“The dependence on Florida as a source for flavor oils has hurt supply of the ingredients for grapefruit flavors,” continues Lynch. “Loss of two-thirds of the crop during last fall’s hurricanes has driven us to looking at other solutions.” As a result, Quest (www.questintl.com), Hoffman Estates, Ill., has developed Citrusense grapefruit flavors, which are not dependent on grapefruit oils from Florida.
Lime flavor sometimes may substitute for grapefruit, and lime adds reasons of its own for popularity. Lime is essential to Mexican and Caribbean cuisine. As the demographics of the United States shift toward Mexican and other Hispanic populations, lime will become more important. There are different notes in lime: Tahitian and Key Lime are some of the specials.
“Our executive chef, Christopher Hansen, has immersed himself in trendy ethnic dishes, for example Thai and Mexican cuisines,” says Lynch, and lime is a key ingredient in both. “Lime also is hot in beverage applications. However, one of the issues with lime in low pH application is the stability.” So Quest has developed a line of stable citrus flavors called Citrustable, to manage the off-note formation in low pH beverage applications.
Other fruit flavors also appear on the verge of popularity, but not common fruits. Special apple flavors, including Fuji apples, are under development at Takasago. “We’ve done a lot of work on characterizing the special flavor and aroma notes of different apples,” says Manley.
Berry flavors have long been a favorite. Newfound interest in their antioxidant properties is providing a surge. “Strawberry, raspberry and blueberry are popular, at least partly because of all of the interest in the healthy properties of berries,” says Lynch.
The challenges of health
Current health and diet trends are providing challenges for flavor. “There’s a new sense of excitement in breadings and batters, and attention to dealing with current trends is important,” says Christine McBride, manager of breadings and batters R&D at Chicago-based Newly Weds Foods (www.newlywedsfoods.com).
“Most of our products end up in frying oils, and the oils are changing to healthier types with higher rates of oxidation,” she observes. Trans fats are out and more Omega-3s are in. “Coatings that feature green herbs, such as rosemary, which supplies a sophisticated green note and antioxidant qualities, help retard fat oxidation. These are particularly popular in coatings for chicken and snacks.”
Between trans fat replacement and the interest in whole grains, Paul Richards and Bob Boutin, who operate Knechtel Laboratories (www.knechtel.com) in Skokie, Ill., are working with more cereal products these days. “Flavors have to be superb,” notes Richards. “There are more ingredients that require masking, and they have flavors of their own that thin out the flavor profile you want. It takes big flavors to make products, which border on the nutraceutical, that taste as good as consumers want them to. And grocery products across the board are moving toward the nutraceutical.”
Even Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. (www.benjerry.com), South Burlington, Vt., cannot buck the low-fat and low-carb trends. The recent launches of Carb Karma (2-5 g net carbs per serving), no-sugar-added ice cream (sweetened with artificial sweeteners), light ice cream (half the fat and 25 percent the calories) and low-fat frozen yogurt (3 g or less fat per serving) provide flavoring problems for a company noted for delivering big and indulgent flavor.
But don’t look for good, old, decadent chocolate to disappear any time soon. Chocolate “is something we do awfully well,” says Chrystie Heimert, director of public relations. So chocolate bits, chips, fudge, cookie dough, and brownie batter will remain in almost of the company’s top 10 flavors (except vanilla), as well as what she calls come-back flavor peanut butter cookie dough.
This year, chocolate is almost gaining a halo. Recent research indicates a connection between cocoa’s polyphenols and a reduction in cholesterol plaque.
Cocoa’s anti-cancer suggestions won’t hurt, either. So count chocolate in as a flavor to watch this year: chocolate plus hot components, chocolate plus fruit, chocolate plus spice, and chocolate just for the heck of it.