In his Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar titled “Exploration and Innovation of Exotic Flavors,” David Michael & Company’s George Ennis, vice president and chief flavor chemist, first discussed what factors are driving flavor innovation and outlined in detail some exciting exotic fruit/botanical flavors.

The first factor driving flavor, according to Ennis, is “our need to predict future market flavor trends and deliver on those expectations.”  Also, the life-stage of the targeted consumers must be understood and addressed by “meeting their needs to deliver great taste, value, health, wellness and fun.” Infusions of bold, exotic, ethnic, comfort and health are all trending combinations, Ennis averred. He also stressed a need for genuine scientific curiosity in creating exciting new flavor combinations.   

First of all, though, what is flavor? To simplify, Ennis described flavor first mathematically, with an equation: “Flavor = taste + smell + tactile stimulation.”   

More specifically, flavor is a mixture of aromatic molecules, including, but not limited to, aldehydes, esters, ketones, lactones, mercaptans, tiglates, pyrazines, thiazole or sulfides. It is “a somatic experience of perception, the recognition of stimulation on sensory receptors,” he said.   

For food formulators, flavor is also a sensory science, including such factors as profile attribute analysis, hedonic scaling, statistical data analysis, principal component identification and descriptive flavor analysis. (See chart “Flavor Analysis: Sensory Computer Systems.”)   

Descriptive flavor analysis involves disciplined methodology, analysis, gustation, the “taste top five” and aroma, according to Ennis. Another factor he noted is TME (TME = Top note, Mid note, End note). The six taste perceptions described were sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and astringent and umami.   

Ennis then went into various flavor experiences, including those of goji berry, blood lime, yum berry, maqui berry, snake fruit, umbu, lucuma, marula, mangosteen, Saskatoon berry and persimmon.

The goji berry is native to China and contains the compounds 2-methyl butyric acid, ethyl 2-methyl butyrate, eucalyptol, disophenol, hexanal, octanal and dimethyl sulfide. Blood lime is an Australian hybrid citrus fruit, circa 2004, and it is a cross between a lime and a mandarin orange. Blood limes are terpene-rich, and contain geranyl and linalyl acetate; octanal, decanal, citral and lauryl aldehyde; geranyl hexanoate, dimethyl antrhanilate; and borneol, ecalyptol and linalool.   

Yum berries, again from China, are both sweet and tart; another name for them is yang-me. They contain both acetates (anisyl, hexenyl, butyl, hexyl, amyl and propyl); and Cis-3 hexenyls, including acetate, butyrate, lactate, hexanoate and propionate.   

The maqui berry, from Chile and Argentina, has an astringent taste with a blackberry-like aroma. It contains fruity ethyl esters (butyrate, lactate, isovalerate, E2M butyrate); ionones (alpha and beta, davanone); green hexyl complex (alcohol, acetate, butyrate); and beta methyl napthyl and raspberry ketones.   

Indonesian snake fruit is from the Salak palm, with a sweet, grainy sugar and an apple-pear-chestnut flavor profile. It has a floral blend, with notes of boronia, geranium, osmanthus, mimosa and violet, and contains praline and a pyrazine blend of 2,3,5,6 tetra and 2,3,5 trimethyl.   

From Brazil, the umbu (or Brazil plum) has fresh, green ethyl esters and hexyl compounds. It is lactone-smooth, with undertones of beta-caryophllene and contains essences of rose and jasmine (phenyl ethyl alcohol and benzyl acetate).   

The lucuma, from the countries of Peru, Laos and Vietnam, has a maple, sweet-potato-like flavor with notes of apple, peach, banana and black current. It contains caprylic, hexanoic and malic acids.   

The marula, from South Africa, is rich in oleic, palmitic and stearic oils. It has a nutty, cocoa-like aroma.

Mangosteen, from Southeast Asia, Columbia and India, has a sweet, caramel, buttery, “grassy,” flavor. It is rich in hexyl acetate, hexenol and furanone and contains both tropical and creamy flavor compounds. 

Japan, China and California are the locations for the persimmon, which has the botanic morphology of a berry. Its tannins contribute to its astringency, and it is rich in glucose as well as being sweet and tangy in flavor. It contains the compounds alpha phellandrene and beta caryophellene; butyric acid and dimethyl sulfide; and butyl acetate and methyl cinnamate.   

