Flavor and Fragrance Chemist
Flavor and Fragrance Chemist
Flavor and fragrance chemists are professionals engaged in the study and exploitation of materials capable of impacting the human senses of taste or smell. Flavor chemists work primarily with foods, beverages, and food/beverage ingredients; the latter comprise substances that are either derived (directly or indirectly) from plant or animal sources or are chemically synthesized from petrochemicals. Fragrance chemists work mostly with perfumes, fragranced personal care products, and scented household goods and the odoriferous ingredients used therein, which again may include materials of plant, animal, or petrochemical origin.
Research carried out by flavor and fragrance chemists is generally for the purpose of understanding, designing, or improving upon the sensory characteristics of the types of products and ingredients listed above. This often starts with the detailed chemical analysis of a specific target: a finished product or raw materials used in its manufacture. Creative flavorists or perfumers, respectively, with the help of product technologists, may then try to reconstitute flavors or fragrances that match or improve upon the sensory properties of the target. In the case of flavorists, matching a specific natural or processed food or beverage is usually the objective, while a perfumer often has more latitude in cases where the target fine perfume or household air freshener, for example, may be little more than a marketing concept. Product technologists help assure that flavors and fragrances are stable in products and are released and therefore perceivable at the time of consumption or use. Results of chemical analysis may alternatively be used, for example, to design better flavor or fragrance molecules; to make improvements in ingredient formulations or manufacturing processes; or even to provide direction in plant breeding or animal husbandry programs.
Most flavor and fragrance chemists are educated to Bachelor of Science (B.S.) level or higher, often in chemistry, perhaps with specialization in analytical, synthetic, organic, or physical chemistry. In the case of flavor chemists, a degree in food science and nutrition is also common. Additional training is frequently available through professional bodies and industry organizations such as (in the United States) the American Chemical Society, the Institute of Food Technologists, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, the Society of Flavor Chemists, and the American Society of Perfumers. Specialized training as a creative flavorist or perfumer, where a highly developed ability to distinguish and describe tastes and odors is absolutely vital, is generally received on the job and involves serving a lengthy apprenticeship.
Employment opportunities in the field of flavor and fragrance chemistry are widespread, especially in North America and Europe, and include university research departments, research institutes, consumer product companies as well as the flavor and fragrance industry. Career opportunities for a flavor or fragrance chemist can be extremely varied, including research, flavor/fragrance creation, product technology, quality control, regulatory, and so forth. Accordingly, the work environment is most often laboratory-based but, depending on the nature of the job, can include manufacturing facilities, visits to vendors and customers, and even time spent in remote locations such as African or Amazonian rain forests, searching for sources of novel and interesting flavor and fragrance materials. A career as a flavor/fragrance chemist offers the intriguing challenge of applying state-of-the-art technology to elucidate some of nature's best-kept secrets, involving a fascinating combination of science, creativity, and the use of our senses of taste and smell, in areas we can all readily identify with: namely, the food we enjoy and the odors we encounter on a daily basis. In 1999, salaries ranged from approximately $35,000 at entry level to more than $100,000 for the highly qualified and experienced flavor or fragrance chemist.
see also Food Scientist; Plant Prospecting.
Terry L. Peppard
Ashurst, P. R. Food Flavourings. New York: AVI, 1991.
Müller, P. M., and D. Lamparsky, eds. Perfumes: Art, Science and Technology. London:Elsevier Applied Science, 1991.