Becoming a Flavor Chemist
It’s no secret that flavor chemistry is an invaluable art to the food and nutraceuticals industry, but few understand the complex formula to officially becoming a flavor chemist in today’s ever-changing professional climate. It requires a level of dedication and expertise arguably even more specific and exclusive than that of a rocket scientist.
Value of a Virtuoso
According to the Society Of Flavor Chemists’ records, the first meetings for the organization were held in 1959 in New York City in Little Italy’s restaurants. When the professional society was first created, there were only 14 recorded members. Today, there are only a few hundred in the entire US. Needless to say, becoming a flavor chemist is a commitment of time and passion in which few follow through to the end. The truth is, although almost everyone has tasted a product created by a flavor chemist, few people have actually interacted with one on a personal basis. “You have to really want to be a flavor chemist to be a flavor chemist,” Mariano Gascon, one of Sensapure’s Flavors flavor chemists, says jokingly, but he isn’t kidding. Though becoming a flavor chemist doesn’t require formal education beyond a bachelor’s degree in food science, chemistry, or other related disciplines, it does require an extensive amount of training and testing. A seven-year apprenticeship period approved by the Society Of Flavor Chemists is just the beginning of the journey, once candidates pass their post apprenticeship review they must complete an additional approved five-year apprenticeship.
Because the robust program is completed by so few, flavor chemists approved by the society are rare and in high in demand throughout the industry. Flavor houses that employ flavor chemists stand out against the rest not only because of the competitive nature of recruiting them but also in the difficulty of keeping them. The value they bring, however, is incomparable.
The Chemistry of Consumer Loyalty
While the food industry has evolved dramatically over the past 50 years, flavor chemists have remained a critical aspect in bridging the gap between food manufacturers and the desires of a consumer. By providing an intimate understanding of the relationship an individual has with a product from the moment they first encounter it to the very last taste, flavor chemists are critical in maintaining consumer loyalty. However, that’s not to say that the flavor industry hasn’t evolved with the technology that replaced human production lines with machine ones. In fact, due to new and improved instrumentation such as computers, liquid chromatography, and updates in profiling technology, flavor chemists have been able to accelerate their abilities to improve products and formulas in order to achieve better, more cost-effective and attainable solutions for both food manufacturers and consumers alike.
Evolution in the flavor industry doesn’t stop there. As the media continues to advance the pace of trend reach and demand for what’s current, the role of a flavor chemist is extending far beyond chemistry and insight. While becoming a flavor chemist requires a specific set of skills and accreditations, it also requires something less tangible; creativity. Gascon says that flavor chemists call themselves “artists,” for a reason. In his journey to become a flavor chemist, he also attended culinary school. Gascon says that qualitative aspects of becoming a chef are similar to becoming a flavor chemist, “Chefs and flavor chemists interpret things differently,” he said, “but they both contain the essence of creativity.” Although Gascon practices his creativity both in the lab and in the kitchen, he believes that the most important aspect of becoming a flavor chemist is gaining the competency to precisely identify with the consumer. “When I’m writing a formula I think about what the consumer is tasting in the beginning middle and end,” he says. This ability to instinctively curate a consumer’s individual experience with one flavor profile out of thousands of chemicals is just one of the things that set flavor chemists apart from the rest of the players in the industry.
Standard of Excellence
Gascon says that while there is no ‘typical day’ in the life of a flavor chemist, there is certainly the common denominator of sensory mastery. Flavor chemist apprentices must be able to memorize and identify many hundreds of different chemicals — by smell — in order to pass the rigorous tests required; defining them as experts in all things organoleptic. Their olfactory mastery and chemistry memorization skills continue to be a part of their careers on a daily basis. Flavor chemists don’t only need to know the chemicals well enough to make good flavors, but also to combine their properties into a blend that meets the specific needs of each client. When working with flavor chemists, clients experience a unique level of collaboration and artistry that they will surely never forget.
If you are interested in learning more about how flavor chemist expertise can enhance the value of your business, contact Sensapure Flavors for a consultation.
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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