Lastly, Ennis discussed the fruit that harkens furthest North: Canada’s Saskatoon berry. It has fir needle and cedar leaf oils, citric, malic and tartaric acids; and has linalool and raspberry ketones.   

“Exploration and Innovation of Exotic Flavors,” George Ennis, vice president, chief flavor chemist, David Michael & Company, 215-632-3100,


It’s Not All About the Heat 

After 146 years, McIlhenny Company is still using the original recipe for Tabasco Sauce with very few changes. The company was created in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a banker who received some peppers from a Spanish soldier during the Spanish-American war and started growing them. Tabasco Sauce was originally bottled in discarded cologne bottles. Since then, the family has been promoting Tabasco as a premium product line that enlivens the flavor of food. The theme is that the Tabasco products are not about the heat, but about the flavor.   

Distributed in 165 countries and territories worldwide, Tabasco Sauce is packaged under 22 different languages. McIlhenny manages the process from seed to bottle, and that process takes about five years.

Every year, the seed crop of Tabasco peppers is planted on Avery Island; in August or September, seeds are chosen from the best of the crop and segregated out to be saved for the next year’s crop of peppers. The seeds chosen are grown in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, South Africa and Louisiana, and the seed crop is again grown on Avery Island. The farms (used every year) are family-owned and -operated, and are sized between two and 10 acres.   

Tabasco peppers, never having been genetically modified in any way, are picked by hand, at their peak ripeness. When picked, they are then sent to a central location within each country to be turned into mash. The mash is then transported in 55,000-gallon super-sacks and shipped to Avery Island to be aged in white French oak bourbon barrels for flavor development. The barrels are reused for up to 60 years with good cleaning and care (which is important because of a shortage of oak barrels); plastic barrels cannot replace the flavor added by the oak.   

As explained in a PF R&D Seminar presentation titled “Tabasco Ingredients – It’s Not All About the Heat,” by Judson McLester, executive chef, ingredient sales manager at Tabasco (McIlhenny), “The mash is aged for flavor, because perfection cannot be hurried.”

As the mash ages, it goes through changes in flavor, aroma and color. Moisture escapes, the mash gets dryer, and the flavor deepens and becomes more mature and complex. These changes provide a variety of flavorings for various applications and cannot be accomplished with a faster process. Heat is a byproduct of flavor development; the heat is present, but not as important as the flavor. (See chart “Aging of Tabasco.”)   

Tabasco sauce is available industrially in a family of flavors. Industrial ingredients include flavored sauces and bulk flavorings. Both sauces and flavorings are all-natural, kosher, halal, allergen- and gluten-free, and they come in concentrated, intermediate-moisture and dry forms. Primary ingredients for blends, seed pulps and crushed dry products consist of skin, seeds, aged fermented red peppers, vinegar and salt. “The processing is what makes the difference,” states McLester.   

Applications for Tabasco products include the expected steak sauce, Buffalo chicken sauce and salad dressings, but the products also provide taste enhancement to the unexpected—such as a jalapeño vanilla ice cream with raspberry chipotle glaze.  Tabasco paste is best used in a wet application, such as beer or a cocktail.  Tabasco complements dark beer or anything with a caramelized note.   

McIlhenny is constantly looking for the newest sauce trend for development of new products, including different pepper varieties, but the process takes years.   

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor 

“Tabasco Ingredients—It’s not Just About the Heat,” Judson McLester, executive chef and ingredient sales manager, Tabasco (McIlhenny),, 847-223-0944 


Use of Flavors in Food Products 

Flavors chosen for food formulations are integral to product success. Product development formulators often view flavors as extremely challenging.  Public opinion on flavoring ingredients is not always positive. To change attitudes, the latest trends are monitored. Flavors are evaluated to use them in the best light. Flavor is a combination of odor, taste, trigeminal and tactile stimulation, and it is bolstered by the rest of the senses.    

Flavors are important. To underscore that importance, one should look at the genetics of the sense of odor, an intrinsic part of the flavor duo: odor and taste.  It takes 1,000 genes to design the sense of smell.  Considering the overall genetic makeup of the human genome, this means 1% of the human body consists of the coding for aroma.   

