Flavour industry unites to attract new research talent

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Flavours Flavor

A new scheme offering bursaries and an award to PhD students investigating flavours aims to address the current shortage of flavour experts by encouraging a new generation.

According to Professor Andy Taylor of the University of Nottingham in the UK, flavour as a subject area is in decline because researchers who were leaders in the field are now at retirement age, and there are not enough new people coming in.

Prof. Taylor is involved in a new scheme that aims to change this – and ultimately lead to new advances in flavour science. The idea of V Krishnakumar, managing director of consultancy Giract, the scheme offers two kinds of awards to researchers at the start of their careers:

The PhD candidate who produces the best PhD thesis on flavours will receive an award of €5000; and six bursaries of €3000 each are available to first-year PhD students whose PhD proposals are deemed most deserving, for expenses related to their research, be it attending a conference or purchasing materials or equipment.

V. Krishnakumar has obtained sponsorship from nine companies with business activities in or relating to flavours: DSM Food Specialities, Frutarom, Givaudan, IFF, Kerry Ingredients, Kikkoman, Lesaffre International, Nestle and Unilever.

However the companies are not involved in selecting the proposals for which bursaries will be awarded; that decision is down to Prof Taylor. Keeping the programme independent is seen as important as every company will have its own spin on what constitutes interesting and timely research.

Not just for pleasure

Prof. Taylor told FoodNavigator.com that he will consult with other academic colleagues while judging the proposals if necessary, but a set of criteria has been drawn up.

“They will be scored on a rigorous scale,”​ he said.

Projects must be innovative and multi-disciplinary, combining flavour analysis with aspects of biology and psychology. They must also adhere to good experimental design and theoretical principles.

However they could be almost anywhere in the flavours field. “Flavour is not just about pleasure. Understanding that is a big thing,”​ he said.

For instance, there are some interesting avenues to explore in its potential functional role, such as flavours’ effects on the absorption of food, or the idea of flavours being used to tackle obesity by bringing satiety.

Time for change

The involvement of so many food and flavour companies in this scheme indicates awareness of the industry-wide need. It also sends an important signal to universities and institutes and could be “a lever to make things happen”.

“If companies are saying ‘we need people’, universities will be prepared to set up courses.”

The intention is to make the programme an annual event, and if it proves successful in Europe to expand it into the US and Asia, where there is the same dearth of young talent.

Patrick Taillade of Lessaffre International, told FoodNavigator.com that his company is sponsoring the initiative because it has a direct relevance to its area of activity: Its subsidiary Safisis produces natural aroma chemicals and another, Biospringer, yeast extracts which could be used in the production of natural flavours by fermentation.

He agreed that advancing knowledge on flavours is important for the development of the market as a whole.

Peter Deeg, senior manager at Kikkoman, pointed out that there is a sea-change the flavour industry, which has been concentrating on cheap flavours, but there is a growing need for consumers to understand what is in their food.

“The flavour industry cannot produce flavours consumers do not understand in the future,” he said.

More information on the flavour research programme is available from www.giract.com/flavor-research-programme

Enquiries and submissions should be directed to andy.taylor ‘at’ nottingham.ac.uk or info ‘at’ giract.com.

The deadline for submissions is 30 October.

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If most people....

Posted by Henrietta de la Cruz,

Surely you've noticed that research cited in this very newsletter connects the "Western" diet -- characterized by processed, refined, perforce "flavored" foods -- with a variety of serious health and cognitive disorders. Perhaps a reality check is in order.

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Where does it say engineered?

Posted by Steve Elmore,

If most people share the beliefs of the previous correspondent, this could explain why there is a shortage of flavour experts.

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Engineered flavor? Oh boy!

Posted by Henrietta de la Cruz,

Just what the world needs.... more artificial flavorings miraculously synthesized in laboratory test tubes. Would that these monetary prizes be offered for ways to increase availability of locally grown, naturally produced, minimally packaged foods.

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