International jet-setting, the Japanese yuzu fruit and cravings for simplicity. The link between these things may not be immediately apparent, but they are all foremost in the mind of Jim Moore, global category manager for beverages in Frutarom's Taste Solutions Division.
Moore tirelessly trawls the world, linking the multinational flavours and fragrance house with the needs of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks makers eager to plumb the newest trends. In grand terms, he strategically plans and creates commercial concepts catering for forthcoming market directions and interprets how those trends can sculpt the development of customers' products.
He advises clients on everything from legislation to packaging styles and national consumer demographics, "ensuring the customer is getting not only a very good flavour, but an understanding of the market".
One of his recent highlights was developing Citrus Competence, a flavour range building on Frutarom's citrus roots. Health Solutions, Food and Beverage Solutions and Flavour and Fragrance Ingredients teams all worked on the initiative, which Moore passionately endorses. "I have presented it to some of the biggest alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks players in the world and the response has been fantastic."
Citrus Competence currently boasts 27 flavours and Frutarom plans to launch parallel offerings, reflecting its emphasis on natural, fresh options. The project's development will conform to European Community Regulation 1334/2008, popularly known as 95:5 From The Named Food legislation, coming into force in January 2011. The new Regulation means flavours can be labelled 'natural' if at least 95% comes from the named raw material and the other 5% from natural sources if necessary.
One raw material in the portfolio showing promise and versatility is yuzu, a Japanese fruit combining tangerine, mandarin, clementine, lemon and nectarine flavours and offering added benefits for lemon drinks, says Moore. "One of their important constituents has traditionally been citrile, one of the most auto-oxidative [unstable] products on the market. But if you include components such as yuzu, you can reduce citrile degradation, elongating the flavour profile over a longer time."
His interest in such matters harks back to his early roots. After graduating in food science, economics and marketing, his first role was as a sensory scientist at the laboratories of what is now Campden BRI in Gloucestershire, England. From there, his curriculum vitae includes technical sales for a herbs and spices company and marketing and commercial experience at Mastertaste, part of the Kerry Group based in the US. He went on to Frutarom after that, first as marketing manager for beverages, then as category manager two years later.
His work now involves 200 plus days a year travelling, giving clients interactive presentations and visiting divisions of Frutarom stretching from China and the US to its headquarters in Haifa, Israel. Facilitating communication between its constituent parts is vital to his mission, he says, so alongside powerful taste buds and the ability to second-guess consumer appetites, strong interpersonal skills are central to his role. "We're building a multi-dimensional link that hasn't been there with other companies I have worked in," says Moore. "That will create a far quicker result in terms of customer expectations and our ability to deliver."
Speed is of the essence, he says. Prevarication could lead to competitors overtaking customers or missing the ideal launch time for a drink. "Timelines to deliver results are getting shorter, due in part I'm sure to the power of the hypermarkets. In the UK the power of the supermarkets is very strong in terms of dictating product launches. Across Europe they are gaining strength, whereas in Africa and the Far East it's driven by brands."
That's why Frutarom developed its Rapid Prototyping process, where it opens its doors to manufacturers, often inviting them to intensive workshops at its Innovation Centre at Lake Zurich, Switzerland. Every aspect of a concept is thrashed out over the course of a few days, from the target market and product type to ingredients and flavour options and dosages.
Moore relies heavily on brainstorming with colleagues to confirm if and how ideas can be developed: from initial requests, through raw material sourcing, often in-house, to scientific testing. In particular, he works closely with Matthew Stokes, creation and application manager in Frutarom's Flavour and Fragrance Ingredients Division.
Today's flavours market is all about cross-fertilisation of ideas, says Moore, so understanding how products in different categories work is crucial. Frutarom has worked on jam doughnut, blueberry muffin, cola cube and chocolate orange drinks, inspired by its confectionery wing, for example.
Delivering a conclusion that helps the customer to progress and at the same time demonstrates in-depth knowledge of shoppers strongly motivates Moore. "It's when you start to look at what makes people buy a product and buy it again the psychology of the consumer that I find fascinating."
Inevitably, he waxes lyrical when predicting European beverage trends. Peering into his crystal ball, he says natural functional ingredients offer further potential. "Use of herbal and botanical extracts, of which we have an extensive bank, is one of the most important areas of development. You can look at something as simple as green tea, ginseng, echinacea or red vine leaf, which is associated with lowering cholesterol and aiding blood circulation. Things that offer soft claims and are understood by consumers as offering benefits." Natural materials aimed at older generations, targeting areas such as weight management, improved cognition and bone health sit in this camp.
Simplicity as an evolution of clean label, reproducing basic dishes people's parents used to make will be another maxim, though doing that using natural preservatives is the challenge, he says. "If you make something at home, it will only last a few hours. We need to make something that lasts a few months."
Clearly digging out the latest flavours animates Moore, but he says that in reality he is gripped by the complete creative process. "The most exciting bit is when customers have a product concept, but are not sure of its identity, target market or flavour profile, and they want you to design what it looks like."
"You see it take shape once you understand the market. For example, whether it's female or male, and the demographic. When you see through the trials to the product appearing on retailers' shelves, that really gives me an immense satisfaction."