Donald Pszczola

Donald E. Pszczola

Before the start of the 1999 IFT Annual Meeting, Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis., held a media event at Charlie Trotter’s, a four-star restaurant in Chicago. During that evening, food editors (I included) had the opportunity to experience a wide range of complex, flavor combinations, such as olive-oil-poached Scottish salmon with caviar and grapefruit, chilled sweet corn soup with mussels, preserved cucumber and sorrel puree, whole roasted squab with herb-infused risotto, celery and lemon-mint sorbet, and lemon pudding cake with citrus, to name just a few dishes.

Although that experience was unique and definitely memorable, what I would find fascinating over the next few days was the number of ways that the culinary experience was recreated on the IFT Food Expo floor. Just as I did at Charlie Trotter’s, I found myself experiencing a wide range of flavor combinations and sensations. Some of the flavors were familiar, some of the flavors were familiar but not in that particular application, some flavors were vaguely familiar but you couldn’t quite put your finger—or in this case, taste bud—on it, and some flavors were completely unknown.

Flavor trends are taking a variety of directions. One area, for example, is the use of flavors in nutraceutical products. Because of the wide array of nutraceuticals featured at this year’s Food Expo, it would be easy to conclude that these products captured the center stage. But that is not the complete story. Sometimes lost in the spotlight are the flavors behind the nutraceuticals, and how they are improving the product at a sensory level, and well as enticing the attendee to try them.

If nutraceutical products were in abundance on the show floor, the same could be said about chefs. In this case, too many chefs did not spoil the broth, but rather enhanced it. Their strong presence reflect a direction that many ingredient companies are taking, adopting an approach that combines culinary with food science. Flavors, of course, are playing a major role in this direction.

This article will focus primarily on some of the developments in the culinary–food science area, especially the establishment of culinary centers which combine various disciplines in food product development. In addition, it will look at some of the other innovative flavor applications, including nutraceutical products, that I think suggest future directions that flavors will be taking.

More and more ingredient companies are opening research and development facilities that combine culinary expertise with food technology knowledge. Also, other disciplines such as marketing and management often get actively involved in this process.

In 1995, FIDCO (now FIS Food Ingredient Specialties) pioneered this approach, which it called Techno-Culinary™, by starting up the FIDCO Culinary Institute, based in Solon, Ohio. The facility began as a customer service to provide food scientists and technologists with basic culinary skills that may help them create marketable new food products. In their recipes, the staff used savory flavors and other ingredients manufactured by the company.

Since then, we have seen a proliferation of ingredient suppliers taking such an approach, creating ingredients that reflect this philosophy. Let’s look at a few:

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• T. Hasegawa USA, Inc., Cerritos, Calif., has established a Culinary Creation Center in the Chicago area. The grand opening of the facility, which is dedicated to exploring food trends and bringing about creative food solutions for its customers, was announced at a press conference held on July 28, 1999, at the new facility.

The facility, part of the company’s research and development department, brings together chefs, food scientists, chemists, marketers, and managers to brainstorm ideas, formulate, and evaluate new food or beverage concepts. It houses a working library of flavors, focusing especially on savory and culinary applications.

The center’s kitchen has a full line of equipment to simulate foodservice and manufacturing cooking processes. The state-of-the-art equipment includes a multipurpose combination oven; range, oven, and salamander; trunnion and steam-jacketed kettle; char broiler; deep-fat fryer; chilled food storage freezer and refrigerator; and vacuum tumbler. The kitchen operation is under the watchful eye of Chef John Matchuk, CCE, CCC, who brings experience in food manufacturing as well as a background in Culinary Education and Operations. Matchuk is currently vice president of the Research Chef ’s Association.

A technical team can ascertain the specific parameters required for the appropriate flavor creation such as pH, viscosity, solids content, shelf life, and flavor migration. Additional laboratory or sensory studies can be quickly provided.

