Bespoke Flavours: 5 Questions Essential to Finding the Right Flavour Solution

Sharing a detailed product plan with a flavourist can ensure creation of the best taste profile 

KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • Within the food and beverage industry, it’s common for a manufacturer to work with an independent flavour team when creating a new product or flavour.
  • Providing a flavourist with information about desired taste profile is essential to getting the right flavour; to create a profile they may draw from existing flavours as well as raw materials.
  • Additional information about the product can be just as critical to flavour creation, such as cost parameters and country of sale, which affect ingredient recommendations.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

A trained flavourist can help create the desired taste profile in a finished product, but the more specific your request and the better information you provide at the outset, the more you will ensure the best possible match is made. For instance, if a flavourist knows the strawberry taste a customer wants is more seedy and wild than juicy and sweet, it will be easier to select which solutions to pull from a flavour library, or which raw materials to work with to create a new custom formulation.

Of course, taste profile is just one parameter that’s addressed when finding flavour solutions. Influential factors such as processing conditions and local regulations can also affect recommendations. When you partner with account managers, scientists or flavourists to find a flavour solution, be prepared to answer a series of questions to get the project started. Here are five questions essential to a successful flavour-making venture. As you begin to think about your next offering, consider the answer to each. Having this level of clarity can help you get the best flavour match.

What is the desired flavour profile?

Consumers crave good taste, which is why the food and beverage business is focused on optimising flavour, from the moment a product enters person’s mouth to the final nuances when they swallow. But taste is complex. Our olfactory system combines with our sense of taste to produce a memorable reaction to that flavour—either positive, negative or neutral.


This memory translates into a flavour expectation. For instance, you can likely conjure up a specific taste you expect from a slice of pumpkin pie, and the same goes for every other food item, from a block of cheddar cheese to a bowl of tomato soup. Being able to convey what you want—or more importantly, what your customers want—in a flavour is extremely important.


Because of this, it’s impossible to capture a flavour with a single word, like “chocolate”. There are literally hundreds of chocolate flavours, including fudgy chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Mexican chocolate, cocoa powder and hot chocolate. But even those categories aren’t specific enough. Under the fudgy chocolate profile you might further specify that you want either a Tootsie Roll profile, a  homemade chocolate fudge profile or a brownie profile. By whittling down your description to incredibly specific terms, you’ll let the flavourist know which profile is required. With this information, it’s much easier to pinpoint options that can be worked into the finished application.


What is the finished application?

The finished application a flavour will be added to impacts the overall decision about flavour recommendations. Even if the same flavour profile is requested for an ice cream and a pie filling, there’s a good chance a different formulation will be required.


A few reasons why: Heat can destroy a flavour if it’s not created a certain way, so preparation method must be taken into consideration. Also, storage temperature is a factor. For instance, storing a citrus flavour at an ambient temperature may decrease shelf life, so special precautions should be taken. Factors such as whether a flavour solution needs to be in liquid, powder, paste or crystal form will also impact what materials a flavourist works with. So will knowing if a flavour will be added early or late in processing as well as parameters such as how hot the rest of the ingredients will be when the flavour is added, mixing specifications, hold time, component ingredients, and storage conditions. Equally critical are the desired texture, color, ingredients, function and marketability of a product. While it may seem like settling on a flavour should come first, there’s a strong likelihood it will be one of the last details to come into play because it’s reliant on so many other variables.


What is the country of sale?

The global economy guides this question. A manufacturer in one country may be producing products destined for sale in another country—or multiple countries. This affects flavour selection because each country has its own legislation and regulations for food and beverage. Which ingredients can be used, what regulation definitions should be followed, how products are imported, exported and taxed are just some of the region-specific information that must be factored in when determining the best flavour for a product.


Additionally, taste profiles differ from country to country and region to region. Partnering with a company that employees flavourists, food technologists, chefs and consumer insight experts around the world can be helpful: these taste teams can gather insights and flavours unique to a region.


For instance, when a request for durian flavour comes from a U.S. company that produces wafer cookies to be sold in Malaysia, a flavour team in Southeast Asia—where durian grows and is largely consumed—may have an easier time replicating a flavour with a true profile given their access to the fruit. Likewise, when a manufacturer in Britain needs a root beer flavour, they might turn to a U.S team for recommendations.


Does your company have an “acceptable/not acceptable” list?

Many manufacturers have lists of acceptable and unacceptable ingredients. Perhaps these are curated to target a specific market segment, are necessary to make a product label claim, or are designed to keep allergen-containing products out of manufacturing facilities. Communicating these lists of ingredients which you do and do not want at the initiation of a flavour project will help set clear limitations when choosing or creating a flavour.


Additionally it’s important to divulge if you to make a product subject to regulatory requirements such as:  

  • Natural, natural and artificial or artificial

  • Vegetarian, vegan, organic certified, organic compliant, kosher, halal or non-GMO

  • Gluten-free, dairy-free and other specific categories


Are there specific cost parameters?

One important but often overlooked aspect of flavour is cost. Many times, there is a Cost in Use (CIU) parameter that must be met which alludes to the total cost of the flavour contribution in one unit of the finished product. Because flavours have different use levels in different applications—with a beverage, for example, requiring a different amount than a bread—it’s important to have a preliminary discussion with your taste team. Most should be able to provide a close CIU for most products.


Shun the long-held notion that the more highly classified a flavor is, the higher the CIU. Within the flavoring industry, raw materials generally make up a bulk of the cost, and price can be affected by any number of factors. For example, the raw materials used for flavouring are subject to the rules of supply and demand: because many raw materials come from a natural source, if there is a hurricane, drought, typhoon or other natural disaster in a location that produces an ingredient, costs will go up as supply decreases. Raw material quality can vary, which will also affect price. If a product calls for an organic certified ingredient, there’s a good chance it will cost more than its non-organic equivalent.


Kerry has an extensive flavour library with contributions from flavourists around the world. To learn more about partnering with us to create the taste your customers crave, contact Kerry.


Back to KerryDigest

Get KerryDigest articles delivered to your inbox

Related content: