Refined Taste: 100% Renewable Flavors

What is flavor?

Flavor is the overall impression a food or other substance imparts when it is consumed. Flavor is predominately determined by the senses taste and smell. Of the five traditional senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, both taste and smell are considered chemical senses. Taste and smell are perceived when receptors located on the tongue and in the nasal cavity react with chemicals found in foods and beverages. Chemicals, known as flavorants or flavorings, determine a food’s flavor. Biological processes that occur while fruits grow and ripen produce flavorants that give fruits a sweet taste. The flavors of meats arise from the cooking process, which breaks down fats and oils into flavorants that are sensed as pleasant and savory. Fermentation produces flavorants that give rise to the tastes of cheeses, wines, and beers.

Many food products such as candies, jellies, and soft drinks do not possess natural flavorants and would be unappealing if flavorings were not added. Food processing, while necessary to create safe, low-cost food products, often alters a food’s flavor by removing many of the natural flavorings. Highly trained scientists known as flavor chemists or flavorists are tasked with re-creating natural flavors and developing distinct flavors consumers have come to expect when they eat and drink specific foods and beverages. Flavorists precisely combine chemicals to create artificial flavorings for food and beverage manufacturers. Many artificial flavorings are chemically identical to their natural counterparts. Instead of being extracted from natural sources artificial flavorings are created by chemical processes. Over $10 billion dollars are generated annually from the sale of flavors, with the vast majority going in processed and packaged foods.

Many flavorings, particularly those that impart sweet and fruity flavors, are chemically classified as esters. Esters are chemical compounds formed by reacting an alcohol with an acid, a process known as esterification. Many butyl esters, derived from butyl alcohol or n-butanol, are being used by the flavor industry. Butyl acetate, the ester of n-butanol and acetic acid, is a naturally occurring substance found in many fruits. Butyl acetate is commonly used as an artificial fruit flavoring in banana, butter, pineapple, raspberry, and strawberry flavored products. Acetic acid, the primary component of vinegars, is produced naturally by bacterial fermentation, n-butanol, on the other hand, is typically produced as a petrochemical refined from petroleum. Green Biologics has developed advanced technology for the purpose of producing 100% renewable n-butanol via bacterial fermentation. The same process used to produce ethanol consumed in alcoholic beverages and the aforementioned acetic acid in vinegar. Replacing petro-based n-butanol for the production of butyl acetate will result in 100% renewable bio-based flavor additive.

Other butyl esters currently being used as flavorings include butyl butyrate, butyl caprylate, butyl cinnamate, butyl laurate, butyl levulinate, and butyl stearate to name just a few. Butyric acid produced by the fermentation of molasses or starch can be used to produce butyl butyrate. Butyl butyrate is naturally found in many fruits and is commonly used for flavoring candies, ices, and beverages. Cinnamic acid isolated from ground cinnamon can be used to produce butyl cinnamate, which is used in chocolate formulations, cocoa and fruity flavors in baked goods. Lauric acid extracted from coconut and palm oils can be used to produce butyl laurate. Butyl laurate is used to impart exotic flavors such as Cape gooseberry, malt whiskey and papaya to foods and beverages. Levulinic acid derived from table sugar can be used to produce butyl levulinate. Butyl levulinate can introduce several unique flavors including bacon, butter, chocolate, cherry, honeydew and melon. Stearic acid prepared from animal and vegetable fats and oils can be used to produce butyl stearate. Butyl stearate is used as a banana, butter, or liquor flavor additive. All of the above-mentioned flavor esters can be made as 100% renewable bio-based products by utilizing Green Biologics n-butanol. Renewable butyl esters promise to add value and sustainability to the artificial flavor industry.