Vanilla or strawberry? Chocolate or banana? 90% of what you purchase contains added flavours and you might not know it. These flavours are added to enhance the experience and as a result, flavours are often associated with different experiences. In manufacturing, this knowledge plays a huge part in packaging and marketing.
When you think of Valentine's day, the colours red, pink, cream, and brown come into mind. Now turn these colours into flavours and you've got strawberry, rose, vanilla and chocolate respectively. However, the natural taste isn't always what clients want. For example, if you eat a strawberry, sometimes it's sweet but there's usually a tang in its original flavour that people do not find palatable. This is where flavour enhancers come in.
Natural Vs Synthetic flavours:
Natural flavours don't always mean what people think it does, and often manufacturing companies misguide customers with what's on the labels. As a manufacturer, you understand what a "Natural" flavour is. They are flavours created from substances that are extracted directly from a natural source, like fruits or fruit juices, meat, poultry or seafood, herbs, bark, roots or any plant material, even eggs.
In some cases, manufacturers use enzymes to help extract the flavour compounds from their sources of origin to help meet the high demand. Meaning that the flavour now contains a chemical used to extract it from the source, it's not completely natural anymore.
The point of a natural flavour is to enhance an existing flavour, it does not necessarily add to the nutritional value of the product. This is where a lot of misunderstanding comes from, when a package states "Natural", it's the customers who automatically assume it must be healthier however, this is not entirely true.
Synthetic flavours- its origins can be traced to a chemical, but it is important to understand that everything people consume (even water) as natural as it is marketed to be, contains some form or trace of chemicals in them, so nothing is truly 100% natural.
The difference between natural and synthetic is the origins of its flavouring- can it be traced to a plant/ animal or can it be traced to a simple chemical, that's the difference.
How has technology helped keep up with the demand for exotic flavours?
Some may argue that if natural goods have an original flavour of their own, why do manufacturers add more flavour to them? Let's take a common ingredient used in everything, from food to beverage, to soap, shampoos, dying fabrics, etc- SALT!
In the past salt was made by pouring seawater into huge salt pans and waiting for the water to evaporate. Once the water dried up the salt was collected using bulldozers which loaded them onto trucks and the water was thrown away. In today's modern society there's no way this process would've been able to keep up with demand, this method wasted the water and did not extract all the salt, which could not be recycled.
Thanks to today's technology the process is much more different.
How is sea salt made?
Seawater which has a 3% salt content is pumped into large salt pans and over 12-18 months, this water will evaporate, allowing the salt to start forming. Once all the water has been evaporated from the salt pans the brine is then pumped to the factory and is then boiled through a series of heating processes to release more moisture.
All these heating processes remove the water and result in a much higher concentrated brine.
Once salt crystals start to form they drop into another machine called a salt leg and by now the product contains equal parts salt and water (a slurry). This slurry goes into a centrifuge to further remove the remaining water, dropping the percentage from 3- 0.5% water content.
The highly concentrated salt that's left is then finally cooled, with iodine and a free flow additive being combined to prevent clumping.
These machines and advancements in technology turned seawater into pure salt from a water content of about 30-40% to about 0.5%.
With this technology, even the water that is extracted from the salt through the various stages of evaporation is turned into safe drinking water, which is bottled and sold, so nothing goes to waste, unlike the old days.
Why different flavours to something simple:
That's just a look at how large manufacturers have used technology to extract salt from seawater without wastage. Today that simple ingredient has further evolved into hundreds of other flavoured varieties (have a look at Spice on the Web, which has almost 60 varieties of flavoured salt to choose from )
As food and beverages evolve, so do people's taste buds and the demand for more varieties and flavours increases. However, relying on natural resources to get them means depleting those resources over time. This is why scientists have begun manufacturing synthetic flavourings to help keep up with the rise in demand.
Imagine a coffee shop with just one standard flavour, even for tea? House of Coffee, Bruu Tea, Starbucks, even Island Roasted will never be the same, nor will you. Somebody thought of taking the traditional Indian tea that is made every day all over India called Chai and introduced it to the world for everybody to enjoy. All of this is made possible by technology and safe and healthy packaging machines (like our Phil 5000 DUO which allows you to pack two ingredients at once, check out more details here)
Today it is all about sustainability, less wastage and supply and demand, which is why laboratories are constantly coming up with innovative methods of keeping our demanding pallets satisfied without depleting the natural resources. Earth's population has grown enormously over the decades and will only continue. Relying on natural flavours to enhance food quality cannot be sustainable, as resources are drying up. Even products that state "natural" on them have various chemicals that were used in the extraction process, so synthetic flavours are not very different.
With science and technology, your business can maintain a balance with the growing supply and demand, whilst enjoying the spicy, sweet and exotic flavours, saving yourself a lot of costs, increasing your profits and eliminating wastage in your manufacturing process.
Know your technology, enhance the quality of your goods and decrease your wastage.