To many consumers, all lemon flavors may taste the same, and they have come to expect a certain flavor profile from beverages with lemon on the label. Flavorists at Givaudan, with U.S. headquarters in Cincinnati, seek to discover new notes in citrus fruits that can expand the reach of current citrus flavors and help beverage-makers differentiate in the marketplace.
To promote innovative flavor development, Givaudan conducts ongoing TasteTreks to bring its flavorists to countries all around the world to experience exotic foods, be inspired by nature, and to discover new flavors, molecules and ingredients. The company recently invited Beverage Industry and other members of the media to join it on a TasteTrek outing. TasteTrek teams explore locations by setting up mini-labs for analysis. By examining first hand the fruits and plants indigenous to a region, Givaudan scientists and flavorists identify new ingredients, flavor experiences and important clues that lead to the creation of new flavors.
“What we know our customers are looking for us to do is to provide them with fresh ideas and differentiation in the marketplace,” says Dawn Streich, Givaudan’s global citrus product manager. TasteTreks are about moving from what currently exists to whatever is next, she says.
“It’s easy to get a pretty narrow view of what a citrus flavor is supposed to be,” Streich explains. “What we really wanted to do was inspire our flavorists to push the boundaries of that — get them to expand their thoughts about what actually can be used when they create an orange, lemon, or lime flavor, what these citrus flavor profiles look like, and then combine our knowledge and insight and inspiration to create unique flavors.”
In January, Givaudan conducted its 2009 TasteTrek Citrus at the University of California-Riverside’s Citrus Variety Collection. Givaudan’s partnership with UCR offers the company access to one of the world’s largest citrus collections. The Citrus Variety Collection supports more than 1,000 citrus varieties — a majority of which are not commercially grown. During this year’s TasteTrek Citrus, Givaudan’s flavorists, chemists, research scientists, and citrus and beverage product managers smelled and tasted more than 50 citrus varieties, including lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, pummelos, citrons and hybrids.
The Givaudan team spent a day trekking through UCR’s Citrus Variety Collection, sampling citrus varieties selected by UCR’s scientists and Givaudan flavorists. The company’s citrus team recorded flavor and aroma descriptors for each variety’s fruit and peel.
Givaudan research scientists also use gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, olfactory testing and chemical analysis to understand the flavor and aroma compounds that might inspire flavorists to create a flavor. Research scientists captured aroma by using field headspace collection. The aroma samples were then transported back to Givaudan’s lab where scientists analyze each sample, study its molecular makeup and use the findings to develop new flavors.
Of the 53 citrus fruits sampled during the 2009 TasteTrek Citrus, Givaudan flavorists narrowed the sampling by uniqueness or interesting attributes to 14 fruits for further tasting and examination. Samples of the 14 fruits were gathered from the trees and taken to a temporary lab set up at the UCR campus.
To create flavor prototypes on location, Givaudan developed a portable mini-Virtual Aroma Synthesizer (mini-VAS), a creation tool that allows the company to make real-time flavor interpretations of the unique varieties that it finds in the field. It acts as a portable version of chemicals available in a flavorist’s lab. The mini-VAS contains up to 30 aroma keys, which represent aroma notes typically found in citrus fruits that can be manipulated by ratios to create a flavor aroma.
“The mini-VAS allows us to get 85 percent there in a much shorter period of time,” Streich says.
Flavorists use the mini-VAS in the field to create an aroma, which is then transformed into a natural or naturally derived citrus flavor once the flavorists are back at the lab in Cincinnati. The flavors are submitted to Givaudan’s flavor team in Cincinnati, which screens them for positive unique attributes, but do not completely go beyond the boundaries of what is expected of a lemon or orange flavor, Streich says.
This year’s TasteTrek Citrus already produced two new lemon flavors inspired by the Meyer Lemon and the Lo Porto Lemon. The Meyer Lemon, believed to be a hybrid of lemon and either an orange or mandarin, is described by Givaudan flavorists as being “mandarin like” with “low lemon notes and lovely hints of kiwi and sweet lime green.” Givaudan flavorists described the pale yellow Lo Porto Lemon as being a “fresh, well-balanced lemon with notes of floral and sweet candy.” These flavors will be followed later this year by Givaudan’s launch of a collection of lemon and lime flavors inspired by the TasteTrek. BI