Unlike the other senses, the chemicals responsible for aromas go to the limbic system of the brain (the id) affecting mood, appetite and hunger. The strongest of all senses—flavor—leaves a more lasting memory.  Blood pressure has been seen to be reduced when a person is exposed to certain aroma types.    

So there really may be something to aroma therapy.  “Temporary anosmia is a protective mechanism helping to avoid overexposure damage because of the strength of our acuity,” explained Dolf DeRovira, president, Flavor Dynamics Inc., in his Prepared Foods’ R&D Seminar titled “The Use of Flavors in Food Products.”   

The challenge of flavors is that when two or more flavor aroma types are used together, sometimes they mask each other; sometimes there is synergy; and sometimes satiation. Finding the right combination is the challenge. Flavors should be evaluated with a temporal aspect in mind.  There is a time-intensity flavor profile to each sensory experience to be kept in mind when evaluating flavor, because flavor only lasts seconds when tasted. (See chart “The Time-intensity Approach.”)   

Chemical weight or molecular size is directly proportional to the volatility. So light, smaller chemicals come off first, and heavier, large molecules come off later.  Even non-volatile chemicals have a time-intensity characteristic.  Salt, sour, sweet, umami and bitter come off in that order.   

Flavors are difficult to evaluate, but it is important to do so. When evaluating flavors, pH is important. For example, it is the main difference between almond and cherry flavor. But, do not smell from a bottle, because it is a totally different perception in the application than in the bottle. Provide detailed information to flavor houses. Go back and forth with a few favorite, trusted flavor houses when trying to create the perfect flavor.

Keep in mind that less is often more; adjustments will need to be made. Often when the flavor is just not right, try using less, as it might be overly saturated. Or, if it is a savory flavor, try adding more salt. If a sweet flavor, it may need more sugar.   

The time-intensity approach is a tool which measures intensity against tasting time, identifying the top- note, middle ground and background flavors.    

“The time-intensity approach can be used to cover up an off-note or enhance a specific character, by measuring the time for enhanced-flavor intensity, and the time until reduced-flavor intensity occurs. Adding a flavor with appropriate time properties is important,” added DeRovira.   

Flavors are major contributors to a product’s success. Choosing the right flavors—-using them at the right levels in the right environment—will improve the success rate.   

However, flexibility and change are often required until the right combination is found. DeRovira stressed that using a flavor company that will work to understand the issues is most helpful. Time is an important parameter in the evaluation. Culinary techniques can also improve product quality, in combination with flavor systems. Most importantly, flavors are fun to use.   

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor 

“The Use of Flavors in Food Products,” Dolf DeRovira, president, Flavor Dynamics,, 888-271-8424 


Savory Benefits by Adding a Little Heat 

Adding a bit of heat to a dish is a standard amongst savvy chefs and home-cooks alike. How much heat is enough? How much is too much? How much should be offered for certain types of foods?   

These questions and more were answered by Lindsay Mathisen McDonald, technical sales, French’s Flavor Ingredients, in her Prepared Foods’ R&D Seminar titled “The Savory Benefits of Adding a Little Heat.” Some people can’t get enough of heat, others need to get far away…but why?   

To answer these questions, one must first understand some “flavor basics,” including the fact that flavor is the fusion of multiple senses. It involves the gustatory, olfactory, tactile and thermal senses. The tongue’s surface has areas that “receive” bitter, sour, salty and sweet flavors. Adding a little heat, says McDonald, can have a savory benefit. She noted flavors that contain thiocyanates, such as mustard, horseradish and wasabi; and those containing alkyl amides, such as chilis, black pepper and ginger, can help enhance the taste receptors’ perceptions of satiety.   

To explain this concept of the savory benefits of heat, along with the sometimes-desirable perception of pain, McDonald noted that allyl isothiocyanate creates volatile nose and mouth heat—which stimulates nerve endings and dissipates quickly. Capsaicin has a non-volatile mouth-heat response, but it binds to pain receptors and lingers in the mouth.   

But, admittedly, that “pleasure in pain” experience is not for everyone. McDonald explained how heat tolerance is determined in individuals through personality and experience. The four factors mentioned in determining heat tolerance were: culinary exposure through globalization, anatomy, genetics and personal history.   

