Bakers Journal

Final proof: Natural Flavours on Trend

April 22, 2020
By Jane Dummer

Natural flavours and colours are having a moment in the bakery industry.

PHOTO CREDIT: © stanislav_uvarov / Adobe Stock

Consumers are becoming more concerned about the long-term health effects of artificial ingredients and additives in food products. This has resulted in the clean label movement. The trend towards natural flavours in baking industry has increased because of this change in consumer demand. As a result, the flavour industry is shifting towards making more natural options available to bakers across North America.

Starting out with natural flavours in a formulation or recipe is different than switching from artificial to natural. Mel Mann, director of flavour innovation at Wixon explains, “There are four main considerations when switching to natural flavours. They include intensity of flavour, profile of flavour, consistency of flavour and ultimately the cost. Artificial flavours survive the heat process better, whereas, natural flavours can be less stable and may lose some intensity, requiring more to be used in the formula. Also, the shelf-life of a natural flavour may be shorter than its artificial counterpart. Mann recommends, “Bakers should test products to understand how a switch to natural will affect their product’s flavour throughout the baking process and its shelf-life.”

The high cost involved in the production of natural flavours is the major consideration. Stacey Hawley, Co-Founder of Forté Flavors agrees, “Artificial flavours are typically less expensive than natural flavours, so making the switch means increased ingredient costs. Plus, packaging plays a role in flavour stability, therefore, that is an additional factor to consider. However, Hawley identifies, “Natural flavours continue to be our most popular format, followed by non-GMO and organic. Both nostalgic flavour profiles and fantasy flavour profiles are popular. Forté can mimic these profiles in all three formats. Examples of fantasy flavours are cookie dough and blue raspberry. They are profiles that do not exist in nature; however, we can create these using natural flavouring ingredients. Our most popular nostalgic flavour requests are caramel, butterscotch and maple.”

Natural flavours are manufactured from a variety of plants, fruits, vegetables, roots, and minerals. Miguel-Angel Escareno, Senior Flavorist at Foodarom identifies, “When it comes to sourcing natural flavours, the raw materials or molecules in natural form may be difficult to find. Also, there are strict labeling regulations surrounding natural flavours at the industrial level. This is to provide transparency of the source. Plus, you might have non-GMO, dietary restriction like gluten-free, religion restrictions like kosher or halal, organic certification, or organic compliant which are other obstacles to face as the flavorist or flavour designers moving from artificial into the natural field. However, Escareno remains very optimistic that natural flavours are here to stay not just in North America but globally.

As a general flavour trend in baking, we’re seeing a resurgence in nostalgic flavours. Escareno agrees “Over the past three years they have received many requests for nostalgic, fantasy and seasonal flavours. Flavours like maple, cotton candy, red velvet, birthday cake, plus candy bar such as Kit-Kat and cereal flavours like Captain Crunch. In the baking sector, the most popular flavours remain vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. We are creating fusion profiles to provide a new flavour as consumers are attracted to new yet familiar such as lemon-caramel, coconut-maple, and mango-tropical.

Hawley also identifies vanilla as a top flavour. Vanilla is a versatile flavour that may stand alone for sugar cookies or combined with chocolate, coffee and/or fruit to give baked goods a rich, rounded flavour. The other two top flavours for Forté’s customers are blueberry and lemon. Lemon is a tangy profile that lends itself well in icings, cookies, cakes and baked snacks. Interestingly, blueberry the fruit itself has very little taste or aroma; consumers have become accustom to a blueberry taste that can sometimes only be achieved by adding a blueberry flavour.

As a significant number of consumers have gained interest towards purchasing clean label products, this has propelled the demand for natural flavours. The industry is evolving and growing to meet this market need. However challenging, it continues to work with bakers to create customized natural flavour profiles that compete well with their artificial equivalents. Continued interest in baked goods with exotic or global flavours is next on the list for these talented flavour companies to supply stable, robust, natural flavour profiles to their key clients in the baking industry.

Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.

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