The development of the new flavours came as a result of a consumer online survey conducted earlier by 2000 participants in the region.
Based on the survey, almost 70% of respondents selected Mediterranean cuisine as the top cuisine, with French, Italian and Turkish the most preferred.
Speaking to Thoger Larsen, the firm’s flavour vice president (IMA) at Gulfood Manufacturing held in Dubai, he said the flavours were designed to be used across eight categories, including beverages, dairy, confectionery, as well as savoury products.
“For instance, they can be used in cookies, green tea, and coffee,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
According to Larsen, the R&D process for the Mediterranean flavours took about six months, which included “trial and error”.
“It was an intense process (as you can see), there were a lot of categories involved,” he said.
He added the biggest challenge was finding a way to match the flavours to the various applications, because “what works for one category, may not work for another category.”
Another obstacle was finding a way to work with healthier products.
“For instance, we have tested the Mediterranean flavours in products that are reduced sugar, reduced salt, reduced MSG, reduced fat, to show that the final product can still taste as good as full fat, full sugar products.”
Larsen said the Mediterranean flavours were halal, non-GMO, as well as natural to tap on the growing trend in natural flavours in the IMA region.
Ever changing industry
He also told us that the industry was constantly transforming.
“A few years ago, the trend was in sugar reduction, where people were looking to remove 20 to 30% sugar in their product,
“Now, the trend we see is in eliminating sugar totally.”
Firmenich is working on partnerships and acquisitions, such as with stevia suppliers, for new developments.
Apart from sugar reduction flavours, the firm is also working on salt reduction, and alternative proteins.
Larsen said localisation was part of their business strategy as the firm aims expand its presence in the region.
“Global companies like Nestle, Unilever, Coca Cola are driving the trend in sourcing for ingredients locally. They are more driven than local companies who mostly import their ingredients.”
Firmenich has a regional office in Dubai, which covers the IMA region. In April this year, the firm announced it would be building a new facility in Dubai Science Park, to be completed by Q4 2020, to support increasing R&D in the region.