Friday, 20 June 2014

F is For Flavour (Part 2)

Why Add Flavour?

1. To give the product an intrinsic flavour.
An example would be ice-cream. Without the added flavour, there would be no taste.

2. To add flavour to products which flavour has been lost OR modified during processing.

The Role of the Flavourist

The flavourist who is also known as a flavour chemist who uses chemical processes to combine different flavouring agents to obtain the final intended flavour.

The flavourist will first identify the outstanding characteristics of a particular flavour. From these outstanding characteristics, the flavourist will then create a flavouring which is similar to the original flavouring profile. They are something like perfumists.

Once the flavourist and food manufacturer are satisfied with the new flavour that was produced, they will experiment this new flavour on focus groups to taste it. If the new flavour is accepted, then it can be marketed and sold!

Manufacturing Process of Flavourings

1. Producing Natural Flavouring Substances

a. Extraction Process

An example would be extracting vanilla from vanilla beans. Alcohol is used as a solvent.

b. Distillation Process

In this process, liquid mixture are separated by heating. The steam is collected by cooling. An example would be producing natural citral from lemon grass oil.

c. Biotechnological Production Processes

Flavours which are produced by these processes use micro-organisms to facilitate the 'extraction' of flavour. Acetic acid bacteria, enzymes, fungi are some of the ways.  Once this process is done, extraction or distillation will take place.

2. Synthetic Flavouring Substances

On 20th January 2011, the new EC Flavouring Regulation ruled that both 'natural-identical' AND 'artificial flavouring' will be both categorized under 'flavouring substances' with no distinctions between the two.

Click on LINK to read more.

3. Other Flavouring Categories

a. Flavour Preparations

These are natural flavouring properties which are obtained from animals or plants material by physical methods, enzymes or fermentation. A few examples are vegetable/fruit extracts, spice/herb extracts and yeast extract.

Even essential oil falls under this category. Clove and eucalyptus oil are two examples.

b. Thermal Processing Flavourings

Certain intense flavour only develope once it is placed under controlled heating elements. An example would be roasting meat. A raw steak is quite tasteless but once its is roasted or grilled certain flavours are produced due to the influence of the heat. Cooking oil is used as a solvent.

c. Smoke flavourings

Smoke flavourings not only preserve food but also produce food with a special smoke flavour.

Artificial Flavours Examples

1. Diacetyl - Buttery
2. Isoamyl Acetate - Banana
3. Benzaldehyde - Bitter Almond
4. Cinnamic Aldehyde - Cinnamon
5. Methyl Anthranilate - Grape
6. Ethyl Decadienoate - Pear
7. Allyl Hexanoate - Pineapple
8. Ethyl Maltol - Sugar, Cotton Candy
9. Ethylvanillin - Vanilla
10. Methyl Salicylate - Wintergreen

Acids as Flavourants

1. Acetic Acid - Gives vinegar its sour taste and distinctive smell.
2. Ascorbic Acid - Slightly sour taste: Also known as Vitamin C!
3. Citric Acid - Gives citrus fruits the sour taste.
4. Fumaric Acid - Used as a substitute for citric and tartaric acid. This does not exist in fruits.
5. Lactic Acid - Found in milk and fermented products which gives the rich taste.
6. Malic Acid - Found in apples that gives the sour/tart taste.
7. Phosphoric Acid - Used in cola drinks to give that acidic taste.
8. Tartaric Acid - Found in grapes/wines which gives that 'tart-grape-y' taste.

Flavouring Trivia

1. Food flavouring is added to medications to facilitate ingestion.

2. There are about 10,000 flavouring substances identified in nature. The flavouring industry only uses 2,500 of these flavourings.

3. The colour of one's food can alter the expectations and perceptions of the flavour significantly. Darker hue can influence the taste buds to a sweeter taste. Lighter colours decreases the sweetness.

4. Most F&B companies employ the services of flavour companies for their products.

5. Artificial strawberry flavouring is produced by vaporizing the strawberry natural flavouring.

6. There are seven basic tastes which are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami, pungent and metallic.

7. Artificial flavours usually modify the smell of a food product to accent it while natural flavours set up the basic smell of the food.

8. The flavourists profession kicked off during the time when refrigeration became a household item which was affordable which accelerated the growth of food processing industry.

9. In the US, there is a Society of Flavour Chemist which flavourists can join. In order to join, the flavourist must pass an apprenticeship within a 'flavour house' for five years. A 'flavour house' is a flavour company where the training and (the job) of the flavourist is done.

10. In 2011, US$10.6 billion were generated from the sales of flavours alone!

For a brief history of food flavourings, do click on LINK.


  1. It's incredibly scary. Same as perfume, "flavor" is such a pretty word but all it means these days is chemicals. We don't even know what real foods taste like unless one buys real, fresh food, but even then who knows what we are getting!