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Kerry aims to boost stability of natural citrus flavours

By Jane Byrne , 20-Sep-2011

Natural flavours supplier, Kerry Ingredients, has flagged up a six month dateline for the conclusion of an existing project aiming to optimise the stability of natural citrus flavours for use in beverages.

While looking at the company’s complete citrus flavourings portfolio, Jolande de Ridder, marketing manager beverages for the EMEA region at Kerry, told this publication that the main focus of the research is increasing the stability of its lemon and lime flavours.

Citrus flavours are a perennial favourite, ranked at number one worldwide, according to Mintel’s Global New Product Database, but one of the most common challenges they present is the fact they are prone to damage from oxygen, light and heat, and thus have a short shelf life.

The marketing manager said she could not reveal the proprietary technology involved but explained that a way to redress the stability challenges of citrus flavours is through “optimising the raw materials used and the processing steps involved in production.”

According to de Ridder, the supplier’s proximity to the citrus groves of Florida, at its development centre in Lakeland, assists it in this regard as it can manage raw materials from the groves right through the production process. The citrus specialist's flavour capabilities include emulsion, molecular distillation, encapsulation and extraction.

Cost effective flavours

And Kerry said that its integrated production approach means it can offer cost-effective citrus flavours for beverages.

Since January this year, the EU authorities have set down minimal quantity levels regarding natural flavours so, for example, a natural orange flavour must have minimum 95% orange content, whilst the same is true for flavour combinations such as lemon and lime. Leatherhead, in a recent report, notes that as a result of these regulatory changes, natural flavours are likely to carry a higher cost.

But de Ridder finds that a lot of beverage manufacturers are not going down the route of choosing flavours with 'minimum 95% content' but are often opting for the less costly "natural flavouring substances".

Offsetting sugar price volatility

Ahead of the German trade event, Brau Beviale, in November and in light of on-going volatility in the sugar market, the supplier reports that its flavour modulation technology (fmt) can help beverage producers hedge against fluctuating sugar prices and supply chains.

“However,” stressed de Ridder, “the level of cost optimisation fmt usage can deliver depends on the fundamentals of the sugar market at a given time.”

Its FMT system is also said to mask off-notes when using stevia in beverages, and de Ridder reports considerable R&D activity by European soft drink manufacturers involving the natural sweetener, ahead of expected EU approval for steviol glycosides by the end of this year.

The marketing manager claims soft drink makers aiming for a 20 to 30 per cent sugar reduction can use its modulation technology in various combinations with stevia or other sweeteners.

Signature drinks

June 2011 saw Kerry introduce a new range of natural citrus flavours targeted at industry demand for signature twists in branded drinks. The new flavours include some from unusual citrus fruits including Kusiae and Rangpur types, which are hybrids between mandarin orange and lemon.

Other unconventional flavours in the range include one from the Meyer lemon, a fruit named after the agricultural explorer Frank Meyer, and another from Pomelo, which is the largest citrus fruit, with a flavour resembling mild sweet grapefruit.

The citrus specialist said the new palette of flavours taps into the trend towards ‘varietal type taste profiles.’

Explaining this Chris Slack, a Kerry marketing executive, told sister site BeverageDaily.com in June that: “People are looking for the next little signature note so they can create new beverage products that they can call their own.”

Slack said it is beverage brands in Western Europe that are driving this trend although strong interest in the new flavours is expected in South Africa and the Middle East

To support the launch of the flavours, Kerry has tested them in a range of new concept products from a flavoured water to an energy drink. Given the high speed of new product development in the industry, the supplier said this is important to demonstrate the potential of the flavours, which it intends to do at Brau.