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By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor | 01/07/2009
“To meet the high expectations for taste, flavor innovation now includes taking popular and familiar flavors and putting them into non-traditional applications. For example, cake flavors decorate yogurt, and coffee deepens the flavor of ice cream. Sushi and burritos are now made with non-traditional ingredients,” she says.
The health halo surrounding superfruits will continue to drive their popularity. Over the last couple years, pomegranate has become widely accepted across the food and beverage industry, paving the way for other superfruits to work their way into products. In 2008, açai made its way into several new product launches. This year, look for goji berry and mangosteen to make appearances in better-for-you foods and beverages.
Though function and flavor may match perfectly, there is still no doubt which one will win out when it comes to attracting consumers. “When creating new products for the health-conscious consumer, developers know that taste is the number one driver,” says White. “Though a functional product may fit into one’s diet, if it doesn’t taste good, it is unlikely that person will purchase it more than once.”
But functional foods and beverages offer their own flavor challenges, and often require flavor maskers or modifiers to create an overall balanced flavor profile. “Bold flavors are great additions to functional foods, as they help cover the off notes often associated with the addition of functional ingredients or the void left when reducing fats or sugars,” White adds.
Combining new tastes with familiar favorites is one way to bring excitement to a functional product without creating concepts consumers are hesitant to try. Açai-raspberry and goji-orange are examples of blends that will increase the appeal of unknown superfruit flavors.
A trend that appears to be on the increase is the integration of superfruits and other functional ingredients into foods already rich in fiber, creating unique functional combinations. Nature’s Path Foods (www.naturespath.com), Richmond, British Columbia, added granolas to its organic cereal line and included many of the more popular functional food flavors to increase the appeal of an already well-received whole grain snack.
Açai, pomegranate, ginger, hemp, agave and vanilla, along with almonds and pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds, bring added nutrition to the high fiber content of the organic whole grains. Cinnamon, an anti-cholesterol spice, and blueberry, an antioxidant powerhouse, both add flavor, value and interest to the new Nature’s Path’s line of organic whole-grain breads.
Yogurt continues to evolve from the tart yet plain ethnic specialty that some of us grew up with into a flavorful, custard-like source of probiotics. Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com), Londonderry, N.H., recently introduced several new flavors based on functional ingredients, including pomegranate berry and chocolate raspberry.
For the new year, the company will add limited-edition seasonal yogurts, inspired by the time of year. Apple Pie should be on store shelves starting this month and available until early spring, followed by a spring/summer seasonal flavor. All limited-edition seasonal offerings are certified organic, low in fat and made with no artificial colors, flavors or ingredients.
Researching new flavors
The new year also will see evolving methods of creating new flavors. Two of the larger international flavor houses used strikingly similar and innovative approaches last year in developing new chicken flavors. Why chicken? Perhaps both companies focused on it as a comfort food consumers are turning to in tough economic times.
Working from The Netherlands, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (www.iff.com), New York, conducted consumer research in major markets across the globe to identify ideal chicken tastes and aromas.
"Our research told us that chicken is a nearly universal comfort food and that consumers want authentic, familiar chicken tastes and aromas created by cooking techniques they know and love,” says Jos Muilwijk, IFF’s head of global savory category management. “Spices and herbs add interest and regional character, but the true ‘essence’ of chicken should shine through.”
From there, IFF’s Certified Master Chef Florian Webhofer and his team prepared gold standard chicken dishes. Trained sensory panels in various locations around the world evaluated these to find the superior profiles in each category. Then the R&D and flavor creation people created flavors to match those flavor profiles. The result is IFF’s new range of authentic natural chicken flavors.
Givaudan Flavors (www.givaudan.com), Cincinnati, recently unveiled a new approach to creating unique chicken flavors. A research team in Dübendorf, Switzerland, surveyed about 7,300 consumers in 14 countries and observed home-cooking first-hand, translating the needs and preferences of the end user into a sensory language to help guide the company’s flavor creation team. Researchers also observed professional chefs in the process of cooking chicken dishes, noting meat types, preparations, ingredients, cooking techniques and other methods.
Researchers tasted and analyzed dishes from fine-dining, quick-serve and traditional restaurants in 10 countries to get a handle the complex cultural associations that consumers make with chicken flavors. They did not influence consumers to use any specific chicken products, but instead observed the consumers’ spontaneously purchased ingredients, bought locally and known traditionally. The results provided a comprehensive picture of how chicken was perceived, purchased and prepared globally.
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