Due to the long training process, flavorists tend to remain in the taste-making industry for a while. They may work for a company (also known as a “flavor house”) that devotes a major portion of its commercial operations toward developing and selling flavors to other food companies. Or, they may find positions at food and pharmaceutical companies with internal research and development divisions devoted to flavoring.
Flavor houses compete for projects provided by the greater food industry. A food company may approach a number of flavor houses and describe the flavor profile they want for their product or give a physical example of a pre-existing product to mimic. The flavorist will work to match the client’s desires, but the challenge comes when there are subtle differences in a client’s perception of a flavor compared to a flavorist’s perception. A client might want a rich, dark chocolate that has hints of Mexican vanilla, which requires a flavorist to tweak their flavors closer to that description.
Cost is a major consideration in the construction of flavors, and it can compete with the flavorist’s desire for authenticity and creativity. They must also consider the availability of flavor ingredients, such as seasonality of flavor crops; use of natural, organic, or artificial ingredients; heat stability; process complexity; shelf-life; and product material properties. A client may also ask a flavor company to create a less costly mimic of a competitor’s product, which is a task of technical and analytical matching rather than creative originality.
While the work and training are long and arduous, flavorists have the satisfaction of seeing their work in products on grocery shelves and pharmaceutical counters.
Sometimes, a flavorist may create something that has no natural counterpart. Red Bull, for example, is cited as a postmodern medley of synthetic flavors that impart a unique, medicinal taste that people happen to desire when thirsty. That medicinal flavor has become strongly associated with the concept of “energy beverage.” Other energy drink companies have attempted to create a beverage that closely mimics a pre-existing natural flavor, but consumers always prefer the medicinal, synthetic flavor due to the close association.
Beyond the creation of new tastes, flavorists are tasked with the responsibility of continuously keeping up with regulations, ingredient availability, ingredient costs, culinary trends, and industry innovations. Some companies provide opportunities for flavorists to travel to culinary hot spots to gain inspiration for new flavor concepts. Givaudan sponsors a suite of corporate programs known as “Treks” that include off-site explorations to the world’s most exotic bars, Michelin-starred restaurants, authentic diners, and spice markets. Industry organizations also hold various study trips around the world for flavor professionals to learn more about innovative flavors and trends. The Women in Flavor and Fragrance Commerce regularly sponsors flavor excursions.
By holding memories of flavors, a flavorist builds up their toolbox as they continue to expand and deepen their palate.