Dialing in a Winning Flavor: Guidelines for Food & Beverage Developers Ordering Flavor Samples

by | Jan 18, 2024

The influence of taste on food and beverage acceptability is undisputed. Global surveys confirm the power of taste, with recent research from the International Food Information Council revealing that almost 9 in 10 people prioritize taste when buying a product. While taste is a complex experience involving aroma, color, and texture, the flavor leaves a lasting impression that can affect loyalty.

Formulators charged with bringing food and drink concepts to life understand flavor’s essential role. As you develop your benchtop prototypes, ordering the right flavor samples is a significant part of the process. The FlavorSum team crafted the following guidelines that you can follow to get flavor samples that “hit the mark” and make your next project a delicious success.

Step 1: Communicate Your Basic Parameters

Whether filling out an online form or talking with your flavor supplier, you’ll start ordering flavor samples by sharing the guardrails for your project. Flavor houses will ask you about the following characteristics:

  • What is your product application? You’ll need to describe the food or beverage you’re developing, such as an ice cream, a plant-based creamer, a sweet-savory cracker, or a functional beverage.
  • What are your desired label claims for flavor? Do you need the flavor to be natural, organic certified, or TTB-approvable? If you require a natural flavor, are you open to a natural solution with other natural flavors (WONF)? Are you interested in non-GMO, Halal, or Kosher?
  • Does your formula require a specific flavor solubility, such as oil or water, and will your process require a liquid or dry flavor? Your flavor partner can address questions about solubility, but water-soluble flavors generally perform well in applications like beverages, frozen desserts, and some baked goods and sugar confections. Oil-soluble flavors are appropriate in applications with oil components. You can incorporate oil-based flavors in some baked goods, snacks, and sweets like chocolates or gummies.
  • How would you describe your ideal flavor profile? Describe the flavor notes and taste experience you’re trying to create. Specificity will help your flavor partner find flavor samples with the right characteristics. For example, if you want a strawberry flavor, share details about the flavor notes you envision, such as true-to-fruit or candy-like. What other notes would you like people to taste? Do you want a fresh strawberry with green notes? Or a ripe, jammy strawberry flavor? If you have an in-market example that captures the strawberry taste you want to deliver, give the details to your supplier.

 

  • Does your manufacturing process have any steps that may affect flavor? Some types of processing can affect flavor delivery and influence the flavor samples your vendor sends. For example, when dealing with a high-heat application like some baked goods, an emulsion offers heat stability while retaining flavor strength.
  • When do you need the flavor samples? Flavor suppliers like FlavorSum strive to ship flavor samples within 48 hours after your order. But sharing your development schedule ensures your flavor partner has visibility to your launch timing and can inform internal teams about your needs.

Step 2: Explain Application-Specific Characteristics

Each food or beverage application has unique attributes that influence the flavor experience. Giving your flavor house more insights about your end goals improves the precision of the flavor sample selection. Here are specifics of interest for a few product applications.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: SPIRITS, RTDS, BEER

Flavor suppliers will want to understand the following nuances of your alcoholic beverage product:

  • Are you flavoring a spirit or creating a ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage?
  • Which alcohol base are you flavoring? While neutral spirit bases like vodka or GNS offer versatility with flavor, others like whiskey, gin, or tequila have taste components to consider when incorporating flavors.
  • Do you need TTB-approved flavors, or can you explore TTB-approvable flavors? Your project timing will affect your answer since the TTB approval process requires involvement from the flavor supplier’s regulatory team.
  • What is your targeted Alcohol-by-Volume (ABV) for your finished beverage? ABV affects the flavor perception and mouthfeel of alcoholic beverages. Higher ABV drinks can deliver more intense flavors overall.