The design of the center will allow for classroom-style coursework, demonstrations, and the handling of multiple projects.

At the press conference, Matchuk highlighted Asian food wraps to illustrate how flavors can be used to modify a food to meet a particular ethnic or regional theme. In 1981, Machuk developed a Mediterranean wrap which consisted of flat bread, proscuitto, black olives, artichoke hearts, tomato, lettuce, and basil cream cheese. Ten years later, he adapted his formula to develop an Asian variety consisting of a spring roll wrapper, surimi, cucumbers, rice threads, sesame seeds, cabbage salad, and ginger mango tofu.

• Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis., has expanded its new culinary group by adding graduates of the Culinary Institute of America to its staff and constructing a fully equipped culinary laboratory. The culinary group is said to provide the expertise and skill that give the company’s restaurant and industrial customers the ability to achieve higher quality, better flavor, and more creative alternative food concepts.

“With our culinary group, we’re able to give our customers the Gold Seal of Approval on product concepts that are creditable line extensions of their menus or product offerings,” said Thomas Rank, vice president of Research and Development. “Our staff stays on top of emerging taste trends so we can formulate and show products that have a high probability of success, at a substantial time reduction from ideation to implementation.”

Corporate Executive Chef Christiaan Avonda explains why a philosophy of practical culinary makes sense for customers. “We’ll start with an idea and show customers how our flavoring, coating, functional, and substrate technologies can come together in a culinary sense to create successful concepts. The Culinary Group serves as a practical, value-added tool to get our customers results.”

Joining Avonda are Corporate Chefs Danny Bruns and Tonii Tyler, all graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. The three chefs share extensive foodservice and processor experience.

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The new 1,120-sq-ft culinary laboratory in Kerry’s R&D Center is designed to duplicate customer kitchen environments and maximize the chef’s ability to create relevant product concepts for the customer. The laboratory serves as a working environment where customers, food scientists, and chefs can share ideas in an open, creative climate. It is equipped with both a fully functional restaurant kitchen and a food science kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment similar to what many restaurants use. The laboratory is located in the center of the company’s six core technology R&D groups (Savory Flavors, Coating Systems, Functional Dairy Ingredients, Cheese and Dairy Flavorings, Specialty Lipid Powders, and Emerging Technologies) to maximize interaction between culinary and R&D staff.

One of the company’s objectives is to establish training sessions for R&D and Sales staff to give insight and direction concerning how to create products with a culinary-based edge. The classes will teach the basic fundamentals of cooking with demonstrations on sauteing, grilling, broiling, and roasting, as well as provide terminology explanations on why certain food ingredients and methods are used.

The company’s innovative booth, called Kerry Idea Café, at Food Expo featured new food products representing each of its six core technologies, as well as combinations of these technologies. Highlights included ginger-lime marinated chicken, Margarita mini crab cakes, tomato cream cheese dip, rosemary and roasted garlic Brie wedges, fish pockets with lemon-coriander sauce, and orange cream and marshmallow dream icings.

• Heller Seasonings & Ingredients, Bedford Park, Ill., highlighted the opening of two new technical centers at the IFT Food Expo. These facilities included a Chicago-based technical and culinary complex and a western technical center located near San Francisco.

The technical and culinary center complex features the James Heller Center for Taste Innovation, a training center where the latest trends are translated into successful new product and flavor ideas. The culinary center staff have degrees in food science and the culinary arts. At the center, a total integrated development system is employed which brings together internal product, process, sensory, and culinary scientific expertise while minimizing development time and costs.

At the Heller booth, representatives discussed the future impact that these technical centers will have. Visitors were able to sample flavor profiles from regions of the world that will be the future flavors of mainstream America. In particular, snack flavor profiles can be sampled.

• Kraft Food Ingredients, Memphis, Tenn., adopted a culinary–technological approach to showcase the use of its ingredients in global cuisines at the IFT Food Expo.

