Let flavors zing with citrus

by Jeff Gelski
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Some new flavor favorites in 2011 stand a good chance of coming from a trendy citrus fruit. It’s also quite possible the flavors will make breakthroughs in beverage brands. Unique citrus varietals are appearing in premium juices, enhanced waters, sparkling soft drinks, tea beverages and alcoholic beverages, said Norm J. Matella, a professor and manager of Beverage Solutions for Sensient Flavors, L.L.C., Indianapolis.

“In the beverage category, we are seeing flavors inspired from several sources, including superfruits, citrus varietals, tea varietals and authentic botanicals and spice,” he said. “Flavors include kumquat, kaffir lime, pummelo grapefruit, yuzu, yumberry, maqui berry, baobab, rooibos tea, Kenyan black tea, grains of paradise (peppery seeds from Africa), Sarawak black pepper, pink pepper and Nigerian ginger.”

Symrise, Holzminden, Germany, planned to feature citrus tastes in beverage prototypes at the Brau Beviale trade fair in Nuremberg, Germany, Nov. 10-12.

“Citrus gives people freshness and tanginess — orange and lemon flavors in particular have always had a certain exotic touch,” said Stephan Raker, development director of non-alcoholic beverages EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East) at Symrise. “At the same time, though, they are well-established, and they delight a wide audience.”

A Symrise “Agrumes” juice was to feature the flavors of lemon, lime, mandarin, grapefruit and orange. “Agrumes” is French for citrus fruit. Symrise also was to feature a fruit-flavored vitamin water and an isotonic sports drink called “Citrus Lifeforce.”

Comax Flavors, Melville, N.Y., used fruit flavors in its prototypes at InterBev, a beverage trade show and convention held in September in Orlando, Fla. Orango, a sugar-free orange/mango drink, featured a Comax flavor that masked the aftertaste of stevia-based sweeteners. Comax called its cherry/black currant slushy the “Dark Cherry Splash.”

“The flavored beverage market is the fastest-growing segment in the beverage industry,” said Cathy Armstrong, vice-president of corporate communications for Comax Flavors. “This is fostering a great deal of innovation and advanced interpretations and combinations of flavors, adding more to the flavor experience and the mix.”

Citrus varietals have a place in flavor combinations, too.

“Customers are looking for flavors that are multi-dimensional,” said Joanne Ferrara, senior director of research and development for Spicetec Flavors & Seasonings, Omaha. “They look for bold flavors that are complex in flavor (savory plus sweet), have appealing texture and have regional and international heritage.”

Popular requests as regional barbecue flavors for snack foods include Memphis, Kansas City and Carolina Gold, she said.

“There is also a demand for a combination of sweet and savory to peak the senses,” Ms. Ferrara said. “An example is Caribbean, which contains some savory character, heat, plus citrus notes (orange, pineapple or lime).”

Latin flavors often involve citrus. Garlic, cumin and orange juice may enliven carnitas, Ms. Ferrara said, while mint and lemon may add flavor to mojito drinks. She added Asian flavors for meat and poultry include sweet spicy Thai, orange mandarin, ginger raspberry and teriyaki hot wok flavor for chicken marinade. Indian flavors for poultry are coconut curry and tandoori.

Emil Shemer, director of food solutions for Sensient Flavors, said, “In the savory category, we are seeing flavors inspired from different global cuisines, cooking techniques, culinary

combinations and authentic fresh profiles. Flavors include chakalaka, harissa, tandoori, tikka masala, curry, turmeric, sriracha, cayenne pepper, black garlic, wood-fired and smoked varietals.”

Turning to more traditional meals, citrus flavors even may show up in Thanksgiving food. McCormick & Co., Sparks, Md., listed the combination of sage and citrus in its “Holiday Flavor Forecast.” The company gave a recipe for orange-sage corn bread crusted turkey.

“Going beyond its revered role as turkey’s most famous flavor companion, fragrant sage is brightened by the zing of tart citrus — whether from zest, extracts or juice,” McCormick & Co. said. 

‘Kokumi’ strives to become new flavor

Researchers and chefs have begun to study a flavor called “kokumi.” According to Ajinomoto Foods Europe, Hamburg, Germany, kokumi is a Japanese word used to describe the rich, strong taste in food. For examples, the taste may be found in long-matured cheese or chicken soup prepared for many hours.

Researchers from Ajinomoto’s Institute of Life Science in Japan studied kokumi with results appearing in this past January’s issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry. They found calcium-sensing receptors have a distinct function in human taste receptors.

“By human sensory analyses, we found that various extracellular calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) agonists enhance sweet, salty and umami tastes, although they have no taste themselves,” the researchers said. “These characteristics are known as ‘kokumi taste’ and often appear in traditional Japanese cuisine.”

Givaudan’s ChefsCouncil 2010 convened in Hong Kong this year to gain a better understanding of umami and kokumi elements and how they may translate into flavors principally for chicken and beef in food service concepts, snacks and ready meals.

Givaudan’s chefs, flavorists and marketers spent time working with guest chefs to design menu items. Sample dishes included different cuts of cooked beef, processed meats, smoked vegetables, pasta, bouillons and snacks.

“The dishes presented by the chefs at the ChefsCouncil have opened new avenues in our understanding of kokumi, how it differs from umami and demonstrated that while this taste sensation was inherent to Asian foods, it can be found in cuisine from around the world,” said Matthew Walter, head of culinary flavor creation, EAME, for Givaudan. “Umami and kokumi are still closely associated with Japanese cuisine although umami already has a rich cultural background that has been in Chinese and European cuisine for centuries through fish oil, meats and cheeses, but these foods have never been defined and specifically analyzed until recently.”

Paul Virant, one of Givaudan’s guest chefs and the chef at the Vie restaurant in Western Springs, Ill., said people are pursuing the potential of kokumi becoming a sixth taste. It would join bitterness, sourness, sweetness, saltiness and umami.

“The way I understand it, it’s primarily a combination of those five other tastes that create fullness or deliciousness,” he said. “You create a dish that has complexity or depth. Kokumi is the result of that. It’s the complete dish.”

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