Why We’re Training a Flavor Chemist

I loved my college career but one thing that they never taught me was the complexity and power of flavors.

In certain processed food industries, flavors dominate. Their ability to deliver unique tastes with low margins causes a marketing loop that makes them ubiquitous in the industry.

Even in student product development competitions, we had no idea what flavors were! All of our competitions used regular, whole food but that’s all blown away when you go into industry.

So when I worked in the industry, flavors perplexed me, but I’ve learned so much.

Luckily, the best flavorist in the California coast is a consultant to our company. I also know his son, which means his dad thinks I’m a pretty cool dude.

Understanding flavors is tough, and the practicality of using flavors is kind of gone in education. Maybe it’s not necessary for a class to learn about flavors. But the way you have to communicate with flavor companies is an art itself.

As a novice, I used to ask for one-note flavors such as “just give me a peanut butter”. This later expanded to “I want a marshmallow and graham cracker flavor, but I also want something that makes it taste roasted, like I’m at a summer campfire”.

Most flavor companies should understand what you are talking about. If they don’t, then I suggest talking to another company. There are so many in the industry it’s kind of ridiculous.

Mixing flavors is an art any food scientist can master. You don’t need to be a flavor chemist to make good flavors, but you need to understand the potion’s properties. If I add vanilla, will I get a more Oreo taste? Apparently, yes.

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I pick out 5 pieces of content from the latest food industry news to the greatest new products and leave my snarky comments every week.

You don’t have to be a flavor chemist to appreciate flavors just like you don’t have to be a physics professor to appreciate weird physics concepts. I believe the terms of that is a science enthusiast.

So be a flavor enthusiast.

Who We’re Hiring

So because there is no real, practical blog that talks about using flavors in the food industry… we’ve decided to start one.

Veronica Hislop contacted me as she was an intern at Foodgrads, our sponsor.

She wanted to help out, so I told her to list like 10 things she’d like to do. This is because if I wanted someone to help me, I’d pay them. But I wanted to help her grow, so I assigned her this task. What I’ve noticed were that her top 3 involved writing.

Veronica is also a chemistry student and she is involved in the food industry. She understands a little bit about this stuff and through our emails and skype calls, it’s very obvious she is passionate about food.

So I thought, what could have really helped me at the start of my career is to understand flavors. I assigned Veronica to write 5 to 10 articles about flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. What’s even better is that I worked out a mentor relationship with the consultant’s son, who is a flavor chemist, to help look over and maybe even edit her paper.

When students ask to help, I have to challenge them with doing something. My favorite is to write 5 articles. Most volunteers don’t do this because life happens and habits are hard, but Veronica proved me wrong.  She currently has 8 articles written and she will keep on going.

I hope that this learning experience empowers Veronica to be knowledgeable in her future endevours and have her become a rockstar when she graduates.

Veronica Hislop: Flavor Investigator will have an article posted every Wednesday. You can find all of her articles here


Veronica shared with me a picture of her for her profile pic

It seems we have mutual friends

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