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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.

With Steve Pearce we now have the chance to see the flavour industry through the eyes of the CEO of a flavour house. 

Steve Pearce

CEO and Flavourist

Steve Colour

What is your name and profession?

Steve Pearce, CEO of Omega Ingredients Ltd UK and Omega Ingredients Corp. USA

How do you explain your role and the industry in simple terms to your friends and family?

I am responsible for running a business that makes everyday food more enjoyable for the consumer by creating innovative and exciting natural flavours. Whilst I may be the manager and one of the creative flavourists, the whole team at Omega, ensures safe and consistent delivery of the final developed flavourings. The Flavour Industry provides food manufacturers with the key ingredient which gives their products identity and improves the consumers eating experience.

How does a typical working day at work look like to you as a CEO of a flavour house?

An early start usually 05.30…breakfast and off to the office at about 07.30. Prepare for the day in my office, answering e-mails from global customers or writing ideas for flavour formulations. At 09.00 I walk around the whole business and talk with all staff in production, administration, Quality Management, R & D, Creative and Applications. This will take about an hour. If there is a customer on site, I will greet them and take part in the presentations and discussions with the sales team. If no on-site customer meetings, I may accompany a sales person to a meeting or at some time during the day call my sales colleagues in the UK and the USA to discuss progress and projects with customers. There would be discussions with fellow senior managers and currently we are planning an expansion and building of a new production facility…this means more meetings off-site and on-site, today I was also interviewed by a food magazine. Afternoon would include phone calls to USA based customers and the USA sales team followed by e-mails/lab work/production and product development. Typically leaving the office at about 19.00 hours. I also travel extensively either attending or presenting at international conferences and exhibitions, meeting customers or seeking out new raw materials. I maintain an apartment in Philadelphia, USA and spend considerable time there as our business expands in the Americas.

For how long have you worked in the industry?

Since 1985 – that is 34 years…
Melanie Evans (Creative Director) and Steve Pearce (CEO) having fun in the lab at Omega Ingredients creating the next exciting beverage flavour

With whom do you work? How do you perform as a team?

My closest colleagues are, Creative Director and Master Flavourist, Melanie Evans (in the picture on the right) and Sales and Marketing Director, Gerry Stopps. I couldn’t manage without them…between us we have almost 100 years of Flavour industry knowledge and experience. They have both worked with me for 6 years and during that time we have become very good friends, respecting each other’s area of expertise. It is a great team. Other key colleagues are the Operations Management Team of Anya Mir (Financial Controller), Martyn Warner (Technical Manager), Michelle Locke (Sales Office Manager) and Amy Long (Key Account Manager) – they manage day-to-day running of the business at operations level.

What is the flavour industry for you? What is food to you?

Having always been intrigued by the sense of smell since I was a young child, I find the flavour industry a dynamic and exciting place to be…I have been completely fascinated by it since I discovered it existed in the early 80s and have immersed myself in all aspects of the industry ever since. Food is also an exciting environment for experimentation and delivering pleasure to the consumer. I love to see what skilled Chefs can do with natural ingredients in delivering taste, aroma, colour and texture and then mimic that in my creative environment as a flavourist. What do you find particularly fascinating about your job? Everyday brings new challenges and rewards for achievement – creating a new flavour, exceeding customers expectations and then seeing an exciting new product on sale in a store, knowing it may not be there if it wasn’t for us…or not taste as nice anyway!

What is your favourite and your most disliked flavouring?

I love tropical fruit flavours especially complex flavours such as Mango and Passionfruit and yes…even Durian! My least liked flavourings would include products such as garlic and onion.

What was the most interesting thing you've ever worked on? An anecdote that you would like to share?

The most interesting product turned out to be creating the “Smell of Space” – initially, as a project for NASA helping train Astronauts. After having arranged interviews with several astronauts, I created the “Flavour” based upon their descriptions of walking in space and what aromas/flavours they experienced when returning inside. After I presented at a school in Manchester for a Science Festival, this became a global news story overnight, putting me on the front pages of over 100 newspaper worldwide. Amazing publicity for us as a business.

I also worked on a Project called “If There Never Was” about “impossible smells and flavours” which was published as a book with smelling pages! I recreated the smell of Cleopatra’s hair, but more interestingly, the flavour and Aroma of “The Last Meal of a Condemned Man” – specifically Jesse Tafero, who was convicted of killing a Police Office in Florida, USA and executed via electric chair. I managed to obtain an interview with a journalist that visited Jesse Tafero on the morning of his last day. Her notebook detailed a description of his breakfast which included Strawberry Shortbread, Lipton’s Tea and Italian sausage.

Steve Pearce - July 2018 

What is special about an SME in this sector?

The Global Flavour Industry is about $27 billion USD…so we are tiny in comparison to the major international companies…we don’t have their history, money or technical resources but we do have creative skills and invention second to none! Being smaller, decisions can be made more swiftly and easily, making us more agile, offering a speedier route to market, with a better service and client experience than the big companies. We also make many of our own raw materials with most of the major flavour companies purchasing ingredients from us.

How did you discover the flavour industry yourself? Would you choose the same career path again?

I was always fascinated by the sense of smell and after studying Biochemistry at University was selling ingredients…one of clients was an old English Flavour & Fragrance Company (Zimmermann Hobbs) – I loved the smell of that building, which by co-incidence was close to where I was living at the time. Once I discovered what they did…that was that…any opportunity, I was there delivering samples, brochures, catalogues…any excuse to talk flavour and aroma with someone in the labs. Then one day, I was asked if I would like to apply for the position as Technical Manager…I jumped at the chance and was fortunate enough to be offered the start to my future in the Flavour industry. Everyday was like a wonderland to me as I discovered new materials, aromas, tastes…I completely immersed myself in it…reading everything and talking with everyone in the industry…soaking up information, experience and knowledge…no internet or Google in those days of course…I knew then this is what I had been seeking and I know now just how lucky I have been to find this amazing industry and have such an exciting and interesting career…it has not been like work…it has been an exciting voyage of discovery in an adventure playground!