What does a Flavorist do?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2017
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A chemist whose main goal is to alter the taste of food and produce synthetic flavors is called a flavorist. Flavorists work with a number of different chemicals in order to produce certain food flavors ranging from "butter popcorn flavor" to "artificial strawberry flavor." As with many other professions, the need for flavorists was born out of necessity.

As soon as indoor refrigeration became available to the general population, food manufacturers and consumers alike began to notice a significant problem. Processed foods did not taste the same as fresh foods. Through processing, foods simply lost a great deal of flavor, and this caused consumers to stop purchasing certain processed foods. The solution to this problem became apparent when it was discovered that the taste of food could be altered with the help of certain chemicals.

There are no specific steps that a person must take in order to become a flavorist. While many of these professionals have obtained chemistry training, most flavorists do not have any formal training at all. In fact, the position of a flavorist is frequently obtained through on-the-job training. Many of these professionals work as apprentices within flavor companies, though there is one school in France that trains future flavorists.

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The Institut Supérieur International du Parfum in Versailles, France, offers a two year flavorship training program. This program provides students with basic flavorist training including the skills needed to formulate new flavors and test existing flavors. This degree is recognized around the world, and it is one of the best ways to achieve a position as a flavorist within a flavor company.

Many of the foods on store shelves today have been enhanced by a flavorist. Any product that contains artificial flavoring or coloring has gone through a flavoring process prior to being sold to consumers. While adding flavor to foods helps make processed foods taste better, some people argue that altering the flavor of a food is not beneficial. In any case, the flavorist profession is likely to keep growing as more and more foods are processed.

To begin work as a flavorist, it is a wise idea to seek an internship within a flavor company. These companies are strewn across the globe, and many of these companies frequently look for new flavorists. The position of a flavor chemist is one that's both interesting and rewarding to those who enjoy concocting new flavors and experimenting with chemistry.

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Bertie68
Post 5

@Clairdelune - Usually before a new food product comes out or an older one is changed, companies like to know what the public's opinion is.

Companies often hire a marketing agency to set up a taste test and focus group to try the product and talk about it. I have participated in a couple of these groups. Members of the group taste similar products and rank them according to various categories.

Then a focus group discusses and answers questions about the flavors, for example, in the food product.

Depending on the results, the food might go back to the flavorist for changes.

Clairdelune
Post 4

@shell4life - I, too, am surprised to learn that a flavorist doesn't necessarily need to have any special training. I would think that they would, at least, need some instruction in chemistry.

I'm sure that flavorists do lots of tasting, making alterations, and then tasting again. Probably others in the department work together in improving the flavors.

What about having the product tested by the public before it is released? I would think that would be very important.

shell4life
Post 3

It’s hard to believe that no special degree is required to work as a flavorist. I guess certain companies have specific ways of doing things, and the only way to educate a new flavorist of their methods is to train them there.

I think that would be a wonderful job, up to the point where I had to taste and make flavors I didn’t like. I hate the taste of both cheese and ranch dressing, and I’m sure I probably would have to work with them both as a flavorist.

This job would be best for someone who doesn’t particularly hate any foods. New flavors are constantly being developed, and things that were once considered absurd are accepted. For example, I could not believe that anyone would want buttered popcorn flavored jelly beans, but lo and behold, they came into being. That just goes to show that even candy flavorists are not safe from anything.

seag47
Post 2

@burcidi - I believe that most, if not all, flavorists do indeed have to taste the food that they are enhancing. My cousin recently applied for several flavorist positions online, and most of them required applicants to have a keen sense of smell and taste.

Just like a good cook tastes his food to know what else it needs, a good flavorist tastes his creations to determine what’s lacking. I’m sure tasting their own work helps them do their job more efficiently than if they had to rely on the opinions of other food tasters. It probably saves the company money as well, since they have no need to hire tasters.

burcidi
Post 1

Ah, from the name of the profession, I though that it involved actually tasting foods to check for quality, like wine tasters often do. I didn't realize that a flavorist is also a chemist.

Does it still entail some tasting and comparing then or does the flavorist just play with the chemicals and have testers try it out?

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