Cuisines of the World™ is the name given to describe a line of ingredients that capture the flavors of Asian, French, Caribbean, and Italian cooking. These gourmet international flavors reflect global culinary standards while simulating the cooking process.

KFI’s executive chef Lucien Vendome and a team of flavor technologists worked together to create flavors that duplicate the cooking process, such as roasted, grilled, and sauteed, as well as the significant flavor elements associated with a particular location. If needed, they will work with processors and foodservice providers to customize the new global flavors to address a specific application.

Taking such an approach serves as a flavor ingredient solution for processors who are developing value-added products to meet consumer demands. The new flavors are designed to serve as key components for meat, poultry, seafood, soups, sauces, and side dishes. These products also allow processors to respond quickly to demand in the foodservice market, particularly those meat and poultry processors who supply restaurant chains with precooked meat items requiring limited preparation and cooking time. With such an approach, processors can significantly cut the time spent on product research and development while meeting consumer demand for exotic tastes.

And speaking of exotic dishes, visitors to the Kraft booth could sample such foods as Coconut and Lemon-Grass Gelato; Chicken Fingers with Blue Cheese and Celery Dip; Little Italy Rigatoni Baked with Grilled Chicken and Stewed Tomatoes; Burgundy-Style Stewed Beef with Mushrooms, Root Vegetables, and Bacon; and Cheesecake with Caramel Melba Sauce.

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• Griffith Laboratories, Alsip, Ill., celebrated the opening of its new Culinary Center in 1998. An extension of the research and development department, the 3,400-sq-ft center features three main sections: a presentation/meeting area, a restaurant-style kitchen designed to simulate real restaurant conditions, and a library with hundreds of culinary and technical reference books, periodicals, and its own meeting space. The center staff includes three certified executive chefs and 77 technical and support staff members.

According to Tom Malkoski, president, CEO, “our culinary center tells our customers that we are committed to developing recipes that will be winners not only in the development kitchen, but in the restaurant and consumer’s kitchens as well. The effective blending of food art and food science is the focus of Griffith’s future as it develops menus for the new millennium that bring authentic foods back to consumers’ tables.”

Having access to the center will be Innova, a Griffith Laboratories company that specializes in the creation and manufacture of flavors for savory food applications. Recently Innova moved into its new 25,000-sq-ft headquarters and laboratory facility in Oak Brook, Ill. The company had been housed within the Griffith facility, but a need for an expanded facility and identity prompted the move.

• Quest International Flavors and Food Ingredients Co., Hoffman Estates, Ill., introduced new additions to its Culinary Advantage® line. According to the manufacturer, these products employ process technology and raw material sourcing to deliver the quality and taste of restaurant and home-prepared meals. The newest additions are designed to unlock the distinct flavors of the Mediterranean and Asia Pacific regions. Soffrito—a cornerstone for sauces, especially tomato, in Spain and Italy—enhances and adds complexity, and is similar to mirepoix. Wok Blend focuses on duplicating the stir-fried flavors of Asian cuisine. The nature of stir frying requires high heat over a very short cooking time—a process which is difficult to recreate in a manufacturing plant. This blend takes care of that problem. Kaffir Lime Leaf, an essential ingredient of Thai cuisine, provides a fresh citrus note reportedly unlike any of the citrus flavors commonly used in the United States.

• Eatem Foods Co., Vineland, N.J., developed a new generation of caramelized vegetable seasoning bases called Melange because of the mixed blend of flavors each represents. Varieties available were garlic, mirepoix, red bell pepper, carrot, and onion. Other new products highlighted were grilled ribeye beef base and beef sirloin base. Chefs from the company prepared a variety of foods using these bases, such as baked potato chowder, ribeye onion soup, salad dressings, and sirloin meatballs.

