Achieving Cost-Effective World Class Flavors
Flavor creation is both art and science, and while most in the industry recognize the number of variables involved in flavor creation; there are even more moving pieces when it comes to understanding a flavor budget. Sensapure Flavor’s director of business development, Matt Doxey, says that misunderstanding the elements in a flavor budget comes with a high price tag. “A lot of brands simply don’t know what a flavor should cost,” he said, “And that can result in overpaying for a complete flavor
Understanding Flavor Budgets
There are several components to take into account when looking at a flavor budget such as serving size, sweetener use, color use, and natural vs. artificial ingredient/chemical use. As a general rule, natural flavors and sweeteners are more expensive, but serving size is relative to both the quantity of product base (active ingredients) and what the base tastes like before flavoring. While red colors are not any more costly than blues, the cost of colors can rise when utilizing natural colors. The strength of each active ingredients’ flavor in the product base is also a factor in the flavor budget, which is where the costs begin to vary the most among different flavor houses.
Five Flavor Ingredients or Fifty-five
Clients often have one or two words in mind when looking to flavor their product bases. “We want a ‘Fresh Berry’ flavor,” they say. Flavor chemists, on the other hand, have thousands of different chemicals in mind while creating a flavor. Which is why the words “Chocolate,” or “Blue Raspberry,” can result in a myriad of different formulations when consulting with a flavor house. Much like an artist with a blank canvas and a pallet of colors and mediums to choose from, the possibilities are endless for a flavor chemist when beginning with a blank product base. Flavor chemists are trained to have the ability to layer natural and/or artificial ingredients and chemicals to create complex and intriguing flavors. However, as the flavor system becomes more complicated, more chemicals are introduced, thus raising the cost of the final flavor. When you factor in aftertaste, texture, and mouthfeel, a flavor masterpiece can be difficult to commercialize (just too darned expensive). Often times, a brand will work through a dozen iterations of a flavor, and after adding all the finishing touches, will realize that the added costs of those elements push the cost well over the target budget.
The Hidden Costs of Naturals
While consumers are becoming more health conscious and demanding greater transparency in their food and supplement intakes; brands are seeking to meet their customer’s needs by flavoring their products with natural ingredients, natural sweeteners, and even natural colors. Doxey says that if there is a hidden cost that brands come across when consulting with a flavor house, “It’s typically related to the rise in demand for naturals.” Simply replacing an artificial sweetener with a natural sweetener like Stevia or Monk Fruit will bring the cost of a flavor up quite a bit, which is why brands and consumers are paying a premium for a natural flavor or non-GMO label on their products. This rise in demand for transparency among consumers and brands is yet another reason that flavor houses are getting away with raising costs. While standards for flavor costs within the industry are relative regardless, up and coming trends in flavors and ingredients come with even more blurred lines. If brands are at risk of overpaying for an artificial fruit punch, the risk rapidly expands when it comes to an all natural coconut matcha flavor.
It’s important to understand that every flavor is unique, some raw ingredients are more difficult to source than others due to location, availability, and rising prices of natural ingredient sources. While layered (multiple sensory) flavors or fringe flavors come with added costs no matter where flavors are made, understanding a flavor budget minimizes risks of hidden costs in your final product.
Flavor Chemistry vs. Mixology
When looking to minimize the costs of a flavor, it’s crucial that “mixology” and “flavor chemistry” work hand-in-hand. Sensapure CEO, Jeff Reynolds said, “If flavor creation is both an art and a science, the balance and partnership between both functions is central in perfecting a cost-effective flavor system.” Mixology is a term used by lots of folks in lots of different ways. In product/applications development, we use the term to describe how existing compounds (flavors, sweeteners, masking agents, active ingredients) are “Mixed” to create a new product or solution. Essentially, the “toolbox” of mixology consist of the flavors and ingredients each brand, manufacturer or flavor house has on hand. With only mixology, brands or flavor houses will “keep mixing” in additional ingredients to achieve the goal, thus increasing the cost of the final product. “Almost anyone can make something taste good for any amount of money,” Doxey says, “A lot of times people add more sweetener or more chemicals to cover up actives, which raises prices significantly.” Utilizing flavor chemistry alongside mixology allows companies to simplify, minimize, and eliminate redundancies in the formulation while still creating a flavor system that works well with actives such as caffeine and amino acids.
Doxey explains that mixology plus flavor chemistry is not about adding more to the flavor profile and thus increasing the budget, but changing chemicals until the flavor profile is exactly right.
“The right combination of art (mixology) and science (flavor chemistry), can arrive at the specific formulation in order to enhance desired notes from the flavor while masking unwanted tastes of active ingredients,” said Reynolds. Doxey added, “Good flavor chemists are able to work with applications mixology to create a flavor with complexity while still meeting a clients needs economically.”
What To Consider
Each flavor house has a different viewpoint on how to meet the needs of their clients, but not all have a good pulse of what a product should cost based on market parameters. It’s important to consider cost transparency within your contract and to work with a flavor partner who is upfront about costs from the beginning. Although some exotic and natural flavors can be costly, there shouldn’t be too many hidden costs throughout the process once when you identify the specific requirements and what you are looking for in your flavor profile. While every company seeks to create cost-effective solutions, it’s critical to make sure that your flavor partner doesn’t sacrifice quality to cut costs. When properly designed, a great flavor doesn’t have to break the bank, and the amazing taste will have your customer coming back for more.
About Sensapure Flavors:
Sensapure Flavors is a flavor house that services the nutrition and supplement industry with exciting flavor technology and unmatched applications experience. Born in a manufacturing company that understands the ever-changing needs of the nutraceutical industry, Sensapure combines new flavor technologies with deep product application experience.
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