In the food and beverage industry, we always say that “Taste is king,” and that’s because it’s true.
Above everything else, it’s what drives consumer liking and is the number one factor in deciding whether they continue to choose your product after their initial purchase.
However, is simply offering a delicious product enough?
More importantly, is it enough to set your product apart from all other options in the marketplace?
While a taste consumers enjoy can be enough to drive sales, what drives brand loyalty is a taste experience that they can remember.
This is what we call a signature flavor.
Let’s look at how Edlong leverages our deep understanding of the nuances of dairy and flavors to help you create a signature profile consumers will love.
Building Profiles: Characterizing & Functional Flavors
When discussing flavor solutions, we often talk about two main categories of flavors that form the foundation of your profile: characterizing and functional flavors.
Characterizing flavors are what really drive your product’s profile. These flavors often represent the taste experience your consumers are expecting when they choose a specific product.
An easy way to understand this is to think about products that offer multiple “flavors” of the same item. For example, an ice cream brand might offer a vanilla, chocolate, and coffee version of the same product. Each of these offerings would represent a different “characterizing” profile.
In many cases, one of our characterizing flavors can be a great jumping-off point for building your desired profile.
However, depending on the ingredients of your base, off-notes, texture challenges, and balance issues can get in the way of creating the signature taste experience your consumers are looking for.
This is where the functional flavors come into play.
While characterizing flavors are the stars of the show, functional flavors serve more of a supporting role.
These flavors are used for a variety of reasons, but most often for masking off-notes, improving perceived mouthfeel/texture, or restoring balance to your application.
Although some of our flavors are used primarily for their functionality, Edlong has many flavors like milks, creams, and butters that can be used both for their characterizing profiles and functional aspects.
“When you adjust and kind of play with the usage rates of some of our flavors, you can get very different experiences.” says Chelsea Ramsey, Edlong Business Development Manager, Southeast.
She continues, “A great example of this is butter. We have one specific butter flavor that has seen success in many different applications. At a high usage rate, it’s fresh creamy, buttery and will give you that rich characterizing experience. However, at a lower usage rate, it can be a great flavor to use for masking. For example, in a plant-based product it can be used to cover up the off-notes of alternatives proteins. It’s rounding out and is part of the overall flavor solution.”
While functional and characterizing flavors can both be crucial parts of your overall flavor solution, they are often just the first layers needed to define your signature flavor.
Defining Your Flavor: One-size Does Not Fit All
Our dairy flavors are great at unlocking the authentic taste of dairy, but even then, they rarely are a one-size fits all solution.
This is because every ingredient in your base, stage of your processing, and even how you package your product can impact how flavors are released and perceived by your end user.
As Anne Druschitz, Edlong’s Corporate Research Chef, puts it, “There are points where we will use the same flavors on different projects, but we either have to adjust the level or combine them differently, because the difference in the base or how it is processed. Combining our flavors with them really comes down to our, expertise in understanding the nuances of dairy.”
The understanding of these nuances is critical, especially since even “simple” dairy profiles can be surprising complex.
Take a “basic” application like a cream cheese or, more specifically, a plant-based cream cheese. It may seem simple, but if you think about it, it is incredibly nuanced and multidimensional. On top of the cheese notes, you may also have cream, butter, and cultured notes.
Without each of those aromatic aspects present, your cream cheese will always lack the authenticity needed to differentiate it from others.
In the end, creating a signature profile is not about the name; it’s about the notes.
In a recent article about how unexpected flavors can help unlock your profile, Ramsey explains, “Instead of telling me to send you a cheddar cheese flavor, tell me the notes you’re looking for. Do you want beery, yeasty, buttery, or aged notes? It may take multiple flavors/notes to build your desired profile.”
Building the perfect Cheddar cheese profile for a development could involve combining multiple cheddars to hit the right balance of cheesy, sour, and savory umami notes. You might also want to add the funkiness of Bleu or maybe even a functional flavor to cover up off notes from your base or add a creamier perceived mouthfeel for a more indulgent experience.
Using this holistic view of flavor allows us also to consider the depth of your application. In a chocolate cookie, for example, the characterizing flavor would be chocolate, but as we’ve seen, that alone can contain many nuances.
Additionally, since milk, cream, and butter are already components of your cookie, you might look to add one or all of those flavors to help round out and/or intensify the chocolate flavor.
With your application’s end use in mind, we can help you build your perfect profile from the ground up. Layering note by note, we can combine the components of multiple flavors, or the flavors themselves, to create an all-in-one solution tailored exclusively to your product. In the end, giving you a signature flavor your consumers are sure to remember.
About the Author: Julie Drainville, Sensory Manager
Julie Drainville leads all sensory functions for Edlong globally, maintaining a trained employee panel for sensory testing, and also collaborating with applications scientists and customers to run testing to meet project needs. Julie has an extensive background in food science including over 15 years in the sensory field, a degree from Purdue University in Foods, Nutrition and Business/Dietetics, a Master of Science in Nutrition Education from Rosalind Franklin University, and completion of the UC Davis Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program.