• David Michael & Co., Inc., Philadelphia, Pa., highlighted two Thai stir frys enhanced by flavors available from the company. Spicy Peanut Satay Chicken consists of DM Choice® Natural Chicken Broth Type Powder, Natural & Artificial Peanut Flavor, and Natural Ginger Flavor WONF. This dish has no peanut butter or peanuts in the recipe. Thai Chili Coconut Chicken features Natural & Artificial Coconut Flavor and DM Choice Natural Flavor for Chili. This dish has no coconut or coconut milk in the recipe. Applications chef John Cucunella prepared these versions of Thai dishes to illustrate how flavors can be used to replace other ingredients without sacrificing taste.

• Wild Flavors, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, developed a line of flavors called Chef ’s Shortcuts™ which are reportedly designed to duplicate traditional culinary techniques without compromising quality.

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•Flavor & Food Ingredients, Inc., Middlesex, N.J., produced Culinary Vegetable Flavors which are said to deliver true flavor notes from the characterizing cooked vegetable (e.g., caramelized carrot, mirepoix-roasted vegetable stock, roasted garlic, etc.) in different applications.

As you can see, the old adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” needs updating as we near the millennium. And now that we have that tasty broth in front of us, what are some of the future impacts that this approach will likely have?

I can see several:

First, when the culinary–technology approach started a few years back, we were in the throes of fat replacement. Partly because of that, the approach stood out from a reporter’s perspective. And stomach. I mean we were actually talking about foods that had fat in them! Over recent months, however, we’re seeing some of the fat coming back. And this will probably help fuel this approach along. Or rather the approach might help fuel this development along. Also, keep in mind that one of the major reasons that many fat replacers failed was because of taste. With chefs creating a Gold Standard and food scientists trying to recreate them, the approach promises to create products with very desirable tastes and textures.

Second, we will continue to see products that emphasize authenticity, creating flavor profiles that duplicate tastes from all around the world. I suspect that computer databases and other modern technology will help facilitate this.

Third, the approach provides a way of reducing time and costs in product development. And in an economic millennium, such shortcuts are always being looked for.

Finally, the approach may also have an impact on cooking in general. We have all heard that more and more people are not cooking today. This approach may help stimulate more people to pursue that adventure. Or perhaps because of these products, consumers may use the time they saved in food preparation to try cooking certain dishes to complement their meals.

In addition to the culinary approach, there are several other directions that flavors may be increasingly taking in the future.

More and more we are seeing ingredients being developed and marketed to meet the needs of specific life stages. These may include immuno-enhancing dairy proteins for neonatal care, lactoferrin for diarrhea prevention for the newborn, docosahexaenoic acid for infant brain development, zinc and B vitamins for the growing child, iron and folate for child-bearing women, calcium for women (especially those lactating), branched chained amino acids for young athletes, and mineral absorption enhancers for the aged. An entire symposium was dedicated to defining the complex issues that the food industry needs to consider when developing, marketing, and advertising food products for older adults.

Flavors will play a major part in this segmenting of the marketplace. Reflecting this theme (only moving toward the Alpha and not the Omega part of the life cycle), McCormick Flavors, Hunt Valley, Md., designed its booth as a “Kidz Lab” where flavor systems were developed for children’s products such as crunchy snacks, truffles, isotonic fun beverages, milkshakes, and other applications prepared with “kid-tested” flavors. Some of the products featured included Mexican Pizza Chips, Citrus Punch Lip Balm, Molecule Cookies, Y2Kiwi Sports Drink, and GumBe Milkshake.

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Wild Flavors, Inc., Cincinatti, Ohio, developed two healthy beverages—one for each sex. The women’s formulation was a cranberry-juice-based fruit beverage made with dragonfruit flavor, and enhanced with evening primrose, red clover, astragalus, rosemary, green tea extracts, vitamin C, B complexes, calcium, and zinc. The men’s formulation was a 10% juice beverage made with tropical punch flavor and enhanced with ginseng, kola, saw palmetto, selenium, zinc, and vitamins A and C.

