January marked a major milestone in flavourings legislation, with the entry into force of a number of new measures resulting from the EU Flavourings Regulation, (EC) No 1334/2008 on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods, adopted in December 2008. This marks the first major change in flavourings legislation since the first European harmonisation exercise under Directive 88/388/EEC which, as the number indicates, has been in force for two decades. And if you think the title sounds cumbersome, read on!

So what’s new? Firstly, the scope of the new Regulation is broader than that of Directive 88/388/EEC. There have always been differences in interpretation between European Member States, which has sometimes called into question the concept of single market legislation. Hence Regulation 1334/2008 explicitly sets out that it applies to food ingredients with flavouring properties for example, herbs and spices and to source materials for these ingredients, as well as to flavourings and their source materials. This is important in respect of biologically active principles (BAPs), which are naturally present in many ordinary foodstuffs and in herbs and spices, which are themselves not permitted for use as flavourings substances in the UK. Levels of BAPs are restricted in certain foods considered to be the main contributors of these BAPs to the diet.

So for example for coumarin, the BAP in cinnamon and cassia, the general maximum level for most foods was 2 mg/kg. With effect from 20 January 2011, the levels are 50mg/kg in traditional and/or seasonal bakery wares that contain a reference to cinnamon in the labelling; 20 mg/kg in breakfast cereals; and 5mg/kg in desserts. There is no limit in other foods other than the need to meet the general food law requirements.

However, the amount of BAPs will differ in cinnamon and you cannot say with certainty that 50mg/kg of coumarin can be obtained from x-amount of cinnamon. As a very rough guide you could say that typically you might find 2mg coumarin in a teaspoon of cinnamon powder, but we would expect a possible variation from ¼ of teaspoon to more than 10 teaspoons.

Loss of categories

The other significant change in the legislation is the loss of the "nature identical" and artificial categories of flavourings and changes to the requirements for the use and labelling of natural flavourings. Under the new Regulation, natural flavourings have to contain at least 95% of the named origin in order to label the product as containing "natural X flavouring". The previous industry standard was 90%.

Flavourings that are all natural, but contain less than 95% of the named source, have to be labelled "natural X flavouring with other natural flavourings".

Better or not?

So is the new legislation an improvement? Such is its complexity that both the producers and users of flavourings have been left with many questions of interpretation. The Food and Drink Federation has been working for several months to develop interpretative guidance to try to make sense of the complex new requirements and to ensure uniform interpretation at European level. This gives examples of the labelling possibilities for the final food, the area which has elicited most queries from food and drink manufacturers, particularly in relation to what may be termed "natural".

The labelling of the source for example strawberry, or lemon/citrus is the issue of most interest, especially for multiple packs and for products in which several flavourings have been used, some of which may be natural and others not. Certainly ingredients lists may be longer, and you can expect customer enquiries as to what is different about the product if they notice the "natural strawberry flavouring with other natural flavourings" designation in the ingredients list.

The labelling terms are transferred into the labelling legislation, Directive 2000/13, itself currently under review. Now there’s another saga.

Flavour trends

In the UK retail market, sweet flavour developments remain focused on natural driven by the retailers along with the need for flavourings with a high impact profile, such as vanilla combinations to add creaminess, toffee and also nut/nut-free flavourings such as hazelnut and almond.
Consultant and bakery writer Dan Lepard has been working with bakerybits.co.uk on a range of natural extracts and "nature-identical" flavourings (see left for new definitions). They are packaged in smaller bottles to help the smaller artisan baker who doesn’t want to be lumbered with litres of liquid.
Specialist panettone and colomba flavourings are now available from Italy, and this means that making these seasonal sweet yeast dough lines in the UK is much easier. "Interesting flavours, if used carefully and labelled clearly for the customer, can help turn a plain everyday baked good into something rather special," says Lepard.
Another range available to bakers is Unifine’s All Natural Flavours, available in almond, lemon, orange rum (made with Jamaican rum) and vanilla. Each of Unifine’s all natural flavours comes in a 1kg squeezable bottle. The firm also offers nuances of coffee (such as cappuccino) and chocolate; fruit variations including baked apple and even exotic fusions of fruit and cactus.
On the savoury side, there has been an increasing amount of activity in speciality breads, says Donna Rose, marketing manager at Synergy. "This can be identified through the cheese-flavoured sharing breads. As this market has increased, so too has the demand for more authentic delivery with impact," she says. "We have worked closely with manufacturers to develop top-noted yeast extracts such as our Cheese Ultimate (lactic yeast extract, and top note). These can be complemented with our cuisine pastes, which provide the visual and flavour element for speciality breads for example, Italian-style tomato."
When it comes to cheese flavours, there are also opportunities for cost saving using flavourings, adds Dairygold Food Ingredients, which has developed more than 100 cheese powder formulas. Often used to replace hard cheese, they can be used to enhance cheese taste in a range of products including breads and pastries.
"Those in the baking industry today are under a lot of pressure to reduce costs and simplify production processes," says Aidan Fitzsimons, business unit director. "Cheese powders are a more cost-effective and easier-to-use alternative to hard cheeses."
Using spray-drying technology, the ’taste’ powders including cheddar, camembert, emmental, goat’s cheese, blue cheese, gouda can be adapted for price, flavour, functionality and nutritional aspects.

How do you flavour the perfect hot cross bun?

Some retailers reformulate their hot cross buns every year as consumer taste profiles change over time. Work will begin this month on 2012’s buns. Every year, House of Flavours/NET International benchmarks those in retail. The latest data for 2010 shows that, of the 14 hot cross buns tested, wrapped products, particularly luxury buns, tended to outperform the in-store bakery buns. The luxury varieties benefited from higher and better-quality fruit content and real butter. Marks & Spencer’s Luxury bun came top last year, with Asda’s Extra Special in-store bun coming last from the 14 tested.
"Dry" was the most common negative comment across the consumer survey: 50% of the 103 respondents used the word "dry", compared to less than 30% for "flavour" and "taste". The buns that performed the worst had the least well-balanced flavour profiles. Of the well-balanced buns, stronger flavoured tended to outperform weaker flavoured. The analysis indicated moistness was most important, ahead of flavour, texture, fruit content and colour.
Interestingly, the flavour profile changed after toasting and buttering, which accentuated the sweetness and fruitiness, but depressed the clove. There was no big effect on cinnamon or citrus.
"The perfect hot cross bun uses subtle spices combined with a high level of succulent fruit and citrus notes coming from the peel," says bakery consultant Wayne Caddy. "There’s no point having too much spice in if you’re using citrus peel as it would take over."
So how do you make yours stand out? "If you think of a colour pallete, your primaries are your cinnamon, clove and citrus," says Mike Speight of House of Flavours. "Using vanilla and almond can modify the profile to make it stand out without being too radical."
"For Easter buns, a liquid spice extract added to the dough with a small amount of ground spice will help keep the crumb light and delicate and avoid that yeast slowing effect that a large quantity of dry spice causes," adds bakery writer Dan Lepard.