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Nature’s bounty: Flavors from natural bases flourish amid continuing clean label demands

As the food and beverage industry responds to consumer demands such as clean label, products that tout a natural profile are in vogue. By achieving a natural positioning – through the use of natural flavors, for example – such products can also tick the coveted sustainability box.

Some key flavors that fall into the natural category would be roots such as turmeric and ginger, and plants or florals such as elderflower, hibiscus and mint. According to Innova Market Insights data, there has been a 23 percent growth of natural food and beverage products with a floral flavor (Global, 2018 vs. 2017), while the growth is at 26 percent for mint and menthol flavors, reflecting the market demand for products with a natural halo.

“Natural flavors tap into consumer trends towards cleaner products that use ingredients straight from nature. As consumers continue to move towards food and beverages made from real ingredients, developers are challenged to find and develop natural products that deliver taste impact, functionality and stability, all while creating an authentic taste experience,” Shannon Coco, Strategic Marketing Manager, Taste, Kerry, tells..

Key flavors that fall into the natural category would be roots such as turmeric and ginger, and plants or florals such as elderflower, hibiscus and mint.The clean label trend continues to boom and natural flavors can increase a product’s clean label status. Innova Market Insights has reported a 13 percent CAGR in food & beverage launches with a clean label claim (Global, 2013-2017).

From turmeric to paprika and vanilla
Flavors that utilize fruit and vegetables for their natural bases are growing and the market is seeing a proliferation of options.

Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) Wild Flavors and Specialty Ingredients Business Unit (WFSI) arm has further developed the space of fruit-based flavors. From The Named Fruit (FTNF) is a portfolio of natural flavors that complements ADM’s classic natural flavors, Florian Buttmann, Product Manager, WFSI – ADM Nutrition, tell.

“When it comes to innovative flavoring products, the demand is steered towards solutions that are as natural as possible,” Buttmann says.

To obtain these FTNF flavors, ADM uses raw materials such as fresh or frozen fruit which is then processed using special technologies. The objective is to achieve a high yield and maintain the original flavor profile.

“The result is a highly concentrated liquid alcohol- or aqueous-based FTNT flavor extract which is stable in its sensory and microbiological properties. This permits ADM to guarantee its clients that the extracts will always have the same quality despite annual fluctuations in harvests and fruit properties,” he says.

Indian Totapuri for mango, Senga Sengana for strawberry and juicy Caribbean pineapples are a few examples of the available flavor choices in this portfolio.

The desire for clean, natural and real ingredients has also fueled the use of floral flavor application. Innova Market Insights reports a 31 percent increase in average annual growth of food and beverage launches with lavender flavor (Global, 2013A cold brew, basil flavored latte. Credit: Kerry.2017).

According to Buttmann, elderflower is a floral flavor worth highlighting. While Jochen Kistner, also of ADM, pinpoints root ginger as having potential for use in new products and to offer manufacturers the chance to reposition their portfolio.

“Elderflower has natural, fresh, berry, light and floral flavor notes and, therefore, meets consumers’ desire for exciting new taste experiences,” Buttmann notes. “The most important aspect is that there is always one unexpected, exciting flavor in combination with a known, usual type of flavor to give the consumer a kind of comfort,” he continues.

The association between flowers and nature may fuel their popularity as consumers increasingly seek natural offerings.

Natural flavors can also be used as coloring ingredients in some cases, says Karen Manheimer, Vice President, Natural Products, Kerry.

“The two main colors in this category are turmeric and paprika oleoresins. A turmeric oleoresin could be part of a natural curry flavor, or it could be used by itself in a pickle brine as a natural color.”

“Paprika oleoresin can be used in a chipotle flavor or by itself to color Thousand Island salad dressing. In general, consumers prefer their foods to contain natural ingredients and this includes flavors, colors and even preservatives,” she says.

“With natural flavoring, the color should also come from natural sources. Ultimately, however, it is the taste that decides whether the product is bought again and thus whether it is successful on the market,” Fabian Uelner, Product Manager, WFSI - ADM Nutrition, tells.

Turmeric can elevate an ordinary latte through both taste and color. Credit: Kerry.In the vanilla flavor space, Solvay recently debuted a natural vanillin to further expand its portfolio of natural and nature-inspired ingredients and to cater to this rising consumer demand for GMO-free, natural and “true-to-nature” products. The company is supporting the move to natural, with two different vanillin solutions, Rhovanil Natural CW, which is globally recognized as a natural ingredient and Rhovanil US NAT, which meets many US flavor regulations, according to the company.

“Making the switch to natural an easy way is the key message that we want to get across to our customers and this is the main trend that we see a ripe market for,” Lucie Morpain,Solvay Food & Beverages and Americas Market Manager, tells.

Rhovanil US NAT is ideal for manufacturers looking to reformulate an existing product or create a new one for with a clean label status. Solvay introduced its new naturally-sourced ingredient – Rhovanil US NAT – to the US market at IFT 2018. It is a 1:1 replacement of synthetic vanillin, therefore straightforward to reformulate, according to the company. Additionally, it does not bring any undesired off notes to a formulation.

Varying tastes
Good taste is arguably the number one criterion when it comes to people’s decisions to purchase something again. There’s a catch, however: tastes vary.

A person’s taste can be highly individualistic and heavily influenced by culture. As Gaia Saccani, Senior Marketing Manager Natural Color Division EMEA at Chr. Hansen says in last month’s issue of The World of Food Ingredients: “Color is key in food, not only of flavor and quality, but also of emotions and feelings.”

In this way, it may be useful for formulators to understand the personal aspect of flavors and prepare for the fact that demands vary by region.

“Everyone has individual preferences, which in turn are heavily defined by cultural influences. Consumers in India expect a mango drink or a strawberry yogurt to taste Cultual variations can influence consumer taste preferences. Consumers in India, for example, may expect a mango drink to taste different to US or European consumers.different to North Americans or Central Europeans,” Buttmann of ADM shares.

“ADM’s teams of flavorists face these challenges daily at all of the company’s larger offices all over the world. They hold joint tastings to refine the perfect composition of each respective flavor and find the right dosage.”

“No matter whether you are in the US, Asia or Europe, flavor preferences are still regionally specific, even despite the globalization of markets. The product developers at ADM understand how to create the right kind of unique flavors which will satisfy a wide variety of consumer preferences,” he adds.

A further challenge facing industry would be sourcing requested specific regions for raw materials and the commercial availability of those materials, notes Larry Engel, Senior Flavorist III, Kerry.

What’s next?
Clean label demands appear to be going nowhere and natural flavors, as well as colors and preservatives, will likely continue to flood to the market. As consumers become more adventurous in their food choices and seek out new and exotic experiences, flavors can continue to play an integral role in successful NPD, especially when regional tastes are taken into account.

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