What is a flavourist and innovation director?
A director of innovation straddles the technical and the commercial side of the business, so probably 50% of the time is in the lab working closely with the flavourists’ and the applications’ teams.
What do you do in your job?
My role is about creating new flavour combinations, with some commercial elements involved. I encourage our flavourists to think outside the box, I encourage our applications people to think about new ways of using and applying flavours for different applications, and looking at new raw materials, at new technologies, and ways that we can employ them within our business. I’m still responsible for the beverage applications part of our business, so I’m in the lab probably two days a week, minimum.
Part of my role is to develop new ideas and more compelling opportunities to use flavourings. So I’ll take an idea that’s been used in confectionery and apply it into a biscuit application, I’ll take an idea that’s been used in a beverage and apply it into a hard-boiled candy, so I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to generate flavour.
I could be in the lab one minute, I could be with customers the next, I could be researching another ingredient with a supplier, I could be at the library researching the next big thing or I can be at my desk, filing enquiries and working with customers on a day-to-day basis.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
One of the best parts of my job is actually walking into a supermarket and seeing people pick a product up, off the shelf that you’ve designed, that you’ve invented, that your flavours are used in and put into their shopping basket. That’s the best part of my job.
How did you get into your job?
I’ve got 13 O-levels and four A-levels. After my A-levels I wanted to earn some money, so I was employed by a company that sponsored me to do further qualifications and my degree. My degree is in applied chemistry, but I’ve also done a CBA because I was also interested in the marketing side of the business as well, but I will probably go back and do an MBA.
What advice would you give for people considering chemistry after school?
I think chemistry as a qualification lends itself to a wide and diverse range of different jobs. I think that having a chemistry qualification, or having any technical qualification, it might be in biochemistry, it might be in chemistry, it might be in physics, it might even be in biology, it’ll lend itself to different roles within an organisation that you might not have expected.
What advice would you give for people wishing to enter your career area?
A flavourist is also known as a flavour chemist; a junior flavourist might not have any formal qualifications in flavour technology but is likely to have a technical qualification of some sort. And the flavourist can go all the way up to somebody with a PhD in biochemistry. A flavourist’s role is to create flavours that impart, enhance or improve taste, and flavours are applied to a lot of different types of product, to recapture or regain the essence of the original product.
To do my job, you have to be innately curious, ask questions all the time, you have to be genuinely interested in food, drink and pharmaceutical. You have to be interested in process and understand how products are produced, what ingredients are used in food substances. You have to understand how to sell your products, and be able to talk passionately about what you do and how you do it, and the flavour that you’ve got.
First published 2013