A Taste for Science: Mint and Flavoring

“Our team of Flavorists strives to deliver great tasting flavors in each oral care product,” explains Catalina Lee, Worldwide Director, Global Flavors at Colgate-Palmolive. “Great, not good, flavors are what we aim to create. The role of the flavor is to ensure the best tasting oral care products globally, to delight each user and make caring for their oral health enjoyable.” Lee works with a specialized team of talented Flavorists who ensure the flavors of all oral care products meet the high flavor standards of Colgate-Palmolive.

Bob Vogt, a Director and Senior Flavorist who focuses on mint flavors in the Americas, explains that creating a “winning flavor” requires striking a balance: “Finding the right flavor is a mixture of art and science, blending knowledge and creativity.” This blend begins with a deep understanding of user preferences. The Consumer Insights team at Colgate-Palmolive provides input from the consumer on flavor preference for different areas of the globe. This data explains how preferences vary by demographic and geographic location. For example, Spearmint has more appeal in Latin American markets, while Peppermint is more popular in Europe.

“Colgate has always prided itself on having the best tasting products, which starts from the mint selection process,” Vogt explains. He compares the selection process to selecting grapes at a vineyard. “Mother Nature is always changing the flavor of the mint based on sunshine and when the crops are harvested, so we need to be extremely critical of the samples that come in.”

Differences caused by varying levels of rain, sunshine and when the harvesting occurs can present a challenge for Flavorists, by creating natural variations in the taste or strength of the raw, harvested ingredients. Despite that, the Flavorists strive to maintain the same taste character in each tube of toothpaste or in each bottle of mouthwash year to year. To reach this goal, the Flavorists at ColgatePalmolive analyze, taste, and smell an extensive number of samples each year, and maintain notes in a detailed flavor log. Years of experience tasting and smelling individual samples helps Flavorists to develop olfactory libraries—which give them the ability to correctly determine, for example, if a mint flavor is too harsh, too sweet, or just right. Vogt explains: “The bottom line is that people expect the same great Colgate taste every time they use our products, anything less than that is unacceptable.” No matter the product, “people want to use oral care products that taste great,” Lee says. Each time a person rinses with Colgate-Palmolive mouthwashes and brushes with its toothpastes, the scientists behind the flavors want it to be an enjoyable experience—one that they will want to repeat. This desire to repeat use, in turn, encourages healthy habits to improve the oral hygiene and health of people around the world.