Some folks are simply attracted to “hot,” for a variety of reasons. McDonald discussed hot flavors’ mild euphoric sensation; release of endorphins (nature’s pain killers); the constrained risk factor (thrill-seekers who enjoy the feeling of vertigo or shock accompanying extreme heat); and sensitizing, which she described as occurring when “temporary inflammation induces heightened sensations.”   

People seem to agree that hot flavors are, well, “hot.” In a French’s Flavor Ingredients survey, some 30% of adults— including Gen Y adults—“somewhat agree” with the statement “I like hot and spicy foods.”    

This sentiment is supported by the fact that the hot sauce segment, which makes up most of “other” sauce sales, according to a “Technomic Condiments Report” (2012), saw a nearly 4% increase between 2011 and 2013.   

Heat’s use is also important, averred McDonald, as it “awakens and enlivens…adds complexity and depth…and cuts and refreshes” food formulations. Heat pairs best with butter-/fat-rich foods and meats and also those with sweet notes, such as traditional Buffalo wings with cayenne pepper sauce and clarified butter; or fatty fish, such as salmon with honey mustard.   

Formulation benefits of using heat include the ability to lower salt and fat content, and increase mouthfeel and texture. Health benefits include increased metabolism; satiety; and reducing muscle pain by increasing blood flow in the body.   

“The Savory Benefits of Adding a Little Heat,” Lindsay Mathisen McDonald, Technical Sales, French’s Flavor Ingredients,,   


Dairy Flavors, Applications 

Dairy flavors enhance sensory impact of dairy and non-dairy products, providing important functions in many applications. Creative approaches to raw materials selection; understanding and skillful use of enzymes and microorganisms; and suitable process technologies allow unique dairy flavors to be created to function in a number of systems.   

Dairy flavors, derived through biotechnological processes and based on natural raw materials, are considered natural flavors.   

Enzyme modification of dairy products is often used to create dairy flavors. Enzymes break down fats, proteins and other dairy components, creating specific flavors depending on enzyme and substrate. Enzymes can be sourced from animals, plants and microbial extracts, and are available in powder, liquid or paste forms.   

“Lipase enzymes hydrolyze fats, creating free fatty acids and mono-, di- and triglycerides, which can change texture, mouthfeel and flavor, and create fats with unique properties,” explained Farshid Eftekhari, director of innovation for Avoca Inc.   

Many dairy flavors are made from enzyme-modified butter oil. Fatty acids broken down by lipases create a variety of ketoacids, methyl ketones, secondary alcohols, free fatty acids, lactones, hydroperoxides and aldehydes, with their various flavor contributions.   

Proteases, which are enzymes that break down proteins, also create a variety of flavors when reacted with dairy proteins.    

“Proteolysis can also increase nutritive value and affect the foaming and emulsifying properties of proteins,” added Eftekhari. Hydrophobic peptides, mainly related to casein, have a tendency to taste bitter. Enzymes break down proteins into peptides and amino acids. This creates many protein-derived flavor compounds, such as isobutyl acetamide, acetophenone, amines, ?-keto acids, aldehydes, alcohols,  amino acids, phenols, indole, cresol and so on.   

Through enzyme and microbial fermentation, many volatile compounds are involved in the flavor impact of various cheeses and cultured dairy products. Fermentation-derived volatile compounds include organic acids, sulfur compounds, esters, ketones and aldehydes, to name a few. The Maillard reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids also results in a number of flavor compounds.   

Chemical changes occur from protein denaturation, butter oil hydrolysis and carbohydrate breakdown. And, volatile compounds resulting from microbial fermentation are instrumental in dairy flavor generation.  Dairy flavors are generally natural and can be top noted. Flavors are either oil- or water-soluble and can contain water, gums, emulsifying salts and hydrocolloids.    

For more complex flavor systems, additional flavor components, such as building blocks, dairy fractions or distillates are used.  (See chart “Creative and Innovative Dairy Flavor Creation.”) Flavor components, like fruity, “rindy,” sulfur, cooked or nutty, assist in creation of stand-alone flavors with unique flavor properties. In addition to flavor impact, dairy flavor can also function in masking off-notes and providing creaminess.   

