Robin Rusinko, senior flavorist at Vitaquest, explains how brands that partner with a supplement manufacturer with a qualified flavor chemist can help elevate a consumer’s nutraceutical experience.
When shopping for nutraceutical supplements, many consumers prioritize a supplement’s effectiveness and health benefits prior to purchasing it. However, with the increasing popularity of chewables, drink mixes, and other supplements that are consumed and not simply swallowed, taste has also become a significant factor. For nutraceutical manufacturers supplement brands, incorporating appealing flavors and textures can be a powerful tool to build brand loyalty and to differentiate their products from typical nutraceuticals offered in the marketplace.
The flavoring aspect of nutraceuticals starts right at the beginning of the product development stage. When a nutraceutical company wants to introduce a new flavored nutritional supplement, they work with their product development team, describing the type of flavor they want to create. There are literally hundreds of active flavors that can be used to make a product taste like anything you can imagine—from popular flavors such as chocolate and vanilla to seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, Christmas cookie, and peppermint. As the product is being developed, taste tests are conducted to fine-tune the flavor profile to ensure the product tastes exactly as intended.
At the beginning stages, a certified flavor scientist can play an invaluable role—and gaining access to one is a tall order. To become a certified flavor scientist, a person must complete a seven-year apprenticeship program approved by The Society of Flavor Chemists. Since the society’s inception back in 1954, only 700 flavor scientists have been certified around the world, and there are only 400 flavor scientists who are active today.1
Flavor scientists are experts in creating flavors from raw materials, and they use their expertise to determine which ingredients are needed to create different flavors. For example, to create a strawberry flavor, they might grind a real strawberry and analyze it in the lab to determine its flavor and aroma profile. From there, they can create different variants of the strawberry flavor, such as sweet, tangy, or fruity.
To help deliver on the taste experience desired for the consumer, flavor scientists also perform testing to ensure that consumers do not taste anything undesirable. For example, caffeine additives included in energy supplements usually have a bitter taste to them. In instances like this, various flavor inhibitors and modulators can be incorporated to block tastes that are inherent in some ingredients and unwanted in the final product. In addition to masking bitter tastes, there are also inhibitors to block sour, soy, pea, and salty tastes, among others.
Flavorists also consider the importance of smell when creating a new flavor. When a customer wants a supplement that tastes like pumpkin pie, for example, they might be brought in for a taste and smell test to fully experience the flavor. When consumers fully experience a flavor, the ability of olfactory senses to trigger memories plays a role in the consumer’s purchasing decision. For example, smelling baked apples might bring back positive childhood memories of making pies with a grandparent. Flavors can be included in products to help elicit these kinds of experiences.
Adding appealing flavors and textures to nutraceutical supplements has become an important factor in building brand loyalty and differentiation in the market. With the help of skilled flavorists, nutraceutical manufacturers can create unique flavors that meet customer demands while maintaining product quality and safety. By incorporating the right flavors and textures, brand owners can help distinguish their supplements in the market and establish a loyal customer base by creating a memorable taste experience.
About the Author
Robin J. Rusinko is senior flavorist at Vitaquest. A certified flavor chemist, she has served as a flavorist and expert sensory evaluator for more than 30 years. Rusinko earned her Master of Science in microbiology from Seton Hall University.