A question of tastes

10 April, 2009
TasteTech makes encapsulated ingredients and flavourings that survive processing. Sylvia Macdonald meets MD Janis Sinton and tours the labs and factory
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TasteTech: you could assume the name stands for taste technology and you'd be spot on. But aren't tastes, or 'flavourings' as they are called, those artificial things that we really don't need?

That is up to you, the baker, confectioner, or NPD specialist, but consumers certainly enjoy the flavours of baked products. And flavour is key to repeat purchase.

Flavourings can be artificial, they can be synthetic or they can be natural or organic. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend on the taste of your products.

Take cinnamon, for example. Bun spice for hot cross buns, for example, contains cinnamon. You can buy it derived from cinnamon leaves, cinnamon bark, or create it from flavouring ingredients - synthetic or natural - wait for it... in 165 different versions! Yes, that is the quantity that TasteTech's senior flavourist Danny Kite keeps in bottles in his lab.

The next step, Kite explains, is to encapsulate your chosen cinnamon in a water-soluble coating or fat. Other popular flavourings include chocolate, strawberry, various jam flavours and also encapsulates including sugar.

A next-day doughnut, where the sugar has all-but- disappeared and melted into the product, might not affect flavour, but it will certainly affect its appearance and texture and no supermarket or café can afford to display soggy-looking goods. If they don't make the product fresh each day, like the craft baker, they could have a problem. But encapsulated sugar coating looks as fresh and natural on the product as the day it was made. Kite says: "You would be amazed at how many different perceptions there are of strawberry flavour. It is very much up to the NPD person or team to decide. We can work with anyone to achieve just the result they need on flavour and price.

"We are strong on brown flavours, chocolate (including white), golden syrup, cream, butter and vanilla. All are popular in muffins, cookies and cakes. Savoury products, such as pasties and pies, may need boosting with paprika, turmeric, basil, black pepper - or any number of herb or spice flavours that may be lost in processing."

== Accreditation ==

TasteTech's accreditations include BRC A grade, ISO9001 and the Soil Association. That is down to the leadership provided by MD Janis Sinton, who started the company in Bristol with her husband, Roger. But tragedy struck when Roger died a couple of years ago. He and Janis had started the company in their garage in 1992, using the knowledge he had gained as managing director of an American-owned flavourings company. He then decided to develop the encapsulation technology.

Following his death, Janis took a deep breath and decided to fulfil their joint ambition on her own, surrounded, as she says, by excellent employees and her son, Robert, who is learning the ropes. Her two daughters have chosen the paths of sports teaching and sports physiotherapy. Janis says: "We specialise in bakery and confectionery and work very closely with companies' technical and NPD staff. Our overall message is one of versatility: problem-solving, taste, processing, cost, reaction between ingredients and maintaining their integrity where required".

Commercial assistant Rob McCarthy mentions time-sensitive products, which include bicarbonate of soda or baking powder, for example, in a scone or batter mix. He says: "If the ingredients are encapsulated, then the last batch made will be the same as the first. This is because they are only released when baking reaches a certain temperature." As well as McCarthy, UK accounts manager Joe Morris, a chef by trade who studied bakery, confectionery and pastry-making, also meets customers, helps solve problems and liaises with the laboratory technicians.

So what is TasteTech's biggest-selling bakery product? "It's actually encapsulated sorbic acid," responds Janis. "It's a mould inhibitor used by plant bakers and mix manufacturers. We have four different versions and we make a particularly good product. In its natural form it inhibits yeast growth. By encapsulating it for use in a bread mix, it is not released until the yeast has ceased activity, which is when it reaches a baking temperature above 60°C. During recent trials at Campden BRI food research, it maintained loaves mould-free for 14 days."

Encapsulated sorbic acid also eliminates the need to spray with potassium sorbate, a technique used in the manufacture of long-life bread requiring specialist production lines.

Some bakers prefer to use calcium propionate, also a mould inhibitor, but bakers need to use 30% more yeast, because a percentage is killed. So although you have to buy the encapsulated sorbic acid, you can use less yeast to recoup the cost.

== Opening doors ==

Two exhibitions helped open the door for Janis and TasteTech - the Food Ingredients Exhibition (FiEurope) and ISM (Ingredients Manufacturing), which introduced the company to new international clients. Says Janis: "As a result we are now working with six plant bakeries in Europe."

The company has come a long way since its garage beginnings. It now occupies three units in an industrial estate and Janis has her eye on another unit: "We are a company that wants steady, controlled growth. In 2007, we said we wanted to double turnover in five years. We've grown by 25% in one year, but we are really focused on the customer and the business. There are a huge number of growth opportunities in the UK."

This combination of friendliness and determination is something her late husband would be proud of. His black and white photo sits above the stairwell. It's a lovely picture and you can't help feel that it keeps her focused on their shared goal.

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=== TasteTech Processes ===

CR100 Encapsulation System

l Fat encapsulation of liquids and powders

l Vegetable fat-based system, which releases at 60°C (typically)

l Contains up to 60% of the active ingredient

l Ideal for food acids, intense sweeteners, flavourings and key ingredients such as sorbic acid

l Presented as a fine powder, ideal for uniform incorporation into powder blends, doughs, batters, sauces, tablets and gums

CR300 Encapsulation System

l Fat encapsulation of larger crystals/particles

l Vegetable fat base system, which releases at 60°C (typically)

l "Rain-coat" process, typically contains 80-97% of the active ingredient

l Ideal for granular materials such as food acids and sugars

Flavourings

l Available as a liquid, spray-dry powder or fat encapsulated powder depending on application

l Natural and synthetic options available

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=== What is encapsulation? ===

Microencapsulation is the process by which tiny particles of flavour or active ingredients are surrounded by a shell or coating of a protective material, allowing them to pass through processing, storage, baking/cooking and even digestion, and deliver their properties when the coating is broken down. Microencapsulation can therefore enable the delayed release of ingredients and flavours, which allows manufacturers to achieve longer-lasting taste.

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=== Popular encapsulated bakery products ===

l Sorbic Acid

l Sodium Bicarbonate

l Citric Acid

l Ascorbic Acid

l Baking Powder

l Flavourings - butter, vanilla, chocolate, golden syrup, ginger, bun spice, cinnamon, butterscotch, brown sugar





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