Delivery systems include paste, oil- or water-soluble liquid, spray-dried or spray-chilled. Dairy flavors are an effective tool in cost reduction and also deliver signature and proprietary dairy notes—even in vegetable oil-based products.   

Applications for dairy flavors include bakery and cereal products, sweets, canned foods, dairy products, snacks, vegetable oil-based products, nutrition drinks and for salt reduction. They improve low-fat and no-fat products and high-protein drinks. Dairy-derived flavors are available in all-natural, clean label, non-declarable, kosher, halal and organic.   

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor 

“Dairy Flavors, Science and Application,” Farshid Eftekhari, director of innovation, Avoca Inc.,, 262-502-4390   


Drive Customer Craveability with Chef-inspired Flavor Solutions 

New flavors can be inspired by consumer trend predictions, movement in the restaurant industry, shifts in health awareness, changing  demographics, more sophisticated palates or, simply, out of need. Today’s high-speed, high-humidity industrial cooking can lack authentic flavor top notes developed by traditional cooking techniques.   

Currently, the array of savory flavors that mimic traditional cooking methods include grilled, roasted, fried, fire-roasted, sautéed, baked, smoked, toasted, caramelized, broiled, seared, slow-cooked, stir-fried, braised and charred. Savory flavors, singly or in combination, overcome thermal processing challenges by delivering the missing or diminishing flavors otherwise imparted and/or high-moisture extension contributed by marination.   

“A flavor gap is created in manufacturing. Savory reaction flavors fill that flavor gap, making these foods more authentic-tasting, thus driving more sales,” said Dr. Bob Johnson, value optimization manager at Red Arrow Products  Company LLC.   

Savory flavor ingredients include proteins from meats, yeast or hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, amino acids, fats, fatty acids, sugars, carbohydrates and vitamins. Ingredients are combined, pH level is adjusted, and heat is applied for a specific time to generate reactions responsible for developing flavors. Reaction types are oxidation, degradation, polymerization, hydrolysis, etc., which are all part of the Maillard reaction.   

“The formation of pyrazines, thiazoles, thiophenes, furans, furanones, pyrroles, aldehydes, ketones and other flavor molecules occurs during flavor creation,” said Dr. Johnson. “Understanding and applying this knowledge is the foundation to creating flavors of interest which provide that back-of-the house sensory experience as if it were freshly and authentically prepared; yet, the product might have originated from high-humidity, industrial processing  and simply have been re-heated from frozen at the point of consumption.”   

Key flavor compounds from food prepared using authentic cooking methods are identified by analytical equipment to provide specific molecular insights. This information, combined with the direction of trained, descriptive sensory personnel, establishes a gold standard or the benchmark for the developmental goal.      

Customized flavors can be created for specific needs. The popularity of grilled foods has driven the creation of more flavors. Using reaction chemistry experiences to target certain profiles and combine flavor keys of interest creates multiple levels on intensity and flavor.   

Some factors to consider when developing a grill flavor are: what meat species should be targeted; how much umami; the degree of doneness (rare or medium-rare); is the target a charcoal, wood or gas profile; and how much of the meat drippings that fall onto the specific heat source is reabsorbed back into the meat.   

Further considerations include the complex brown notes associated with the charring of the meat contacting the hot grill grate; the subtle searing that occurs on the meat between the grates; and the tastes associated with fire coming up and “kissing” the meat. These attributes are all unique, yet identifiable.   

When used in combination, amazing similarity for products produced industrially in high-humidity conveyor ovens can mimic those which have been prepared using traditional grills. For other cooking method flavors, adding the browned top notes is pivotal and applies to various methods—such as roasted flavors which include pan drippings. These flavors are species-specific and can be referred to as dark-roasted and lightly roasted. Similar descriptions could apply to fried, braised and other cooking methods discussed earlier.       

“Cooking-method flavors offer a point of authenticity; a balance and complexity that enhances satisfaction. Savory flavors are cost-effective, versatile and easy- to-use, while creating consistent end-products and promoting a clean label,” said
Dr. Johnson.     

—Summary by Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor 

“Driving Customer Craveability with Chef-inspired Flavor Solutions,” Dr. Robert Johnson, value optimization manager, Red Arrow,, 920-629-0407