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March 24th, 2023 | The More You Know

The Ultimate Guide To All Things Flavor

"What Are Flavors?"

A flavor is a response from our senses when we eat or drink. The two primary sensations that cause the detection of flavor are taste and smell. Without these senses (for example, when you are sick), food often becomes bland. Flavor is 80% of what we smell and 20% of what we taste.

Let’s get a little scientific for a moment. The sensations of taste and smell are composed of Gustation, Olfaction, and Trigeminal. Gustation is the sensation of detecting taste, which occurs in the mouth; Olfaction occurs in the nose and is responsible for detecting an odor. Trigeminal appears in the brain; it controls sensation in the face and allows our body to chew our food. As you may already know, the five basic tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. The Trigeminal sensations are the detection of more refined tastes such as cooling and spiciness. When these three senses combine, it can enrich the perception of a food’s flavor. 

"Where do flavors come from?"

Flavor houses like Sovereign Flavors create flavors in our labs using natural-based sources. Natural and Organic flavors are derived from natural sources such as fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. When the appropriate aromatics are combined, they can replicate familiar flavor profiles such as mangos and strawberries. 

Flavorists are also skilled enough to construct flavors that do not exist naturally, referred to as Fantasy Flavors. For example, some of our Sovereign Fantasy Flavors include: Cotton Candy, Swedish Fish, Birthday Cake, etc. 

There are different ways that a flavor can be labeled related to the sources of the aromatic compounds used to create them. These include Natural, Artificial, Natural & Artificial, With Other Natural Flavors (WONF), and Organic. A WONF is created With Other Natural Flavors; for example, a strawberry flavor can be called a WONF if it contains a compound from a strawberry and one from another fruit source like a peach. Types are made with ingredients that do not come from the named fruit, such as apple flavor (Granny Smith type). It is still an apple with a flavor characteristic of a granny smith, however the flavor does not have a compound directly from a granny smith apple. Flavors are derived from various sources that are used to make an endless amount of diverse flavor profiles.

"So, Who creates flavors?"

Flavors are created by skilled scientists called Flavorists. Flavorists are individuals with scientific and artistic backgrounds who undergo training to create flavors. Generally, Flavorists have a degree in food science or chemistry, and some have even earned a master’s degree (this is the case for many of our Flavorists at Sovereign Flavors). Flavorists use their training to develop a superior palate, along with their knowledge of the craft, to create a variety of flavors.

At Sovereign Flavors, we have a team of Flavorists that creates custom flavors for our customers. Our Flavorists develop new flavors every day, building our flavor library with diverse flavor profiles for finished food and beverages.

"Why use flavors?"

The primary function of flavors is to add or enhance the taste of food and beverages. Even though flavors are used in such small amounts in food and beverages (typically <1%) —they make a HUGE impact on the final product. Flavor quality is a MAJOR driver of consumer acceptance of food products. In fact, studies show that commercial success of a newly launched food product is directly linked to its flavor!

Flavor consistency is another reason why flavors are used in the food and beverage industry. For example, let’s take a look at Coca-Cola; their soda is memorable on its own and people can recognize it by its distinct flavor. Coca-Cola may use flavors to keep every batch tasting consistent, no matter where you are in the world. Additionally, Coca-Cola releases seasonal flavors around almost every national holiday (think: Coca-Cola Cinnamon). Flavors can be used to create line-extensions, like these seasonal and limited edition releases, which keep customers wanting more.

Flavors are also used in the food industry to help counteract flavor loss during processing. For example, in some food and beverage processing, heat can reduce the product’s flavors in the final product. Therefore, adding flavors after processing can help revert the flavor to the level it was prior to processing. With taste being a major driver of a product’s success, flavors are an excellent way to enhance the taste of the final product.

"Are Natural Flavors healthier than Artificial?"

Natural flavors are composed of oils and resins derived from natural sources like plants, seafood, poultry, and meats. Artificial flavors are derived from man-made sources used to mimic the natural ones.

The function of adding a flavor to food is just for the sake of taste and not to add nutritional content. Flavoring does not add any nutrition or sugars to a product, whether natural or artificial. It is simply there for the benefit of adding taste.

"Why use artificial sources over natural ones?"

Companies may prefer to use an artificial version of a flavor rather than a natural one due to cost benefits. Artificial flavors generally cost lower than their natural counterparts, due to the sources they are derived from. Natural flavors are derived from natural sources. If the natural source is expensive or hard to source, the natural flavoring will have a higher cost.

"What About Juices?"

Juices are a great alternative to flavors, however they come at a price. Fruits have a short season when they are at their ripest and most flavorful, making it difficult for companies to utilize juice flavoring throughout the year. For consistency, flavors are an excellent way to maintain a product’s quality – even if using an ingredient that may only be seasonal.

Another factor that could dissuade companies from using juices would be cost. For a large facility creating millions of products a year, the fruit source would be expensive because you would have to supply from a large crop.

Lastly, fruits and vegetables have a higher chance for mold, bacteria, and yeasts in the finished products if they are not properly treated. Fortunately, flavors do not share the same risks that juices do, making flavors a cheaper, cleaner, and more consistent option than juices.


"How Do I Know Which One To Choose?"

We know it can all seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help! Whether you’re interested in natural flavors, WONFs, or organic flavors in your final application, our team is here to help you determine the best option that meets your needs.

If you’re ready to make your visions come to life, click here to get started.

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