Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia L.) has traditionally been used by the personal care industry as a fragrance and is also renowned for its sedative, spasmolytic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Recently it has garnered interest from the food industry as a flavouring for use in beverages, confectionery, baked goods, and ice cream.
However water distillation and steam distillation as methods for extracting essential oils from plants are not seen as ideal since they both involve heating, according to the team of researchers from the Universities of Udine and Triese in Italy who conducted the study.
This can cause degradation of the compounds in the plant material, and result in an extract that contains an incomplete set for flavour or fragrance use.
“These shortcomings lead to the consideration of the use of mild techniques such as supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) using carbon dioxide and ultrasonic assisted extraction (US),” wrote Carla Da Porto and colleagues in a manuscript that has been accepted for publication in the journal Food Chemistry.
In their study, the researchers compared the different extraction methods of volatile compounds from the lavender plant and evaluate which is the most advantageous for the food industry, in terms of flavour quality and stability.
Essential oils are made up of volatile compounds derived from plant material – hydrocarbons (terpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes) and oxygenated compounds from these hydrocarbons.
They found that there were both qualitative and quantitative differences among the extracts, with the extracts most rich in isolated compounds being obtained using SFE.
Significantly more sesquiterpenes were found in these extracts than in extracts obtained using the other methods, and significantly less monoterpene hydrocarbons.
This latter characteristic the researchers said “should be advantageous in terms of food flavouring stability and quality”. The reason is that terpenoid hydrocarbons cause deterioration in odour and flavour quality in essential oils.
However a distilled ethanol-water solution obtained using the US extraction was seen to offer “a promising alternative to hydrodistillation as a source of lavender flavouring ready to use for alcoholic beverages and/or confectionery products”. Food and flowers
One flavour firm that has taken this on board is Wild, which recently announced that it is combining blossom and fruit flavours for beverages and other products.
It is now talking with manufacturers about combinations such as lavender and orange, strawberry and elderberry, and pomegranate and rose.A spokesperson from Wild's technical team told FoodNavigator.com: "We see that blossoms are very good combined with fruit. While the blossom gives a pleasant aroma, the fruit gives a good background."
The use of flowers in food and beverage products is seen by market researcher Mintel as a trend in its very early stages and relatively uncommon, however. It notes some recent examples of products using blossom flavours in different markets around the world, which it rated highly for innovation.
For instance, last year a UK company called Inside Out Beauty launched a water called Sip, which is enriched with herbal extracts including rose petal, sweet violet, Scottish heather blossom tops, marigold, and linden blossom, as well as vitamin C, white tea tincture and selenium.
Similarly in Australia, Balance Water Company launched a pure spring water product containing flower extracts, including black eyed susan, crowea, banksia robur, and bush fuschia.
In Canada, Langfood Foods launched cereal bars containing flower petal, called Langford Foods' Petals Garden Bars. The range is made without wheat flour and uses a buckwheat, milled rice flakes, selected seeds and a sprinkling of honey. The flowers form a garnish, and are chosen depending on the season.
Food Chemistry (accepted for publication)DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.07.015“Flavour compounds for Lavandula angustifolia L to use in food manufacturing: comparison of three different extraction methods”Authors: Carla Da Porto, Deborha Decorti, Ireneo Kikic