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How do you go about developing a new flavour?

We’re often asked the question “Just how do you go about developing a new flavour?”

99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. Sometimes it feels like 100% perspiration, but you know sometimes it is sheer serendipity that gets you to where you want to be.

Many years ago I was asked by a leading beverage company to develop a “fresh, just picked, garden mint flavour”. The drinks company had seen rafts of flavouring systems from other flavour companies but nothing quite worked. They were all too pepperminty or spearminty and what the customer really didn’t want was something that tasted like a mouthwash.

We set about the project in the usual way; reviewing our current flavours, carrying out literature searches, digging out old notes from long ago, (waking the flavourist up!). A few weeks had gone by with very little progress. I was having one last bash at this and just about to get back to the customer when I heard the tinkle of a glass bottle and a loud curse coming from the far end of the laboratory. My lab assistant had dropped a bottle of something very smelly and that’s when I got it. That was it; the smell that wafted over towards was just the thing I was looking for.

It was a sulphur-containing compound, a material that you’d expect to find in a tropical fruit application and one that I hadn’t previously considered as being relevant in mint. We cleaned up the mess and I set to work using this “new” material. Bingo, the flavour was spot on! We sent the sample to the customer and they loved it!