On the Road for Flavor Creation

Santa Monica sunrise on an early morning run

Santa Monica sunrise on an early morning run

I had a great trip to Southern California earlier this week.  The Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association hosted a workshop in Santa Monica for food industry professionals interested in learning more about flavor creation. This was not a course for flavorists, the artists that create flavors. They have a professional society that trains and accredits them.  This was a course for people that wanted to learn more about what flavorists do.

Consumer awareness of flavors is pretty low, so it’s no surprise that people don’t know about flavor creation. Thousands of consumer products contain flavors, added to improve taste. The flavor industry has a digital platform called Flavorfacts so that consumers have a place to learn about these important food and beverage ingredients. I say food and beverage, but flavors are used in many product categories, including confection, pet food, and even medicines.

studentsI was on the program with Dolf DeRovira (Flavor Dynamics) and Richard Pisano, Jr. (Citrus & Allied Essences, Ltd.), two of the most knowledgeable and passionate people in the flavor business.  Dolf is a friendly, excited professor, with an encyclopedic knowledge of flavor ingredients and chemistry. Richard Pisano, Jr. is passionate about essential oils, and you can’t help but get excited when you hear him talk about these important flavor ingredients. Both men are running successful businesses, but they devoted an enormous amount of time developing this course, which they delivered for the third time this week in California. This course is hands-on, so the students smelled and tasted a variety of essential oils and aroma chemicals – the building blocks of flavors.

I was in California with Mat Gulick and Samantha Lee, two hardworking and creative members of the Verto Solutions communications and meetings teams. Before the workshop, Mat and I visited three successful Southern California food companies. You may not have heard of these companies because their sales are business to business, but you’ve no doubt enjoyed their creations.

John Cox and Albert Guerrero in Santa Monica

John Cox and Albert Guerrero (T. Hasegawa) in Santa Monica

Flavor Infusion is located in Orange County and they’re known for accomplishments in beverage flavors, with particular success is Central and South America. T. Hasegawa is headquartered in Japan, but we visited their large facility in Cerritos, CA where they excel at making savory flavors. The photo on the left was taken with Albert Guerrero, their production manager who’s an expert at making reaction flavors. I visited T. Hasegawa the day after Albert completed the Los Angeles Marathon in just over three and a half hours. We also visited California Custom Fruits and Flavors, in Irwindale, CA.  They are leaders in creating fruit preparations for a host of foods like yogurt, breakfast bars, and smoothie bases.

It’s an exciting but challenging time for the food ingredient business. What the food industry has accomplished in taste, safety & value is unprecedented in human history. But some people are questioning foods that are processed, even though it’s the very processing that has enabled the taste, safety & value.

On the trip home I read Mary H.K. Choi’s quirky piece in the New York Times about how much she loves LaCroix Sparkling Water. Choi says her favorite flavor of LaCroix is Pamplemousse and she says that what works for LaCroix is that they have a “suspicion of flavor rather than a bracing burst of taste.” Which made me think: “somebody did a nice job creating that flavor.”

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