Exter, which has a 65 year history in the flavour market, already produces six ranges of savoury and Maillard reaction flavours, and hydrolysed vegetable protein. But as consumers - and, as a consequence, manufacturers - are increasingly choosing products with all-natural ingredients lists and clean labels, the firm has developed a new, cuisine-based process to make savoury flavours from natural, protein-rich vegetable sources. There are five products with different flavour profiles in the new range: meat, roasted beef, chicken, roasted chicken, and boiled chicken. They are said to be suitable for a range of applications, such as meat, soups, sauces, snacks and noodles - and can also form a base for seasoning mixes and flavour blends. Lambert ten Haaf, the company's director of sales and marketing, told FoodNavigator.com that it developed the new range using a traditional food preparation process. The products are processed in big ovens, at temperatures of between 72 and 100 degrees centigrade. While he said that Exter does have some competitors who use the same oven-based flavour production process, he claimed that no-one else is combining it with the same type of natural ingredients. While he could not reveal precise details of the process, ten Haaf said the flavours are created by direct conversion of the plant protein into amino acids. This is a similar to process to that which takes place within an animal, when it consumes vegetable protein. The resulting amino acids are transferred to the flesh, giving it the characteristic flavour. Since Exter's method by-passes the animal, the flavours are entirely vegetarian. In fact, all but the flavour with the boiled chicken profile, which contains a small amount of egg, are vegan and allergen-free. The flavours are also billed as MSG-free, E number-free, and GMO-free. "Moreover, the sodium content of most of the products is up to 25 per cent lower compared with current alternatives and as such supporting low sodium labelling," says the company. Ten Haaf said that external specialists were asked their opinion on the flavour range, and reported that they were "authentic in taste, close to the original, and have a long lingering profile". Exter, which was acquired from DSM by holding company Oterap in 2005, saw between 20 and 25 per cent growth in 2007 and looks on track to achieve a similar figure in 2008, Haaf-ten said. Since it is a private company it does not release financial results. Its main client base is made up of small to mid-sizes companies, which are too small to make an impact on the radar screen of the major flavour houses. It also supplies the big flavour houses with flavour ingredients that they do not make themselves. Oterap is named after the Italian economist Pareto - but spelt backwards. It was Pareto who introduced the 80:20 economic principle followed by the majority of large companies: that is, focus on the 20 per cent of products that bring in 80 per cent of the business. This, Oterap's founders saw, gives an opportunity for smaller companies to move in on the smaller business areas. Ten Haaf sees that natural flavours now have an appeal for food industry players of all sizes, since the trend has crossed the line into mainstream and supermarket own products. The launch opens up a new part of the market for Exter. "My feeling us that it is a very nice opportunity for growth, mainly in Western Europe and developed markets," he said. Sitting alongside Exter's existing range, the new range is expected to become an important part of the business - more so than in the overall flavours market, where naturals are still a relatively minor segment. A report published by IAL Consultants last year, Overview of the Global Flavours and Fragrances Market, put a US$12.6bn tag on the market. Flavours are said to account for just over 50 per cent of the market, and fragrances just under. The consultancy predicted ongoing growth of around 3.5 per cent per annum. It did not give an indication of the prominence of natural flavours in the overall market, beyond noting an increasing preference for natural alternatives.