What is Flavor Science

A Good Cook?

When people ask me what sort of work I do, I don’t want to answer. I’m a flavor chemist, but it’s easier to say I’m a chemist or that I work in the food industry. It’s challenging explaining my work. Usually when I say I’m a flavor chemist, people assume I’m a good cook. My husband may not agree, he’s the amazingly good cook in our family. He loves cooking; I love eating. A perfect match.

Scientists in the Flavor Industry

There are many scientists employed in the flavor industry. They are interesting, passionate people. Some flavor scientists focus on extracting essences, oils and other flavor components from plants, fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and meat products. Some flavor scientists focus on identifying key aroma components of those extracts. Technology is advanced enough that  scientists can identify over  350 volatile aroma chemicals in natural peppermint oil. Most food stuff: strawberries, coffee, vanilla, bread, cheese are naturally composed of hundreds of aroma chemicals. Mother nature is responsible for this. These natural aromas make our food taste good. When our food is processed (heat-treated or packaged to make shelf stable), food loses its aroma components. Certain products: candy, gum, toothpaste lack flavor and are more palatable with flavor. In general, consumers prefer their food with flavor (aroma components) added. Yes, flavor chemists add chemicals to food, but our food stuffs are naturally composed of chemicals. We keep our flavors recipes secret by labeling them “flavors”.

Flavor Chemist

Flavorists or Flavor Chemists focus on compounding flavors for use in applications: beverages, yogurt, chewing gums, toothpaste, etc. We select the natural extracts and aroma components to add to make the item taste good, be affordable, safe, fit product label, and have lasting impact. We have over a thousand substance (natural extracts and aroma chemicals) to choose from and they are all approved for use in food. Flavor professionals are creative, passionate scientists that have knowledge of the market, have a good palate and have a willingness to try new things. The most satisfying part of being a flavor chemist is having my flavor creations in market products.


Some of my more interesting projects I have encountered are flavoring alcohol to taste like wine, flavoring golf tees (evidently golfers suck on these?), and flavoring denture cleaner (not to taste, but to smell good). My career path has been full of variety. I’ve flavored dried fruit, bagels, onion rings (vanilla flavor), nutritional beverages, smoothies, vitamins, candy, chewing gum, soup cups, chips, peanut butter, vodka, yogurt, ice cream, chai tea, donut filling, pie filling, cookies, body building protein shakes, nutritional shakes, energy drinks, teas, coffees, puddings….etc.

Food Scientists

Food scientists primary focus is producing a safe product and their secondary focus is making it taste good. A food product on the market must be safe and it needs to taste good to sell. Scientists and chemists work together on new products for the market or changing existing products because, after all, it’s gotta taste good!

More information on Flavor Chemists can be found at http://www.flavorchemist.org/ and http://www.insidejobs.com/jobs/flavorist

and Food Scientists at  http://www.ift.org/


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