Endpoint: Look Both Ways


How can we advance to the future? By learning from the past. In fact, I like to think there are no failures, just learning experiences. Take Albert Michelson’s work in physics, which Forbes referred to as “The Failed Experiment that Changed the World.”[1] According to this report, Michelson’s work earned him the 1907 Nobel Prize for “for a very precise non-discovery of anything.” But his meticulous null results set the stage and led to an eventual resolution (and scientific revolution) by Einstein. So goes the science cycle.

But maybe I’m making lemonade from lemons—because who among us really hopes to fail? We look to the future with a vision for success but experience is the best teacher. That means painting the trials and errors of the past in a light with foresight for the future; or, in short: looking both ways. Taking a page from my own book, this final column of the year straddles F&F advances we’ve reported in 2017, and projects what’s to come in three main areas.

Nature Unfolded

There’s no question over the staying power of naturals. According to Global Market Insights,2 the natural flavor and fragrance market will continue its substantial rise in growth between 2017 and 2024, in part due to an upsurge in the production of natural personal care with essential oils and exotic aromas. This trend has naturally expanded the investigation of extraction and processing technologies to optimize yields from these limited resources to new depths, and ensure their purity and quality.

Ultrasonic thyme, soxhlet ginger and pu’er tea: For example, earlier this year, we saw ultrasound paired with sunflower oil, rather than organic solvents, to extract absolute from thyme.3 Other work compared extraction technologies—i.e., solvent-solvent, cold maceration and soxhlet extraction—for their resulting mineral and antioxidant content in an edible ginger rhizome oil extract. The highest yield was obtained by soxhlet extraction, followed by cold maceration. Soxhlet also provided the highest concentration of flavonoids, phenolics and radical-scavenging activity.

Other work using pu’er ripe tea compared soxhlet, ultrasonic-assisted, simultaneous distillation and steam distillation extraction processes. These findings concurred that soxhlet extraction provided the best results. This could inspire future work, whether the focus is to optimize the existing process, or replicate its effects in an entirely new technique.3

Pomelo, nuked: In relation, a method using microwave pretreatment to inactivate endogenous enzymes and preserve the pectin, naringin and limonin contents in pomelo flavedo was described earlier this year.4 This approach extended storage time and improved the extraction of pomelo essential oil. While microwave-assisted distillation and extraction is not new, recent application has focused on extracting natural actives such as polysaccharides, phytic acid and pyrophosphate. In addition, its speed could help it grow alongside the burgeoning naturals market.

Tomato sprayed away: In processing, the compounds in tomato flavors were compared among those produced by heat pump dehumidifying, and fresh- and freeze-drying. In the case of volatiles, commercial spray-drying also was assessed for potential thermal-induced changes. Most results were comparable, although the loss of (E)-2-hexenal, 1-penten-3-one and 1-hexanol, which contributes to fresh green aroma, was detected in spray-dried tomato; along with heat-induced compounds dimethyl sulfide, furfural and pyrrole derivatives. This points to another opportunity for optimization in aroma development.3

The Classics, Digitized and Remastered

As reported by Nutritionaloutlook.com5 classic and nostalgic flavors have found their way into nontraditional applications. For example, grilled cheese, milk and cookies, and root beer/marshmallow flavors are being used in dairy, bakery, confectionery, snacks and alcoholic beverages. But taking this a step further are flavors applied in new consumer technologies. Electronic cigarettes are a perfect example.

Motherboard6 reported three years ago that 7,700 different flavors were marketed online for e-cigarettes as part of an estimated $2 billion business in the United States alone—and growing. Among them, fruity flavors were the most common (offered by 84% of sellers), followed by dessert/candy flavors (80%), alcohol/drink flavors (77%), and snacks/meals (25%).

In relation, a new study from Penn State University7 explored how e-cigarette flavors are perceived by users, in effort to standardize flavor categories. In an online survey, 3,716 participants indicated the following preferences: tobacco (23.7%), menthol/mint (14.8%), fruit (20.3%), dessert/sweets (20.7%), alcohol (2.8%), nuts/spices (2.0%), candy (2.1%), coffee/tea (4.3%), beverages (3.1%), unflavored (0.4%) and don’t know/other (5.8%).

Smart phones are another technology putting a twist on the classics. As previously reported,8 they’ve been programmed to transmit fragrance through oPhones using apps. And thanks to P&G’s Febreze Connect, we can wirelessly control scent in our homes, syncing it to the thermostat to set a relaxing scent to come home to, or a stimulating one to wake you up.

