Imagine having 4,000 flavours on the tip of your tongue
You might think you can savour a wide variety of tastes, but can you imagine being able to distinguish between 4,000 flavours? Givaudan’s flavourists train for years to build up this vast knowledge, enabling them to accurately identify and create flavours that consumers find delicious and memorable.
Givaudan employs over 40% of the world’s flavourists and flavour technicians, who work to give our customers and their consumers ever-new experiences. Eduardo is a Principal Flavourist at Givaudan. Here Eduardo shares his unique experience of what it takes to help Givaudan bring exciting new flavours to the world.
Almost 30 years with Givaudan
“I became a flavourist by chance, which is not unusual in our industry,” explains Eduardo, noting his journey from Brazil to Switzerland, which encompasses a career spanning almost 30 years. “I studied pharmacy and bio-chemistry, and in the final stage of my diploma I had to do a six month internship and landed at Givaudan. That was in 1986, and I’ve been here ever since. I had intended to return to university to study for a PhD, but I started working in Applications in São Paolo and quickly developed a real passion for flavours. Givaudan became my home, and I’ve never looked back.”
Over the course of his career with Givaudan, Eduardo has held many different positions, initially in São Paulo, before moving to Zurich in 1997: “I planned to be in Europe for just two years, but seventeen years later I’m still here, and I’m happy to have stayed.” Eduardo’s experience of longevity with the Company is not uncommon: “In my team here in Zurich I oversee a team of twelve people – five of those also have over 25 years’ experience with Givaudan!”
In search of the unexpected
Now at the peak of his career, Eduardo explains the scope of his team’s endeavours: “We are constantly searching for compositions that bring pleasure to consumers. That is our mission – to identify and develop new taste experiences that consumers will love. We look for rich, new flavours that taste better and are more appealing than already exists. In fact, our goal is to develop flavours that are totally unexpected, because consumers’ desire for innovation, right across the globe, is never-ending.”
Just how do Eduardo and his team go about satisfying that insatiable appetite? “We’re looking to create trends, wherever possible, and Givaudan has always had success in this area. Although, of course, we are also working to customer briefs, and to some degree are reactive to what the markets are demanding. The emphasis though is always on local flavour developments. We might, for example, see an increase in products using mango, açai or passion fruit flavours, and more often than not these are local or regional trends that we can pick up and expand on, providing a great diversity of options for our customers.”
Authenticity is key
In terms of the creation process, Givaudan searches the world for inspiration, very often going to the most unexpected places to identify new flavours: “Through exploring local tastes we can ensure authenticity. So we might go looking in rain forests, for example, or remote wildernesses to find rare and unusual plants, berries and other fruits. Nature is the greatest inspiration, and we take our lead wherever we can from the natural world. With our TasteTrek® programme, for example, flavourists go into the field to discover the unexpected at first hand. We’re then able to disseminate those findings throughout our technical community, applying solutions to meet local needs.”
One of Eduardo’s greatest satisfactions as a flavourist is the diversity of projects he gets to work on at any one time, as he explains: “In a typical week, we’ll be looking at dozens of different projects, and that may range from developing customer briefs to actually innovating in order to create something new that we can pass on to our customers. Over the course of a year a flavourist will work on literally hundreds of briefs, so it’s a very fast-moving and demanding environment to work in. Each day is exciting and different.”
4,000 flavours and counting
Flavourists train for years to gain personal expertise, and whilst we’re all used to hearing how perfumers have a perfect ‘nose’ for scents, it might be right to talk about flavourists having an exceptional ‘tongue’. Eduardo again: “We train over a period of three to four years in a dedicated programme, where we have to evaluate 4,000 different ingredients. In our training we smell and taste different flavours, and often we have to taste in water and other media too, because the same flavour molecule behaves differently, whether it is in milk, or cheese or ice cream, for example. Of course, you are learning all your life, but those first four years give you the basic ability to accurately evaluate 4,000 different flavour profiles. It sounds like a lot, but it’s just the essentials for a flavourist.”
It’s not personal
What does Eduardo see as the biggest challenge the flavourist faces? “Like everyone else, when I taste something I have a personal response. But I have to think beyond that. I am looking for flavour profiles that meet our customers’ needs, and by extension their consumers. Whether I like something or not is irrelevant, it has to work perfectly against the brief we are developing. That also comes with training and experience, and it’s a great reward when something you have been involved in developing is a commercial success.”