Flavors are blends of aroma chemicals that are developed for specific end-use applications. The exact composition of flavors is proprietary – it’s the intellectual property of the flavor supplier (“flavor house”). The exact makeup of a flavor is vigorously protected as trade secrets, and not by patents.
This is common practice in the food industry, where the sales of popular brands can continue to grow for decades. It’s the secret recipe for Coca Cola that has enabled it to thrive since 1886 – despite technological advances that so far have not enabled competitors to replicate Coca-Cola’s unique flavor profile (and countless other foods and beverages). A patented cola flavor would have been exactly replicated many years ago.
A flavorist, also known as flavor chemist, is someone who uses chemistry to engineer artificial and natural flavors. Flavorists are highly-trained scientists who blend individual chemicals, reaction products and natural extracts to create a desired aroma.
There is limited academic education in flavor creation. That’s why most flavorists are analytical chemists, food scientists, or chemical engineers, who have garnered further on-the-job training and expertise. This path involves an additional 7-year apprenticeship, as well as oral testing similar to a thesis defense, to become an accredited member of the flavorist community.
A flavorist must be familiar with the chemistry of the flavor itself as well as that of the end product. Additionally, flavorists rely heavily on instrumental analysis of the flavors, typically involving use of multiple chromatographic techniques.
Along with scientific proficiency, this profession also requires a high degree of creativity, and it has been likened to an art form. As the flavor industry is highly specialized, and a long training phase is required before accreditation, there are only about 1,000 flavorists in the world.
In our last post, we discussed how flavors are subdivided by their source into four categories (link), Natural Flavors, Natural With Other Natural Flavors (WONF), Artificial Flavors, and Natural and Artificial (N&A) Flavors.
The flavorist has literally thousands of known aroma compounds at their disposal to blend and create a flavor for a specific end-use application. As we know, most flavors are comprised of many individual aroma compounds. But not every compound serves the same role or is even essential to generate the desired flavor profile.