‘What am I feeding my kids?’ There are a lot of [parameters] that we get from our customers immediately.” Meanwhile, says Wagner, media outlets such as The Food Network have turned consumers into foodies that seek out increasingly sophisticated, novel foods and flavors. Paradoxically, she adds, consumers want those foods to be cost-effective without sacrificing taste. This tension between consumer cost and flavor quality expectations and restrictions on ingredients that efficiently deliver flavor fidelity and/or potentiation, says Wagner, is a true challenge. Meeting the right cost-in-use target begins with customer education on all cost and performance parameters affecting the final price point of the flavor solution. This includes explanations of the impact some key materials will have on cost and just how concentrated the flavor will be. “That becomes an important factor for all of our customers to be thinking about: How much is this going to hit [their] actual bottom line? In their pound per product, how much is the flavor going to impact the finished product? We really spend a lot of time making sure they’re thinking of cost-in-use.” This process, she concludes, extends from the formulation stage to the application, ensuring the right fit for the customer.