'When you pair sweetness with peppers, even the hottest peppers become palatable." - Christopher Warsow, corporate executive chef, Bell Flavors & Fragrances

Flavors often make economic sense

“Peruvian peppers such as aji rocoto have a great flavor profile,” Mr. Warsow said. “They are very floral and have a great upfront heat. However, they are difficult to source commercially. We can offer the flavor of these rare peppers through the use of flavors.”

Flavors allow for the development of signature recipes that are consistent, batch after batch, an attribute critical to the success of commercial food preparation.

“The great thing about developing flavors from individual components is that I can reinvent how people perceive a flavor,” said Chris Rodrigues, culinary scientist, LifeSpice Ingredients, Chicago. “Take maple chipotle, for example. I can make it as hot or mild as I want. I can make the smoke flavor really pronounced. I can give you a robust or mild maple that hints at orange or screams oak. Every flavor combination has very unique nuances that make it special.”

Sensient Flavors offers a portfolio of both sweet and heat flavors.

“We can combine them into whatever combination our customers are looking for,” said Roger Lane, marketing manager-savory flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill. “We’re also able to provide typical heat-type flavors while tempering the heat level to whatever best suits the application.”
Nestor Ramirez, division chef at Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, Calif., explained that habanero peppers range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units.

“For safety and culinary reasons, we blend habanero with paprika to bring the heat level down to 80,000, which gives you heat and flavor without burning your tongue,” he said. “I recently made a caramel habanero sauce to go with a rich vanilla bean ice cream. At less than 0.5% usage level, the heat provided depth to the sweet caramel and triggered the hot and cold sensations at the same time.

“Heat tends to build and stabilize after a few hours within the dish and it will definitely build during consumption. Finding the balance point between heat and pleasurable eating is important.”

Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich., offers a range of heat management products, including building blocks such as capsicum, chili and red pepper, ginger and horseradish that are used to create a full line of specialty pepper extracts, from aji amarillo to Szechuan.

“We have even developed systems that combine different heat elements to deliver heat and sensory attributes targeted for a specific time, heat level and palate location based on individual applications,” said Gary Augustine, executive director-market development.

Heat with sweet appears to be just the twist many consumers are looking for in their foods these days, with the right combination able to add a big dose of flavor without fat and calories. This complements today’s better-for-you cuisines.

“I’m one of those guys that believes sometimes less is more,” Mr. Tougne said, who believes people are looking for ‘real’ food but with twists, often simple ones. “Innovation will come with simplicity and technique.”

This story originally appeared in the December issue of Culinology, the official magazine of the Research Chefs Association. To read more from the issue, click here.