Developing to Consumer Expectation
Dr. Fulya Eren
ACH Food Companies Inc.
We are turning a new corner in food product development. The new consumer base cares about what they put into their bodies, where they buy it and how they want it packaged. The eating experience is now part of thrill seeking with extreme textures, intense flavors, and global cuisine.
The consumer is more interested in the story of the food, fair trade, organic, free-range, cruelty free, local, natural, less processed, authentic, sustainable, grass fed, and hormone free, etc.
There is a huge shift towards "good for you / better for you" foods, which is not well defined yet. The food industry is working hard to understand and define "better for you". There is a gravitation towards products that list ingredients they recognize, and feature prominent claims such as organic, low/no/reduced or made with natural ingredients.
Where do vanilla and vanillin stand in a "better for you" description? Consumers are very familiar with vanilla and where it comes from. As far as vanillin goes the perception is “although the chemical structure of synthetically produced vanillin and naturally occurring vanillin are identical, it is a not so much desired alternative for the real thing”.
How about consumer preference? The preference for vanilla over vanillin is likely to depend on its use. Some taste tests have shown that vanillin is preferred in some situations. In pound cake, for example, the simplicity of the vanillin flavor was chosen by taste testers. In other recipes, such as creme brulee or ice cream, the complexity and depth of true vanilla creates a better taste experience.
Where does this leave us product developers? With all the constraints in product development will vanillin from natural sources other than vanilla beans ever replace vanilla?
Dr. Fulya Eren received her undergraduate degree in Food Engineering and Physics from Middle East Technical University in Turkey. Following her graduation she continued her studies in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, receiving her Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Rutgers University in NJ. Dr. Eren worked on modification of fatty acid desaturation in tomato cultures during her graduate studies. She finished her post doctoral studies with Dr. Belanger and Dr. Havkin-Frenkel at Biotech Center, Rutgers, NJ on characterization of a multifunctional methyltransferase from the orchid Vanilla planifolia. Later on Dr. Eren joined USDA Vegetable Lab. Dr. Eren started her career in the food industry as Research and Development Manager for savory flavors and tea with Unilever. She was in charge of product development for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. Later she returned to the US and worked as Technical Manager for Harris Freeman on Tea and Spice categories and as Product Development Manager for Nutro – Mars, in charge of dry and wet natural pet food. Dr. Eren is currently working with ACH Food Companies Inc., as Product Development Manager for Baking and Oil categories. During her career in the food industry Dr. Eren led and managed various innovation, product development and supply chain projects, and launched over 200 new products across various categories in many countries.