A flavourist uses science and technology to create, develop and modify flavours in food products. They play a big hand in how food tastes, and how to maximise flavour to appeal to a large consumer base.
They’re also responsible for keeping an eye on new trends and shifts in demand, as well as working in tandem with marketing and sales teams to increase a new product’s potential.
“It’s like being a perfumer for food,” says Marie Wright, chief global flavourist at ADM, on Food Matters Live Podcast’s Career Conversations. “People get a bit afraid when we think about chemicals and molecules, but we’re made of [them]. And flavour is made up of molecules too.”
What are the job responsibilities?
– Developing and creating new flavours for food companies and taste labs
– Duplicating classic flavours for iteration on new products
– Sourcing raw materials and ingredients for product and flavour development
– Conducting research and development on new ingredients and technologies
– Scouting industry trends to create flavours that match consumer demand
– Providing technical support to manufacturing and marketing departments
– Managing and upskilling a team of flavourists and food technologists (in higher positions)
– Ensuring confidentiality of new formulations
– Testing samples to match flavour requirements and safety regulations
Who might your employers be?
You could be working in-house for a brand – like a multinational corporation, food giant, supermarket, or smaller enterprise. Your role could straddle creating new flavours and developing new products, as well as managing team members and being a point of contact for other departments.
For a more specific focus, you may find yourself in ingredient- and flavour-developing companies that cater to other food businesses. And you can also take the education or study route, teaching at a university or working at research bodies.
What qualifications do you need?
Most companies require a degree related to food science for flavourists. These could include food technology and food chemistry courses, but also broader chemical engineering and science degrees for research and development roles. Expertise in food regulatory affairs is also helpful.
A few courses of note include:
– Food Regulatory Affairs (MSc/PGDip/PGCert, Ulster University)
– Food Quality and Innovation (MSc, University of Leeds)
What is the salary like?
Flavourist salaries vary vastly with experience. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a junior flavourist is about £25,000 per year, while the general average is about £31,000. Talent.com reports the average annual remuneration for flavourists in the UK is £45,000.
But top-level positions command much higher salaries, ranging from £60,000 to over £100,000, specific to the size of the company and the nature of the role.
Where will you be working?
As a flavourist, you’ll spend a lot of your time in food labs, product development kitchens and manufacturing facilities. This could constitute shift work, which is common until you reach a senior or managerial position, where you might be able to work more uniform hours.
However, there’s not much scope for remote working as this is a hands-on job, which requires you to work in specific environments that have the appropriate equipment and sanitary standards.
You could also be working in institutions if you’re involved in research or training, with stable hours usually limited to weekdays.
What’s the career progression like?
While you’ll probably start as a trainee or junior flavourist, you can gain experience and move to a mid-level position. Then, you can work your way up to senior developmental roles, including project leader and team management – before moving on to a larger role like new product development manager, which will expand your remit.
Faster progression is likely in smaller companies. And in some cases, you might need to move companies and/or cities for a better position or salary.
Is there demand for this role?
With the post-pandemic focus on flavour experimentation and wellness ingredients, the opportunities for innovation in this space are endless. The food and drink sector is estimated to need nearly 50,000 new skilled professionals this year alone to meet consumer demand.
On top of that, the UK flavour industry is predicted to grow by 3.5% annually until 2025. Skilled flavourists are in high demand, and for roles in well-known companies and industry giants, the competition is fierce.
For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food