BAKED GOODS: NUTRITION BARS, COOKIES, DONUTS

With bakery applications, areas of interest to your flavor supplier include the following:

  • Is this a traditional bakery product, or are you offering functional characteristics like reduced sugar or added protein?
  • If you have sugar reduction in mind, share details about your label claims, such as:
    • The percentage of the decrease vs. a “no added sugar” claim.
    • The sweetener system you plan to use. Alternatives to cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup can affect flavor perceptions since the time-intensity curves will vary by sweetener.
  • If you’re creating a functional product, your supplier will want to understand your formula’s active ingredient(s) since some flavors can complement, enhance, or mask ingredient off-notes.

FROZEN DESSERTS: DAIRY-BASED, PLANT-BASED, WATER-BASED

Freezing affects the way people experience flavor. In frozen dessert segments, the base ingredients will also influence flavor delivery. Flavor suppliers will want to know:

  • What is the fat content in your dairy base? Higher fat content enhances flavor, so soft-serve ice creams with lower fat content may require more intense flavor profiles.
  • What plant base(s) are you incorporating into your formula? Each plant-based milk, from almond or coconut to pea or oat, carries notes that affect the flavor.
  • The absence of dairy or milk alternatives will create a different mouthfeel for water-based frozen products like sorbets or popsicles. Formulas incorporating fruit or purees may require specific flavor solutions to enhance taste.

REFRESHING BEVERAGES: CSDS, ENERGY DRINKS, FLAVORED WATER, SELTZERS

The refreshing beverage category is experiencing the hybridization occurring across the food and drink landscape. If you’re exploring formulas to deliver more than refreshment, your flavor partner will ask:

  • Are you striving to deliver functional benefits like energy, recovery, focus, or relaxation, and which ingredients are you incorporating into your beverage base?
  • Will your beverage be carbonated or still? Carbonation can accent flavor and may affect the flavor sample selection.
  • What is your targeted sugar content, and which sweetener system(s) will you use? Alternative sweeteners can affect flavor, and your flavor house may recommend solutions that optimize sweetness.

SUGAR CONFECTIONS: BETTER FOR YOU, GUMMIES

Your flavor partner will have specific questions if you’re creating a sugar confection or gummy product. Whether you’re formulating a better-for-you candy or a gummy for the vitamin, minerals, and supplements (VMS) category, key considerations are:

  • Who are you trying to reach with your product? Flavor samples for children’s confections may be more candy-like, while adult tastes could be more complex or intense.
  • What functionality do you want to offer? Active ingredients may require additional flavor solutions to deliver the taste you expect.
  • For gummies, what are your base ingredients? Pectin, gelatin, and starch bases each have implications for flavor delivery.

Step 3: Share Your Flavor Sample Size Requirements and Shipping Details

After outlining your project parameters, let your flavor supplier know if you need a larger sample size than the traditional 1 oz bottle. Your flavor samples will arrive with recommended starting usage rates, and typically, a 1 oz bottle will make several batches of most applications.

For example, an 18 oz (510gr) batch of gummies usually needs about 10 mL of flavor, roughly 1/3 of a 1 oz (30 mL) sample. Depending on the fat content and desired flavor intensity, a quart of ice cream could require as little as 5 mL or as much as 14 mL of flavor.

The last step when ordering flavor samples is to provide your shipping details!

Step 4: Offer Feedback About Flavor Sample Performance to Keep Your Project Moving!

Collaborating with your flavor supplier helps you find the best flavor solutions for your food or beverage project. Flavorists value your feedback about custom flavors because they can make the adjustments necessary to meet your goals. If you’ve requested a blueberry-lemon flavor and discover your benchtop needs more brightness on the front end or fewer floral notes, sharing details will give the team essential insights.

Great Taste Awaits When You Order Flavor Samples from FlavorSum!

When you’re crafting a taste that captivates the senses, reach out to FlavorSum for flavor samples. We’re here to support your success with certified flavorists, applications experts, and responsive commercialization processes. 

Lisa Jackson_FlavorSum

Author

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson, Director of Marketing at FlavorSum, brings more than 30 years of market and consumer research experience to support innovation activities for food and beverage organizations.

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