Grill flavoring alternatives: Regulatory discussion spurs Symrise launch

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13 Apr 2018 --- There is speculation that the European Commission may take action over the sale of certain grill flavorings later this month (April 22). There has been an ongoing discussion about the safety of “grill flavorings” due in part to their production process. While the regulatory fate of two of these flavorings will be clear later this month, Symrise is already jumping into this space with new solutions. The new solutions, which the Germany-headquartered flavor supplier presents as “Flavor Type Grill” as opposed to “Grill Flavors,” to avoid confusion, can be labeled as “natural flavorings.”

The new flavoring solution is based on combinations of flavoring preparations derived from food with a process that is managed at much lower temperatures than is the case for the production of traditional grill flavorings. “The high temperatures involved in the creation of grill flavorings are considered as one element leading to the concerns around safety. Our flavorists subsequently designed top-notes in a mixture of volatiles that are added to compensate and balance the differences from the grill flavor profile from the original raw material to our alternative,” Steffen Grothe, Category Manager at Symrise AG explains to FoodIngredientsFirst

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Ute Woelke, Vice President Strategic
Regulatory Affairs Flavors at Symrise

The new solutions are based on a combination of vegetable oil and naturally derived aroma chemicals. These chemicals are permissible as they are on the EU’s positive list of flavoring substances. In terms of applications, Grothe notes that by far the biggest user for grill flavorings are snack foods such as crisps and coated nuts. “The second biggest application is sauces such as BBQ and processed meat products, such as burger patties,” he adds.

Speaking about the development process which took just 3-4 months [September 2017-January 2018), Ute Woelke, Vice President Strategic Regulatory Affairs Flavors at Symrise noted how in the beginning it looked like a big challenge to get the taste profile. But Symrise was ultimately able to come very close to the original taste profile. “What I heard from the development teams is that if you compare the materials directly, you can identify the alternative in some cases, but in a later food matrix, the differences in taste are hard to detect in most cases,” she claims. 

In spite of the comparable cost in use, the solution is additionally claimed to provide a natural advantage over the grill flavors that Symrise previously used. The base of the flavoring preparation is regarded as “natural” according to the EU legislation and if a natural topnote is used, the customer has the advantage of labeling this as a “natural flavoring” on the product. “This is an important point of difference as when you look to the trends in the convenience foods market, many customers and consumers are looking for products with a natural labeling. That applies for culinary convenience products and snack foods. We would be able to support front-of-pack labels that refer to natural ingredients,” says Grothe. 

“For us it is a new segment that we can offer. We used grill flavors before but we were not producing these materials ourselves. Now we do and we have extended the portfolio beyond a mere flavor labeling to those with a natural flavor labeling. We will even offer some products that fall in the category of food, where you can have a very transparent labeling list on the package that informs the customer of the detail. That fits perfectly in our strategy of having full a bandwidth from flavors to foods for taste solutions,” he adds.

Woelke admits that this is a clear example of how regulation and other external influences are driving the portfolio and R&D agenda. “It’s not that industry on its own would have perhaps initiated this idea. But it shows that there are interesting opportunities when thinking out of the box. That is something that we do, when looking at the way safety evaluations are managed, in order to anticipate where there might be any critical candidates and to think outside of the box whenever possible,” she explains.

The initial focus for “Flavor Type Grill” will be Europe. “Nevertheless the nice labeling option that we can create now depending on the markets we are going to will surely lead to launches,” says Woelke. “Grill flavorings do not offer a natural labeling and what we might well see is that countries may look into adapting these regulations around the permissibility of grill flavorings. And we have countries where customers produce products that they export to the EU and these will of course need to be aware of the changes too,” she adds. In the US, grill flavors are natural anyway, so this is not a market that will be targeted, Woelke adds. “But for markets in Asia there are a lot of countries that monitor closely the developments in EU and these new flavorings have potential there too,” she explains. 

But in general, this launch illustrates how a quick response from an ingredient supplier can help offset disruption amid an unpredictable and often tedious regulatory environment. “It is about being prepared and close to these developments and understanding at an early stage what the possible scenarios are, what we can do about it and how we as Symrise adjust our portfolio so that customers can use them in the market without any business disruption,” Woelke concludes. 

By Robin Wyers

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