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About How Flavor is Made by Flavor Laboratories Inc updated 5/30/23

How is flavor made?  We make flavor for almost anything you can think of.  We make flavor for candy, flavor for coffee beans, flavor for vapor and oxygen, flavor for oils and waxes, moonshine, medicine and just anything that needs to still be yummy after it hits a very high heat.  We use only the freshest flavor compounds and actually freeze most of our incoming materials to stop time.  Freezing incoming materials is expensive and often not an option for other flavor manufactures.  Flavor is made with many different botanicals and resins. For that reason Flavor Laboratories also grows many of its own botanicals for use in compounding great flavors.  Floral notes are pivotal to many popular flavors. For example, a good dimensional raspberry flavor would include geranium as a primary note.  A dynamic blueberry note would include rose as its defining note.  A good cola flavor always includes orange blossom (neroli oil), and without the florals you would not enjoy the flavor as much.  You might not even be able to identify it without the floral notes!  Flavor Laboratories grows its own geraniums as well as many other botanicals that go into our formulas.  The company also harvests neroli flowers and creates their own flavor extractions from materials such as tangerines, kefir limes and blood oranges.  

When it comes to flavor materials imported by Flavor Laboratories, price is no barrier.  The company often uses expensive materials when they feel they offer a more pleasurable taste that no other flavor house would dream of offering to their formulators.  Meaning, often a flavorist is limited to an affordable menu of materials with which to design their flavor.  This also limits what the flavor “could be.”  Flavor Laboratories is able to stay extremely price competitive in the flavor market while offering a top quality finished product. 

About How Flavor is Made by Deborah Dolen, Senior Flavorist

For years I was a purchaser of concentrated flavor because I needed an oil based flavor to make lip balm, as chocolate makers also need an oil based flavor so their cocoa solids [fats] do not seize up.  A water based extract would seize the batch and so could not be used.  Back then, only Germany seemed to specialize in a very concentrated flavor for oil based products.  I began reselling flavor in the states and by 2002 I was making flavor and going back to school to be a compound flavorist, where I learned to compound flavor for oil or water based products.

 For a decade I simply re-sold flavor, as I really did not know how concentrated flavor was made.  Manufacturers were very secretive and I did not know why.  Now I can explain to you how flavor is made from a flavorist’s point of view and without becoming the Snowden of the Flavor world.  I am a flavorist and I attend all the conventions. I can write, educate you and still retain a lot of secrets.

As I found early on, flavorists are well known for their self-preservation secrecy, just as a perfumer is private about how they create perfume.  What you may learn is that both occupations are startlingly the same.  Only a few flavors are easy and that would include cinnamon and the mint family such as peppermint.  This is because they come in an essential oil form.  Because there is no "strawberry tree" or "essential oil of strawberry", the world of making flavor becomes truly a vast array of complex compounds and techniques to create a flavor from scratch. Before becoming a flavorist I had 20 years in botany and essential oils.

As mentioned earlier, most any good flavor has at least one, if not four, floral notes.  Without the floral notes, you would not enjoy the flavor. For example, orange blossom [neroli] is a pivotal component to Cola and the spice coriander as well.  Since the Cola formula has been on the Internet a very long time, it does no harm to mention it. But if one were to remove the orange blossom note and coriander notes from Cola, one would not recognize it as being enjoyable.  While on the Cola subject, Cola is largely comprised of lime.  This is usually a surprise to even the most serious Cola consumers because it is colored a deep caramel color.  The caramel color may be to conceal the fact it is lime. However, this explains why cola can be a great utilitarian product - beyond a soft drink it can be a wonderful meat marinade and clean your car battery as well, because the acid in the lime is the active agent for both.

I would also like to take this time to point out that vanilla and lavender are the two top scents that males find attract them to females, with pumpkin running third.  Is it any great surprise that the two distinct notes in a major tobacco brand are vanilla and lavender?  Back to how flavor is created...

The difference between a perfumer and a flavorist is that the flavorist is limited to 3,000 or so compounds that are generally recognized as safe by the FDA to ingest.  This is also known as "GRAS status."  A perfumer has far more chemicals they can select from because they do not have to be safe for consumption.  It also takes about 12 years to become a flavorist, and simply becoming a flavorist does not mean that they will have any formulas.  Formulas are an entirely different matter and typically the flavor house owner keeps these under lock and key.

So How Is Flavor Made?

It is almost comical to read what other websites have to say about how flavor is made.  They are guessing and almost all of them are not even close.  Sure, you can impart flavor to a good vodka or make a vanilla extract, but this is very basic and not how concentrated flavors are made.  

A flavorist has to break down every aspect of a flavor to recreate it and the more of the 3,000 or so compounds they have studied, the closer they will be.  So, if a customer wants a strawberry taste, the flavorist would really sit at their lab table for hours eating a bowl of strawberries and noting the qualities they experience.  They may note sweet, creamy, sharp, tangy, floral, ethereal, and juicy, then they would take their notes and turn to compounds they feel meet those attributes and mix them together.  It may take years for the flavorist to really master a good strawberry flavor formula.  This is one reason the same flavor will vary from flavor house to flavor house, because they all use a different formula or way to express what they feel strawberry should taste and smell like.

So when you buy concentrated flavor from a manufacturer, you are really buying their “formula” and formulas vary from flavor house to flavor house.

The Dichotomy of Flavor

Probably the biggest surprise I had as a flavorist was discovering that every flavor shares DNA from another flavor or flavors.  For example, strawberry and pineapple share some of the same molecular makeup, and pear will have some of the same chemicals and DNA makeup as pineapple. Yet a pear may share nothing with apple, and a strawberry looks nothing like a pineapple. So regarding any botanical life, such as strawberries or pineapples, you cannot judge a book by its cover.  You have to "taste" the book first! But this also explains why flavor is so subjective. 

Photos of Deborah Dolen Senior Flavorist in Grasse France for continuing education November 2015.  Flavor Laboratories, Inc creates flavor formulas and ships over 60% of its products to other countries.  Primary countries are France, Dubai, United Kingdom, Singapore and South Korea to name a few.