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‘Flavour Ambassadors’ is an EFFA  multimedia project launched in 2019 and aimed at sharing the passion and expertise of European flavour professionals. Through the project we aim to give the industry a “voice” and showcase its many facades and the blend of knowledge that is needed to create flavourings that ultimately enrich our food and drinks.

The community of Flavour Ambassadors is comprised of varied industry specialists who are passionate about their profession and volunteered to take part in this EFFA project. Our Flavour Ambassadors represent the different departments of variously sized companies from all over Europe and are of different cultures andbackgrounds. In each episode of the interviews, the ambassadors show the various aspects in the creating process, explain what their role in the flavour house is, what drives and challenges them, and how their expertise contributes to the flavour and food industry in Europe and globally. With professionals ranging from regulatory to sensory and marketing departments, each focuses on their own expertise and added value and together they showcase the complexity of the flavour industry processes.

In this interview, Flavourist - Mario Fabretti shares an insight into the skill set of a flavourist and his journey as a professional in the flavour industry. 


Mario Fabretti

Flavourist

3

What is your name and profession?

My name is Mario Fabretti, I am a Flavourist, and I have been working in this sector for 36 years.

What is a typical day at work like for you?

It starts with a quick consultation, face to face and over the telephone, with technical staff and representatives when I return from doing business with clients and then, as required: creating or imitating the flavourings that clients have asked us for directly or through the representatives, or have sent to us. We do this by applying both our own experience but also with the assistance and support of the profession skills that our technical staff have developed within the company and that are inherent to laboratories involved in research and development, finished product applications, extractions and concentrations;

I also work on identifying new tastes from fruits or herbs from EEC and non-EEC countries, including by making use of new extractive techniques, and making these available as soon as the company decides to take on those new markets.

Who do you work with?

I work with laboratories involved in research and development, finished product applications, extractions and concentrations. Also, with representatives, directly with clients and use ongoing dialogue with owners.

What made you choose this career?

In actuality, I did not choose this career, but it chose me. A series of fateful circumstances led to me pursuing this career.

While I was still a university student, a company that was, at that time, in the carbonated beverage industry (but that produced liqueurs in an adjacent location) asked me to be their quality control and production manager to try to resolve the serious problem of products being returned because they had gone off.

This problem was resolved, but while carrying out this task, I had contacts with all the suppliers, including those providing flavourings. More specifically, the owner of an important Italian supplier of juices and flavourings asked me to work for him. I agreed to take charge of the laboratory and customer service.

At the same time, I acquired all the skills of a "fragrancer", that is to say the skills to be able to make herbal extracts, first using conventional methods and then using extremely advanced methods (developed with my cooperation) to obtain extracts or infusions or soluble compounds for use in bitters, liqueurs or alcoholic beverages. 

I realized that this company bought most of the flavourings it used, and I began to look at how they could be replaced, be produced in house; initially by just using a gas chromatograph and, of course, with the full support of the owner.

I was largely able to realise this project, thanks also to the help, knowledge and contribution of talented flavourist entrepreneurs who had set up companies in both Italy and the UK.

Immediately after that, I became greatly intrigued by the confectionery industry and took on the challenge, obtaining excellent feedback from the vanilla, chocolate and butter emulsions sectors.

In my current company, which I have been with for the last 18 years, I was helped to refine and expand the knowledge that I had already acquired, learning about all the new extractive technologies and above all, gaining considerable knowledge in the fields of cold tea and savoury foods that I had only touched on previously.

What training did you have before and during your career in the flavour industry?

I graduated summa cum laude in biological sciences (chemical expert) and did my thesis in recombinant DNA. Then it became a matter of curiosity, passion, research and a desire to advance the companies that I worked for that contributed directly to my “on the job” training in the sector.

181026B-EFF_0084What does the flavour industry mean to you?

Well, of course, the flavour industry is clearly a source of imagination, personal development and sometimes also for innovation and it often makes a material contribution to the success of a product. Now, it’s necessity for the food and beverage companies is increasing.

Let’s take an excellent home-made cake, biscuits or even a drink, a tea, an orange juice or the like. All extremely delicious. But imagine eating or drinking those same things fifteen days after they have been cooked or prepared at home.

I don't think that’s something anyone would want to experience. Nowadays, however, industry normally has to prepare products that will have to last weeks or months after their manufacture and therefore need to be preserved and need to look good, but above all taste good and all of this at adequate prices.

To achieve this, physical methods must be applied to the food to guarantee that it remains fresh and has a prolonged shelf life (pasteurisation, filtrations, antioxidant preservatives). Consequently, the flavour industry is involved in keeping it fresh and adding taste after heat treatment, for example, or limiting the effects of oxidation.

Furthermore, to meet consumer demands, industry (or at least us) is shifting increasingly towards natural flavourings, natural aromas or aromatic products, guaranteeing an ever-cleaner label.

What is food?

Food is not simply what we eat or what we prefer or dislike; it is part of the culture of a population. It helps us understand how people interact with each other and how to deal with and use the resources of the environment around us.

In developing a flavour destined for various world markets and to bring out the best, it is necessary for a good flavourist to also be familiar with the flavours of the cultures for which that flavouring is destined.

 What do you like best? What fascinates you most about your work?

An ability to understand the project that the customer wants to achieve means, in a nutshell:

  • knowing about the productive processes of the sectors in which the customer is operating in order to identify the stresses under which the product will be put;
  • knowing about how the product can be preserved over time;
  • knowing where and by whom the product will be used;

and therefore, intervening with flavourings at the appropriate time. Then, by conducting a series of samples or tests, meeting those expectations.

What is your favourite flavouring, and which do you like the least?

It is the flavouring that arouses my curiosity at any given point in time or because of its complexity, the type of product to which the flavourings are to be added or the market to which it is destined.

What's the most interesting thing you have worked on?

There have just been so many interesting projects I have worked on in the almost forty years during which I have worked that it is difficult to rank them. They include, among many others, successfully achieving the extremely aromatic tannin powder - greatly sought after by a very large companies in the sector – by deriving it from oak pellets; having made a chamomile concentrate to meet the needs of a well-known company or even having produced concentrates for cooked ham and mortadella simply starting from the raw materials. All these products are so-called label free.

But then there are also so many natural flavourings or simply flavours for the ice cream, snacks or bakery sectors, not to mention those required for alcoholic beverages or bitters and liqueurs for the alcoholic beverages sector.