By replicating difficult-to-source ingredients, flavour matching can increase consistency and decrease costs for food and beverage manufacturers
KerryDigest Fast Facts:
- During flavour matching, a trained flavourist utilises science and raw materials to recreate the desired flavour for a finished product.
- Flavour matching can help manufacturers that are unable to source a certain raw material; it can also help manufacturers mimic flavours of existing consumer products.
- Flavour matching requires technical know-how and artistic experimentation, due to hard to replicate chemical reactions such as those created during cooking.
- In Asia, some of the most requested flavours include chocolate, citrus and savoury. This article summarizes how a flavourist would strive to recreate each.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:
Imagine that you’ve landed on the right flavour for a new beverage. Consumer focus groups give it high marks, but there’s something standing in the way of production: one of the flavour notes comes from saffron, a prohibitively expensive spice.
Rather than abandon the idea, you could consider flavour matching, or working with a flavourist to replicate the flavour you want through the use of other raw materials. The result will be a recipe that stays true to the desired taste profile while keeping material costs down.
This is just one example of a time when flavour matching could be useful. It might also be the best approach when an ingredient is hard to obtain, such as after a drought or recall, or when a supplier discontinues a relied-upon ingredient. Flavour matching is also a good solution when faced with ingredients of questionable quality or when creating a new product that you would like to mimic a taste profile that is already on the market.
Anatomy of a Flavour Match
A skilled flavour team can work to match any flavour by using a combination of analysis and taste testing. To start, a flavour analyst will interpret the gas chromatography of the desired flavour to identify the naturally present compounds and quantities. These results will be shared with a flavourist, who will use the information to develop a flavour match and a new formulation.
Because the process is part art, part science, there is no one “right” flavour recipe, but rather a whole range of creative options that could provide an almost identical taste. Some flavours are harder to match than others including flavours that result from reactions, fermentation, extracts or plant or herb powders. For example, when matching a “cold brew coffee flavour,” the Maillard reaction comes into play. This complex chemical reaction generates a wide range of brown aromatic chemicals, some of which are tough to identify.
Here are three flavours commonly requested in our Singapore labs, plus examples of how a flavourist might make an accurate match.
Matching Chocolate Flavours
Chocolate adds flavour to sweets, but it’s also used in savoury applications, such as molé sauce. It can be preferable to work with a chocolate flavour, such as one derived from natural chocolate extracts, rather than whole chocolate, because it can be more stable in the final processing environment. You can also fine-tune the subtle nuances of a flavour and flavours are often less expensive and easier to source.
Selecting cocoa extracts and powders that give the same mouthfeel and taste as the target is the primary challenge in matching chocolate flavours, whether for a gooey and rich spread or a creamy and milky drink. A knowledgeable flavourist will select one or two cocoa extracts from the hundreds available to build the foundation of the chocolate flavour match. From there, the addition of a handful of other raw materials—plus excellent analytical tools and a strong dose of creativity—will lead to a good match.
Matching Citrus Flavours
Citrus flavours such as grapefruit and lime are popular in confectionary and in beverages (including fruit-flavoured beer) as well as in seasonings for noodles, marinades and snacks. Because the natural occurrences of these flavours contain high levels of terpenes and citral, they’re prone to oxidation, an irreversible process that leads to diminishing freshness and overpowering off-notes. A flavour match can add back flavour, keeping citrus products such as orange juice tasting bright, fresh and consistent. A citrus flavour will often be matched through the use of citrus oils, such as those derived from orange peels. There are hundreds of types of citrus oils on the market, each with its own complex chemistry. Layering these with other raw materials is the most common way to get a citrus flavour match.
Matching Savoury Flavours
Most savoury foods, from grilled meats to spicy curries, contain flavours developed through the Maillard reaction during cooking. Savoury flavours often contain a wide range of brown aromatic components, which impart the authenticity of a savoury product. In many cases, reconstituting the aromatic components will never result in the exact same profile of a reaction flavour, which is the primary challenge in matching a savoury flavour. To get the closest match possible, rather than simply focus on aroma, a flavorist working with a savoury food must also examine mouthfeel and taste. Often, the right combination of taste solutions will impart these qualities into a savoury product. For example, some food acids can be added to lift the upfront of a flavour while others can prolong the aftertaste experience.