Renewable Flavours

What is flavour?

Flavour is the overall impression a food or other substance imparts when it is consumed. Flavour is predominately determined by the senses taste and smell. Of the five tradition 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 flavourants or flavourings, determine a foods flavour. Biological processes that occur while fruits grow and ripen produce flavourants that give fruits a sweet taste. The flavours of meats arise from the cooking process, which breaks down fats and oils into flavourants that are sensed as pleasant and savory. Fermentation produces flavourants that give rise to the tastes of chesses, wines, and beers.

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

Many flavourings, particularly those that impart sweet and fruity flavours, 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 flavour 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 flavouring in banana, butter, pineapple, raspberry, and strawberry flavoured 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 100% renewable bio-based flavour additive.

Other butyl esters currently being used as flavourings include butyl butyrate, butyl capryiate, butyl cinnamate, butyl laurate, butyl leyulinate, 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 flavouring 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 flavours 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 flavours such as Cape gooseberry, malt whiskey and papaya to foods and beverages. Leyulinic acid derived from table sugar can be used to produce butyl leyulinate. Butyl leyulinate can introduce several unique flavours 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 flavour additive. All of the above-mentioned flavour 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 flavour industry.