Innovation Awards: Solvay enjoys the flavour of success

18 October 2013 10:23  [Source: ICB]

The award for Best Product Innovation has been won by Solvay Aroma Performance for Govanil vanilla flavouring that enables reduction of sugar and fat content in food products

Market leader Solvay Aroma Performance has over 120 years of experience in producing vanillin and vanilla flavours and in October 2012 launched Govanil, which combines vanilla flavour intensity with a long-lasting character, providing opportunities for innovation in the food industry, enhancing a wide range of top notes like butter, egg, biscuit and toffee.

 Govanil - discovered at the Lyon R&I centre

Solvay Aroma Performance research and innovation (R&I) director Matthieu Helft explains the discovery and development of 
Govanil: “The story began in 2006 in our R&I centre in Lyon, where a researcher found this new molecule. We then developed the process for its production after receiving organoleptic interest for the molecule in different food applications.”

The company’s CRF technology for the production of Govanil was patented and in 2012 Solvay was able to introduce the flavour to the market, having installed the first manufacturing unit, with the highest food safety standards, at its Saint-Fons site near Lyon, France.

The discovery came at a time when the company wanted to strengthen relationships with its food industry customers: “We needed something more to refresh the range and offer more to our customers, like increased taste and intensity. Something new to differentiate the product,” says Govanil project director Dominique Giannotta.

In addition to the R&I work that went into discovering, developing and producing Govanil, there was a focus, in a combined effort with the company’s marketing function, on developing strong application knowledge, with R&I playing an important role in developing a new competence in product application.

“We wanted to develop a new compound with a differentiating vanilla taste, while providing additional properties in the finished product, like enhancing the flavour of chocolate, for example, differentiating Govanil from the blends that are produced by flavour houses,” Helft notes. “It is difficult to innovate in vanilla, but here we have the combination of intense and long-lasting taste creating new sensations, feelings and experiences that allow food professionals to differentiate themselves.”

The result is a generation of flavours that is available in different grades to meet taste requirements around the world. The intense vanilla flavour was very successful in tests with expert tasting panels and pilot customers. However, another of Govanil’s strengths is that it enhances a wide range of other flavours, 
including butter, egg, biscuit, caramel and fruit, adding appeal for industrial baking and confectionery recipes.

It was the intensity of the sweetness of Govanil when first tested in milk – the standard reference test – that made the company realise that recipes could be developed with reduced sugar and, thanks to the long-lasting taste, for reduced fat in baking, with associated advantages in cost and nutrition. So it is not targeted at just one application, it can be used in many different recipes in the bakery including cookies, cakes, pastry cream and chocolate.

It is supplied as a free-flowing, dispersible powder and is easy to mix with other ingredients such as flour and sugar in a recipe. “It is an easy-to-dose, easy-to-use product,” says Giannotta, “So we are not only thinking about the application, we are thinking about saving time for the food industry.”

Solvay is moving towards producing Govanil in hundreds of tonnes a year, rising to thousands in five or six years’ time, a typical production ramp-up for this type of product in an industry with long lead times for new product development. In addition to Saint-Fons, it manufactures vanilla flavours in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Zhenjiang, China, where it is planning to begin production of vanillin in 2015.

The taste of vanilla is understood and perceived in the same way around the world and the product development for Govanil is now global, following its launch in Europe, the Middle East and Africa a year ago. At present, Solvay is seeing very strong growth in Asia, particularly in China and southeast Asia.

Giannotta concludes: “Our food customers were not expecting us to launch such a new product; after all it is such a long time since the introduction of the latest innovation in the vanilla field. We found out that most of our large and medium-sized customers were interested in the concept of the added value of Govanil.

“It’s not just another vanilla flavour on top of the thousands existing on the market. It brings the opportunity to enhance the flavour of customers’ products or reduce fat and sugar content. We had to demonstrate this added value and this was the role of the application laboratories that we developed in Lyon and in China. We are working closely with the main food customers to develop new recipes.”

Author: Mark Whitfield

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