But there’s a more serious side to scent and smart phones: allergen monitoring. Researchers in Copenhagen[9] used a new app to screen the labels of cosmetic products registered through the app for ingredients on the EU’s list of 26 fragrance allergens or the wording fragrance/parfum/aroma.

Among the products labelled as containing at least one allergen, 85.5% and 73.9% contained at least two and three, respectively; apparently, based on the registered product data (details were not disclosed in the article abstract). Linalool (49.5%) and limonene (48.5%) were labelled most often, and a total of 329 (5.9%) products had one or more of the 26 substances labelled but did not include parfum/fragrance/aroma on the label.

As a new, tech-savvy generation of innovators is ushered in, no doubt they will continue to design new ways to integrate, for better or worse, flavor and fragrance trends and chemistries with novel, digitized solutions and applications.

Buying Into Biology

I’ve saved the best for last, I think, as it’s somewhat blue-sky thinking—but on everyone’s radar: biology. Understanding olfaction will be an ongoing process but new research from Monell10 has more immediate potential. Peihua Jang, Ph.D., and collaborators studied taste organoids at different stages of growth and identified which genes are turned on when for sweet, salty, sour, bitter or umami receptors.

This resulted in a nearly comprehensive list of all the genes that guide the development of taste cells. According to Monell, these findings may allow scientists to treat taste disorders, characterize new taste qualities, or even fine-tune a person’s taste perception to encourage healthier eating.

Synesthesia is another biological phenomenon that could be leveraged to a greater capacity. I’ve written before11 about how olfaction, combining flavor and fragrance, is a perfect example of cross-modal cues. Oxford researchers then expanded this duet to a trio, as The Daily Mail reported. “Listening to different musical notes while eating chocolate can change how the sweet treat tastes,” it stated.

It is also well-known that color can influence flavor perception. So clearly, there’s a pathway to flipping multiples switches at once; it’s just a matter of syncing up the cues. And as biological research unravels the mysteries of our senses, future opportunities emerge.

For example, I heard a recent TED talk by Jennifer Pluznick12 on “Smelling with Your Body,” not just your nose. In it, she explains that the same chemoreceptors that act as scent detectors in the nose are also found in the kidneys, muscles and lungs, among other places. If marketers could flip all those switches at once, wouldn’t that achieve the epitome of product experiences?


All websites accessed Oct. 20, 2017.

  1. E Siegel, The failed experiment that changed the world, Forbes, available at forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/04/21/the-failed-experiment-that-changed-the-world/#108e707a5802
  2. Natural Flavor & Fragrance Market Size, Industry Analysis Report, Regional Outlook (U.S., Germany, UK, Italy, Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Africa), Application Development Potential, Price Trend, Competitive Market Share and Forecast, 2017–2024, Global Market Insights, available at gminsights.com/industry-analysis/natural-flavor-and-fragrance-market
  3. R Grabenhofer, Endpoint. Extraction matters in F&F development, Perfumer & Flavorist 42 60 (Aug 2017)
  4. R Grabenhofer, Endpoint. Seeing past the amber glass, Perfumer & Flavorist 42 62 (Apr 2017)
  5. J Grebow, 2017 Flavor Trends for Food and Beverage, Nutritional Outlook, available at nutritionaloutlook.com/food-beverage/2017-flavor-trends-food-and-beverage/page/0/3
  6. M Neal, There are now 7,700 flavors and 460 brands of e-cigarettes, Motherboard, available at https://www.vice.com/en/article/wnjxjx/there-are-now-7700-flavors-and-460-brands-of-e-cigarettes
  7. JM Yingst et al, A method for classifying user-reported electronic cigarette liquid flavors, Nicotine and Tobacco Research 19 11 1381–1385 (Nov 1, 2017)
  8. R Grabenhofer, Endpoint. Is Willy Wonka running F&F’s reality? Perfumer & Flavorist, available at perfumerflavorist.com/flavor/trends/Endpoint-Is-Willy-Wonka-Running-FFs-Reality-378866671.html
  9. NH Bennike et al, Fragrance contact allergens in 5588 cosmetic products identified through a novel smartphone application, J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, doi:10.1111/jdv.14513 (2017)
  10. Bitter or sweet? How taste cells decide what they want to be, Monell, available at monell.org/news/news_releases/taste_stem_cell_development_differentiation_genes
  11. R Grabenhofer, Endpoint. Synesthesia is music to our taste buds, Perfumer & Flavorist 42 62 (Jan 2017)
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