Flavors and Seasonings Combine in Flavor Systems

As American palates get more discerning and adventuresome, complex flavor systems are needed to keep foods at the forefront of trends.

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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The addition of salt can reduce bitter taste, according to Russell Keast, research associate at Monell Chemical Senses Center (www.monell.org), Philadelphia. Hydrocolloids are another way to mask off-flavors; the gum systems coat the mouth and the taste buds preventing contact with the bitter component.

Artificial sweeteners are skyrocketing in use as weight-conscious Americans look to lower their calorie intake. But aspartame, saccharin and sucralose all have aftertastes, some of which depends upon the food they're being used to sweeten. As a result, each sweetener and its application must be treated in an individual manner. Flavor modifiers can help provide a sweetness profile to mimic real sugar. Flavors of North America (www.fona.com), Carol Stream, Ill., has a range of masking agents to help manufacturers with formulas.

Another approach comes from Senomyx (www.senomyx.com), La Jolla, Calif. The company is researching "chemosensation," which entails devising molecules that trigger the receptors responsible for taste and smell. As a result, enhancing the sweet taste might allow food companies to make cookies and soft drinks that require less sugar without sacrificing flavor.

"Our work is very timely in terms of what ails the American food culture," says Kent Snyder, CEO at Senomyx. He says his company's flavor enhancers could take some of the "junk" ingredients, such as excessive sugar, salt and other problematic but satisfying ingredients, out of many food and beverage products. "All the big food companies are trying to decrease the amount of sodium, sugar and fat in foods. We have signed deals with some of the biggest players in the food industry, among them Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Kraft," he adds.

Senomyx in March received Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for four savory enhancers - S807, S336, S263, and S976 - from the Food and Extract Manufactures Assn. Products S336 and S807, for example, enhance the taste of naturally occurring glutamate and eliminate the need for added monosodium glutamate. Many processors are seeking substitutes for MSG because of safety concerns and negative perception among consumers. Snyder says Nestle and Campbell Soup are to begin test marketing these enhancers in some well-known foods later this year.

The FDA recently allowed for evidence-based labeling claims that phytosterols and stanol esters assist in lowering blood cholesterol. Several flavor companies including Blue Pacific (www.bluepacificflavors.com), City of Industry, Calif., are feverishly working on flavor systems that incorporate phytosterols and stanols for regulated dosage application in a variety of food products.

A compelling flavor issue awaiting solution is the masking of fish and omega-3 oils in foods and beverages. The market demand for omega-3 foods and beverages are expected to grow rapidly as scientific evidence points to omega-3s as the nutrient to mitigate risk of coronary, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases.

Note to Procurement

The food industry has changed considerably in the last decade. Downsizing and cost-cutting have shifted much of the scientific research and expertise from food processors to ingredient suppliers. Food developers have come to rely on their suppliers for direction and ideas. Nevertheless, become an expert in your flavor system - understand everything you can about the nuances of the flavor. Chances are that your understanding can contribute to the major discerning difference over other products.

Flavor companies not only know how to apply their flavor compounds but also how to maximize effectiveness and minimize waste. Educate your flavor vendor on the nuances of your plant facilities and help them fine-tune their flavor system for your particular application.

Formulating with new flavors should be highly collaborative, and successful initiatives involve marketers who provide the concept, flavor suppliers who provide the aroma compounds, flavorists who understand the material interactions, product developers who put it all together and plant operators who help ultimately to make the flavor system work.

Understand the impact that the selection of flavor ingredients has on the total product: overall formula cost, ease of incorporation, impact on production processes and impact on the finished product's nutritional characteristics (calories, fat, protein, fiber). Keep up front the value of your product and brand, rather than looking at simply the cost of one flavor compared to another.

Keep your end-user close at hand, too. Incorporate feedback from consumers to ensure that your product appeals to a wide range of consumers with different tastes. While you and your flavor company can take a new product far, some of the best ideas and solutions come from listening to consumers.

Listen also to retailers and distributors, who are in continuous contact with consumers and often understand consumer behavior and purchasing habits better than anyone else.

When engaging flavor houses, ensure they have knowledgeable research chefs on board with supporting sensory science and food science professionals for accurate nutritional and ingredient analysis and declaration services. If your product is slated for interstate distribution and storage, make sure the flavor house has shelf-life testing and regulatory expertise.


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