As already mentioned, flavors will continue to have a major impact in the area of nutraceuticals. (See “Putting Soy and Other Nutraceutical Ingredients Under the Microscope,” p. 112 of this issue, for information on how flavors can help solve some of the sensory problems, such as off-tastes, associated with formulating nutraceuticals.) It would be impossible to cover the wide array of nutraceutical products at the show, but here are some examples:

Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., Northbrook, Ill., highlighted Raspberry Rendezvous, a beverage made with raspberry and blueberry flavors and enhanced with a natural ginseng extract. Frutarom, Inc., Bergen, N.J., featured boysenberry-flavored cookies with echinacea. Target Flavors, Inc., Brookfield, Conn., showed low-fat, fortified yogurt prototypes, including Tropical Tranquility, which reduces stress and anxiety; Raspberry Passion & Strawberry Cheesecake, which promotes a healthy heart; Peanut Butter & Jelly, which builds strong bones; and Citro Charge, which increases energy. McCormick Flavors provided the Orange Dreamsicle flavor for use in a crisped rice cereal enriched with ginkgo biloba highlighted by Folexco/East Earth Herb, Montgomeryville, Pa. Mane Flavors, Wayne, N.J., showcased a variety of nutraceutical beverages with colorful names: Energy Buzz (Cranberry Pepperberry), Digestiv (Orange Ginger), Color Me Happy (Nectarine Basil Lemonade), Germinator Too (Blackberry Papaya), Calcium Shooter (Tangerine Pineapple), Anti Ox Bomb (Rosemary Berry Tea), Flex-O-Matic (Peach Guana-bana), and IQ Plus (Raspberry Clove Tea). Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, N.Y. featured two nutrition bars: one designed for meal replacement and available in strawberry yogurt and apple cinnamon flavors, and the other, marketed to sports enthusiasts, in a peanut butter flavor.

Creative flavors are also being used in applications that showcase functionality of other ingredients. For example, Corn Products, Bedford Park, Ill., featured smoothie beverages to illustrate this point. Shooting Star Orange, served semi-frozen, was formulated with high fructose corn syrup (Invertose®), texturizing corn starch (Snowflake™), and maltodextrin (Globe® Plus). Other flavored smoothies made with these ingredients were Planetary Pineapple and Strawberry Kiwi Constellation. Because the smoothie formulations did not incorporate milk or fat to provide the desirable creamy and pulpy mouthfeel, the benefits and cost-effectiveness of these ingredients became apparent.

Novel combinations of flavors, especially those from other regions of the world, are another direction that flavors will be taking more. Robertet Flavors, Piscataway, N.J. highlighted Natural and Artificial Citrus Cajata Granisado Frozen Beverage, a combination of cream, tangerine, cinnamon, and chocolate flavors, and Natural and Artificial Dulce de Leche Granisado Frozen Beverage, a marriage of caramel and condensed milk. The Chicago Tribune of August 11, 1999, reported on a variety of cool drinks with roots in Latin America that are becoming increasingly popular in Chicago, partially fueled by the fact that Nuevo Latino cooking is considered by several magazines as cuisine of the year. These drinks are a combination of citrus and liquor and have names like mojito (a Cuban mix of rum, lime juice, and fresh mint), and caipirinhas (a Brazilian mix of cachaca and lime).

And I suspect these are only a few of the future directions that flavors will be taking, as professionals from the food industry do more and more brainstorming. Recently a group of seasoned food, wine, and restaurant industry professionals formed the Culinary Consortium, a consulting think tank, based in Seattle, Wash., for food and hospitality clients. Other such developments will probably follow. From culinary to nutraceuticals, flavors are covering a broad range of applications, and solving a broad range of problems. So bon appétit (and hopefully do it healthfully).

Associate Editor

About the Author

Food Technology magazine Senior Editor and key member of the Food Technology editorial staff for 26 years.
Donald Pszczola