IFF announced the introduction of the chicken flavours at the end of August. At an event held its European headquarters in Hilversum, The Netherlands, yesterday, members of the chicken flavour task force demonstrated how they went about creating the range over a nine to 12 month period – with different versions to suit taste preferences in Europe, the US, and Asia.
Teresa Nava, senior researcher, sensory and consumer insight, explained that the consumer research element was an important part of the process. Her team set out to discover how consumers use chicken products, what they expect them to deliver, why they like certain products, and what tastes are preferred in different marketplaces.
The researchers looked at chicken flavours presently on the market, and assessed their flavour profiles; they also went into homes in Russia, Spain, Germany and France and asked the main food preparer of the household to prepare a meal using bouillion cubes or dehydrated soups.
What’s on the market?
The IFF chicken team presented 50 samples of chicken-flavoured products to its panel, and for flavour profiling. The task was to describe the flavour characteristics of the market products, versus IFF’s flavours.
The consensus was that not all chicken products actually taste like chicken.
“We were like – where is the chicken?” said Nava. “We missed it!”
While consumers said they wanted authentic profiles and flavour intensity, they did not seem terribly bothered about the limited chicken-ness of the flavours that are presently available.
Nava said that the researchers did not evaluate whether the consumers actually liked the market products – but “they were not aware that the potential is out there.”
Chicken in the home
The research team went into 15 homes in each of the four countries, observed consumers’ use of bouillions and stock cubes in their own homes, and assessed different regional chicken taste preferences.
The uses they observed varied between the counties, as well as between the different demographic profiles of the food preparers (most of whom were women, but men were also interesting for their use of dehydrated soups).
In Russia, they tended to use the bouillons in chicken soup, to boost the flavour and smell of real chicken used in the product. Nava said that there was a perception that a real housewife needed to base the meal on real ingredients.
In Spain, however, it was used in a lentil stew; and in Germany, in a dish of fried batter balls. One young man was seen to just add cubed cheese to the soup.
What consumers want
The consumer were also asked for their views on the flavours of boiled white meat, boiled dark meat, roasted meat and fatty meat, all of which are notes used in IFF’s new flavour range. They came out in broad agreement on taste preferences, although senior savoury flavourist Anne-Marie Plant told FoodNavigator.com that UK consumers are more used to grilled meat, so IFF developed a UK-specific version to cater to this.
The consumers expressed a high level of satisfaction with dehydrated chicken soups, although they did not view it as natural but appreciated its convenience.
While chicken bouillons have been in the market for a long time, they are still seen as an essential part of cooking, on several levels: the enhance the taste of natural ingredients; to enrich dishes with spices; to give the right hint of salt; and to be ‘basic’, non-harmful ingredients.