Science updates Scientific Communication The Fascinating World of Food Flavorings

The Fascinating World of Food Flavorings

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The Fascinating World of Food Flavorings

By Sylvia Barnekow* and Dr. Gerhard Krammer* (Symrise) for

*Research & Technology Group, Symrise AG
Mühlenfeldstr. 1, D-37603 Holzminden, Germany
Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Aroma, taste as well trigeminal effects like pungency and cooling are the key elements of attractive food and beverage products since ancient times.

Natural Flavors – Learnings from the past and visions for the future
In the beginning the professional production of flavorings started with plant derived raw materials like for example botanical extracts, spices, fruits and vegetables. While many extracts are obtained by water or alcohol–water extraction other important products like the Symrise onion juice concentrate is produced by squeezing the washed and ground onion bulbs in large filter presses. The resulting onion juice can then be concentrated to give a stable raw onion extract with superior flavor properties. A valuable by-product is the onion oil which can be obtained via solvent extraction from the condensates of the concentration process. Both raw materials are used by trained flavorists as platform ingredients to create winning culinary flavors, which are further optimized by powerful savory enhancement tools using natural flavoring preparations from enzymatically treated plant, dairy or meat derived materials, which can be used as such or can be further heat-treated to support the culinary profile with delicious meaty, brothy notes.
One of the most important and popular extracts from a market-potential perspective is certainly vanilla extract. North America is the largest market, followed by the European market, with ice cream being the largest single application. The predominant vanilla species is Vanilla planifolia, which is the basis for a large volume of available extracts from fermented vanilla beans. Symrise maintains a dedicated factory on Madagascar, which is the largest producer of high-quality vanilla extracts, followed by Indonesia. Vanilla is an excellent example in order to illustrate that a flavorist has to understand the target market for flavor creation. The U.S. market, for example, prefers the
more prominent, phenolic and smoky notes, while French consumers are more attracted by anisic notes, which are known from another Vanilla species Vanilla tahitensis. In Germany buttery, creamy and balsamic profiles have a long tradition, while vanillin itself represents the key driver for Scandinavia. The cured vanilla bean consists approximately of 98% of water, fats, waxes, sugar, cellulose, etc. Only some 2% is flavor compounds, the main constituent (approximately 90%) of these being vanillin. Roughly 9% are p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, vanillic acid and p-hydroxybenzoic acid, which do not contribute much to the overall flavor profile. The remaining approximately 1% of the constituents of the flavor compounds reveals the most significant flavor properties.
This part itself comprises more than 400 chemicals giving an extract its specific sensorial “fingerprint” There are significant differences in the chemical compositions and therefore also in the sensory profiles of vanilla extracts as a result of the geographical origin, the soil, the climate and the processing conditions. Depending on the type of flavor that needs to be developed, a flavorist
can start with a specific vanilla extract already supporting the desired flavor profile or with a more neutral extract which is typified with specific qualities.
In the future new trends in biotechnology will increasingly support the sustainable production of natural flavorings and in particular also extracts because of an optimized use of renewable sources.

flavorings 10403011Non natural flavoring substances & the Union List

In November 2012 the EU Union List was published comprising more than 2500 flavoring substances. All of these so-called aroma chemicals are subject to a dedicated safety evaluation procedure which was developed by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and is based on the evaluation of chemical groups. Many of these substances occur in nature and are obtained by chemical synthesis, which was summarized under the term “nature-identical” in the previous European flavor legislation. Some of the registered flavorings substances are commercially available from synthesis and do not occur in nature, which is known as under the status “artificial”. Most of these substances were discovered and developed during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Some of the important aroma chemicals are produced in very large amounts are for example vanillin, menthol, citral and anethol. These materials are used not only by flavor producers but also in large amounts in fragrance
applications. On the other hand, there are a lot of so-called high-impact flavoring substances, which are produced only in very small amounts owing to their low threshold levels, for example acetyl thiazoline and 1-menthen-3-thiol. Most of these materials are produced in high purity and therefore provide highly standardized sensorial properties for top note creation, which is the most sophisticated level for flavoristic work.

The different dimensions of Flavor: Aroma and Taste
The success of experienced flavorists is based on outstanding sensory expertise, an excellent raw material knowledge based on professional training and an in-depth understanding of the food matrix. Among all capabilities professional aroma and taste evaluation are the most important aspect. While Aroma is referring to the recognition of volatile substance with olfactory receptor cell in the regio olfactoria of the human nose, Taste is linked to the basic taste directions like sweet, bitter, sour, salty, umami perceived by human taste receptors on the taste papillae on the human tongue. Just recently new finding with regard to taste receptors for fat have been published. The term Flavor is defined as the full sensory impression of food or beverages comprising aroma and taste as well as trigeminal effects together with temperature and texture. This comprehensive knowledge of flavorists can also be used to develop compelling blueprints for new food concepts like e.g. food pairing.
Food pairing is a relatively new method to identify which foods go well together and is based on flavor compounds which different food types have in common. For this purpose food is analyzed via sensory evaluation or with modern analytical tools like e.g. HPLC, gas chromatography (GC) or GC/MS, which are also used in flavor research. The art is of this method is to identify the best performing combinations, which certainly is much easier to achieve if creation is done with single molecules like top class flavorists are used to do. The final results lead to the enjoyment of delicious food based on new inspirations directly coming from the fascinating world of flavorings.

symrise sylviaSylvia Barnekow studied at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Bonn and has a diploma degree in Food Technology and biotechnology. Since 2000 she is working in the global Flavor & Fragrance Industry as application technologist and developer. In Symrise she is heading the department Food Science & Application Technology and is mainly working on Shelf Life Stability and Innovative Flavor Delivery Systems.


symrise krammerDr. Gerhard Krammer is the Senior Vice President of Research & Technology Group for Flavor & Nutrition at Symrise AG.
He studied Food Chemistry in University of Würzburg from where he also obtained his PhD on Flavor Precursors. He has 85 publications in the field of food and flavor chemistry and also more than 30 patents in the field of aroma and taste actives as well as delivery systems.


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