Learning from nature: High-Impact Aroma Chemistry

Plants as Biofactories for Flavors and Fragrances

Plants already are used extensively as sources of natural materials in the F&F industry, with essential oils being an excellent example. Unlike synthetic sources, naturals contain multiple components and can be unpredictable in terms of quality and quantity. As the continuing increase in oil prices makes plant-based renewables increasingly attractive as alternative feedstocks for biofuel and bulk chemical production, it is timely for the F&F industry to review recent progress in natural product biology and chemistry, and to evaluate future opportunities for harnessing biodiversity for their own applications.

One of the primary objectives in using plant-based feedstocks in any industrial application is to standardize the composition of the starting material as much as possible, ensuring its suitability for downstream processing. For example, in order to derive oil-based products for large-scale extraction, it is desirable to control the chain length and degrees of saturation of plant lipids. This can be achieved by genetic engineering technology. Alternatively, genes encoding specific quality traits can be identified by searching within the naturally diverse genetic pool from which modern crops are derived. Once identified, these useful trait genes can be crossed back into high-yielding modern crops using classical breeding techniques for large-scale production of the new feedstocks. Although such an approach has been applied for polysaccharide and oil-based products, the technology remains underutilized by the F&F industry.

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