Citrus flavors, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange, whether alone or in combination with other flavors, have consistently remained a favorite of consumers and beverage-makers.

Forty-seven percent of respondents to Beverage Industry’s 2010 Product Development Survey said they used orange as a flavor in their products in 2009, 41 percent said they used lemon and 33 percent stated they used lime. Another 18 percent of beverage-formulators said they used grapefruit, followed by 16 percent saying they formulated a product with tangerine.
Citrus flavors have been consistently popular with beverage-formulators because of consumers’ familiarity with the flavors and often because of nutritional value, especially for children’s beverages.
“Citrus flavors have always been staples in the American beverage market because of consumer demand,” says Elaine Kellman-Grosinger, chief flavor chemist and director of research and development at Citromax Flavors, Carlstadt, N.J. “They are basic, consistent and have always had universal appeal and will continue to for the foreseeable future.”
Citrus flavors hold top used flavor spots not just in North America, but around the globe.
“Because of the mass familiarity of citrus, marketers have tended to introduce new beverages with flavors that people are familiar with and accept, thus increasing the odds for success,” says Walter Crawley, director of business development and marketing for Kerry Ingredients and Flavours, Beloit, Wis.
Citrus flavors also hold a nice combination of sweetness and tartness, which is refreshing to consumers’ palates, says Erin Gipe, research and development supervisor at Northwest Naturals, Bothell, Wash. In addition, citrus flavors are universally accepted as refreshing and nutritious, says Tony Moore, chief flavorist at Flavor Producers Midwest Laboratory, Cincinnati.

Citrus innovation
As citrus is a mature flavor category in most regions globally, varietals are the next evolution in creating excitement around new beverage formulations. Marketers are looking to create uniqueness to their citrus offerings and are using varietals to differentiate their product’s position from their competition.
“Today’s consumer is more adventurous and willing to taste unique citrus from around the world,” says Linda Lakind, senior marketing manager for beverages at Firmenich North America, Plainsboro, N.J. “Marketers can also increase the ‘good-for-you’ value by adding varietal juice or extracts into their formulations.”
Citrus varietals, such as the Japanese yuzu, Buddha’s hand citron, dalandan orange, kinnow mandarin and satsuma mandarin, are growing in popularity. For limes, Kaffir, Key and Rangpur are becoming more popular, while Meyer lemon also is making a name for itself, suppliers say. Provincial, or flavor profiles that are specific to a particular area or region, such as Tuscan (blood) orange or Sicilian lemon also are growing in popularity, Flavor Producers’ Moore says.
“In the area of orange, I see Valencia being talked about as a varietal,” Kerry’s Crawley says. “But it’s interesting to note that Valencia has been a staple in the orange juice market for many years. However, consumers are not familiar with the name, so it’s a marketing spin to introduce Valencia as a varietal to create news.”
Citrus flavors also blend with other consumer favorite flavors. Lemonades go well with most berries, such as strawberry lemonade and raspberry lemonade, while new lemonade teas also are entering the market. Orange flavors pair well with other tropical fruits, such as passion fruit, guava and mango, Citromax’s Kellman-Grosinger says.
With many consumers interested in natural products, Rocket Products, Fenton, Mo., has seen increased requests for its lemon juice concentrates to be blended with cane sugar, says Bob Pinkerton, company director. "With our product, we have always promoted cane sugar, and I think a lot of our customers are going back to that,” he says.
Some beverage-makers also are creating reduced calorie lemonades. “Lemonade has to have some sweetness to it, because it is a tart ingredient in the first place,” Pinkerton says.
Rocket Products offers a Dair-E Light version of its Dair-E 100 percent Natural Lemonade that takes its flagship product and cuts down the calories by half by reducing the amount of sugar that is used.
Citrus also is appearing in beverages with vegetables, such as Campbell’s V8 Splash juice drinks and V8 V-Fusion juices. “Citrus in combination with vegetables is an ideal profile for increasing consumption of both,” Firmenich’s Lakind says.
In addition to typical citrus blends, formulators are using grapefruit as background notes to provide complexity, Kerry’s Crawley says.
“Grapefruit is an interesting citrus, as it can be somewhat polarizing,” he says. “People tend to love it or hate it. As a result, I’m seeing grapefruits used in blends where the grapefruit note is very subtle.”
Lime also is being used in blends with flavors like apple and strawberry to provide complexity and brighten flavor profiles. “However, with this approach, there is a thin line between a homerun and an unbalanced flavor profile,” Crawley says. “But when you get it right, it’s worth the development efforts.”
Many of Northwest Naturals customers tend to use lemon as a natural acidifier when making a blend instead of using citric acid. “Citrus flavors and ingredients can be used at a very small amount to add a lot of depth to a product and give it an interesting flavor profile,” Gipe says.
Formulators continue to push creativity with their flavor combinations.
“Herbal notes, such as basil or fennel, combined with citrus flavors are a growing trend,” Flavor Producers’ Moore says.
Other interesting combinations are tangerine-satsuma, grapefruit-lime, raspberry-lime, mango-lime, passion fruit-lime, lemon-lavender, pomegranate-citrus-spice, cranberry-citrus, citrus-honeysuckle and prickly pear lemonade, Gipe says. Citrus flavors also are appearing in popular alcohol beverages, such as Key lime martinis and sangria, she says.
Besides providing interesting flavors, citrus also has other formulation applications in beverages. Citrus products can be used for gums, citrus extracts for sweeteners and citrus oils for top notes and aromas, Northwest Naturals says. In addition, citrus ingredients can be used in natural taste modulators for mouthfeel, masking, sensations and sweetness enhancement.
“We have identified a range of citrus components that provide refreshing and cooling effects,” says Don Hendrix, vice president of global citrus at Firmenich. “Perhaps the most important find are candied and sugary components that help beverage developers reduce calories in their formulations by increasing sweetness perception.”

Citrus pricing
Prices for citrus fruits, juices, ingredients and by-products have increased. The higher prices are putting pressure on citrus flavor prices and driving the development of flavors that extend the juice, which reduce the amount of juice, but provide similar flavor and mouthfeel.
“The supply issues in the past 10 years have sparked increased innovation in engineered citrus, which reduces the dependency of beverage manufacturers on citrus components that fluctuate in price and supply,” says Shari Joslin, business development for beverages at Firmenich. “Prior to engineered citrus, citrus pricing fluctuations due to supply and demand were of great concern to citrus beverage manufacturers. The market is dependent on supply and demand, and unfortunately supply becomes an issue as it’s a crop driven industry.”
Formulators are requesting blends, or with other natural flavors (WONF) of citrus products, to help reduce costs as well as keep up with their demands. As the requests for 100 percent citrus decrease, the company has seen an increase in blends being requested, Gipe says. Northwest Naturals offers a lemon extender and lemon, lime and citrus WONF.
Historically, prices have gone up and down based on supply, but demand remains fairly consistent, suppliers say. Suppliers of citrus and citrus flavors use global purchasing strategies to ensure that they have the right product mix of ingredients from multiple growing regions to offset pricing fluctuations due to supply issues. BI