Flavours, essential oils, aromatics & other ingredients are typically found on food labels in various food products. The public is generally not informed on the functionality & general specifications of these ingredients as well the types of companies that make all these products possible. Besides what Mother Nature provides, all processed food contains ingredients & in most cases, they also contain flavouring ingredients. The mass media & the health food sector aided in negatively portraying the processed food industry & has sometimes specifically focused on the flavour industry.
A few key topics that need to be properly explained:
Most of us work with flavours every day: Everytime food is cooked, the flavours in the ingredients you we are using are being, generated, transformed & transferred from one matrix to another. Specific spices, condiments, fruits, vegetables & meats are chosen, processed, & arranged in specific ways so that a great tasting/smelling dish is made. Recipes are often followed, but sometimes we become creative & get inspired by new concepts. Recipe books, travel to different locations & friends & family often serve as inspiration for new creations. We take the care to purchase the best ingredients for the right price & make sure that we buy from reputable sources. Some dishes can use very smelly ingredients or simply have a potent odour. All of this describes what we do everyday in our research & development labs. We technically all partake in various aspects of flavour development work in our daily lives. However, the main difference is the technical level & the concentration of the ingredients we use. One classic example is acetic acid or vinegar that can be found in most households. At home, vinegar is mainly used as a cleaning aid & kitchen ingredient. Nevertheless, the acetic acid that flavour houses will typically use is about 10X stronger, thus greater care has to be taken when handling this ingredient. Another example that can be expanded on is benzaldehde, which smells like almonds or certain cherry products. It can be extracted from almonds & concentrated to be sold as a natural aromatic chemical or as bitter almond oil. Benzaldhyde is corrosive, can peel paint & eat through concrete, but we consume small amounts everyday through eating a variety of foods. Bitter almond oil is a key component of aroma therapy & a variety of safe products. The toxicity is simply a question of concentration or dosage that you are exposed to.
Natural vs. artificial: The public’s perception is that artificial ingredients are bad & that naturals are good. Well, to be factual, artificial chemicals are identical to their natural counterparts & are sometimes more pure then naturals. Synthetic chemicals are derived from petrochemical ingredients/reactions, but will be identical to naturals, except for their isotope levels (insignificant to health etc..), prices & availability. Since natural chemicals are extracted from organic matter, they can contain traces of pesticides.
Natural product vs. natural flavour: It is quite obvious that real strawberries cannot be properly used to flavour bubblegum, hard candies & various other sweet applications. However, they can be used to make a range of other products such as juices, high-end ice cream & desserts. Well, while more expensive products will contain strawberries in one form or another (juice concentrate, freeze-dried or essences), these same products will also contain natural strawberry flavours. The main reasons for this is are flavour stability, product availability, processing & cost.
Making healthy foods possible: Many vegetarian, natural/nutraceutical & high-end products contain flavouring ingredients. Want to experience the great taste of BBQ chicken, fries & bacon, but not want to consume these foods due to the meat, religious restrictions & fat content? This is all possible with customized flavour systems that can be formulated for most applications.
Cutting the salt, sugar & fat: Salt, sugar & fat are all dominant flavour enhancers, so by removing/lowering their levels, flavour will be affected. Significant reductions in these core types of ingredients can be partially compensated by using customized flavour systems.
Tasty solutions for those with allergies: Allergies are growing at an exponential rate, so this generally results in more restrictions when choosing the foods we eat. It is now possible for people with allergies to experience flavours that were once taboo. Soy, dairy, nut or fish allergies often prevent people from tasting certain foods, but flavour systems can be formulated to mimic all these profiles. The Novotaste flavour library contains soy sauce, milk/yogurt/cheese, peanut & salmon flavour systems that can be used to make great tasting dishes that can be enjoyed by all….& no reservations
Cleaner labels: Through the use of complex customized flavour systems, many ingredients can be replaced by one flavour.
Removing restrictions: Ever thought it would be possible to eat a great rum cake without using rum, make a cooking sauce with no wine or have a kosher bacon burger? The answer to all this is YES! Great tasting flavour systems can be formulated so that no alcohol or pork is consumed. We can simply formulate flavour systems with key components typically found in products such as these.
Increased shelf-life of products: What generally happens to frozen food over time is that freezer burn develops & flavour loss is experienced. Besides fresh produce that ultimately ripens to a critical point, where the flavour gradually degrades, most products will experience flavour loss over time. Unfortunately, we don’t always have time to make home cooked meals, so we all rely on processed or store bought food at some point. If it were not for the added flavour, many of these products would have inadequate flavour impact. In some cases, such as in protein shakes, flavours are needed at very high levels to simply give the products mild flavour impact. In other cases, healthy foods or products have negative flavour profiles that need to be dulled, masked or transformed.
Making many foods possible: As mentioned before, low fat, sugar & salt formulations as well as vegetarian foods (tofu burger/hotdogs) would not be possible without the use of flavour technology.
Exposing people to new flavours: Being able to mimic Mother Natures varied profiles exposes many more people to new & exciting flavour profiles.
Added value of functional aromatics: Please refer to the proven benefits of essential oils & aromatics section of this site