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For over 75 years, we've been helping food companies solve seasoning challenges and delight their customers. We want to work with you, too. Together, let's achieve The Taste of Success!

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Questions for a Food Scientist

Posted by Adam Shaffer on 1/10/17

Adam Shaffer

Senior Food Scientist/Food Wizard Adam Shaffer answers your questions about all things food science!

What are natural flavorings? – Submitted by Kacey
What's the difference between a spice extract and a flavor? – Submitted by Nate

Ah, natural flavors...the most consumer-confusing ingredient on a label statement. The first thing you probably need to know and remember is that everything is made up of chemicals. Water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, for example, and the air you breathe is mostly nitrogen, with oxygen and carbon dioxide mixed in there too.
Keeping that in mind, flavors are just chemicals; what really sets them apart is their source, how they are extracted from said source, and how they are used. "Natural flavor" means that the chemicals used in the flavor were obtained or extracted from a plant or animal, either physically, microbiologically, or enzymatically. Conversely, an "artificial flavor" contains chemicals that were formed by humans in a lab and are either not found in nature or are chemically identical to products found in nature, but were instead produced in a lab (this is often done if the extraction process is particularly difficult, time consuming, and/or expensive).
Spice extracts can be labelled as either "spice extracts" or "natural flavors". Which phrase is chosen often depends on the nature of the product; if the product includes the name of the spice in the name, like a Cinnamon Apple Juice, but doesn't contain the actual dry spice, the company will often choose to put the phrase "spice extract" on the label to reassure their customers that the actual spice is in there. Or the company might prefer one phrase over the other; both are perfectly legal to have on the label, according to the FDA.

I hear you're bitter blind. What's up with that? – Submitted by Kelli

Do you mean, what's up with that in the sense that you don't understand what it means to be bitter blind? It means I can't taste anything that's bitter—I can dissolve an aspirin on my tongue and not taste anything (though it does dry my mouth out).
Or maybe you mean, what's up with that scientifically? That's actually a simple answer: I'm a mutant. And I don't mean in the fun, Cyclops-shooting-laser-beams-out-of-his eyes way; my genes for tasting bitter foods turned out different from your genes, just like the genes of people with blue eyes are different from the brown-eyed folks.
Or perhaps you're asking how that affects my daily life? It doesn't come up very often, honestly. I'm sure it would have if I had been born hundreds of years ago—one of the main ways our ancestors knew what was safe to eat was taste. Bitter equals bad, sweet equals energy, etcetera. It has influenced my life, though, in the foods I like to eat. For example, I don't drink coffee or eat dark chocolate because I can't experience the full flavor profile of those foods. I'm not a big fan of hoppy beers because they don't have much flavor—I've been told that's because they're bitter.
The main area where my bitter blindness affects my daily life is at work. My coworker didn't even bother to ask me to taste a coffee seasoning she was making because I wouldn't be able to give constructive feedback. My mutation encourages me to gather more feedback from my fellow scientists—I've had to develop dark chocolate seasonings before, and I can't ever get the correct level of bitterness in there, since I can't taste it.

If you have any questions you'd like a food scientist to answer, please send an email to rwicke@fuchsna.com with the subject line "Questions for a Food Scientist." Then continually check this blog to see if you are one of the lucky few to receive an answer!

 For more information about our R&D team, click here

  • Adam Shaffer
  • Adam Shaffer
    Senior Food Scientist/Food Wizard

A Nashville Favorite

Posted by Adam Shaffer on 11/1/16

Welcome to Nashville

Hot chicken—the staple of Nashville cuisine is making its way across the United States, and Fuchs is here to help! In this post, we'd like to walk you through a little bit of history, a description of the product, and how Fuchs can get you the right ingredient to deliver hot chicken flavor on your products.

Sometime in the 1950s, if you believe the rumors, a man named Thornton Prince came home early one morning after a Saturday night out on the town. His wife, none too happy at his promiscuity, sought to teach him a lesson, and served his Sunday morning fried chicken with a little something extra: a heckuva kick of spice! Unfortunately for Mrs. Prince, her husband loved the hot chicken, and a Nashville tradition (and family business) was born. Nashville Hot Chicken

Many restaurants in Nashville now serve the iconic dish, but Prince's is still the gold standard. The spice blends at each restaurant are a closely guarded secret, but they all provide that grit-your-teeth, fan-your-mouth heat. In general, the cooks double-bread the chicken (two dips each in the egg wash and breading), then put it in the fryer for about twenty minutes. When the chicken is fully cooked, the cooks pull it out and set it aside, then mix some of the hot fryer oil into the spice blend to make a wet application spice. Then the cook will dredge the fried chicken in the spiced oil, place the piece of chicken on a slice of white bread, and top it with a few dill pickles before serving it to the customer.

So how does Fuchs translate a piece of fried chicken covered in a wet sauce into a dry seasoning blend for your product? Magic!

First, we have to consider all the components that make up the flavor profile. In this case, we have:


This would include the breading (flour and spices, maybe some onion and garlic), the oil, and the cooked/fried flavor


Everything tastes like chicken, but chicken tastes savory and slightly meaty


Cayenne pepper and its extracts are the go-to here


Cayenne pepper, paprika, and black pepper are identifiable in some of the milder versions, but each restaurant will have its own spin

White bread

Mostly there to soak up the excess oil and make the eating process more tolerable

Dill pickles

Dill, vinegar, and a little bit of cucumber

Then we have to use our food science skills to figure out what ingredients will give each taste. Natural flavors are quite useful for the fried, chicken, and pickle components; salt, yeast extracts, and monosodium glutamate are useful to make the seasoning taste like chicken; any number of Fuchs spices and spice extracts can be used for the heat and spice; and vinegar powder and ground dill can add a little bit of pickle tang to the finished product.

Now the real work begins: we have to take all the components listed above and combine them into a tasty product, while staying true to the flavor profile of our target dish, making it work in our customer's application process, and following any regulatory requirements asked of us (organic, Non-GMO Project compliant, no MSG, all natural, kosher...if you can think it, we've probably done it before). This can take many iterations and much trial and error (and the taste buds of many taste-testers), and that's boring to write about, so let's skip ahead.

Now we have our finished seasoning! We've already tried it in your application, current or potential customer, and it worked wonderfully. For samples of our Nashville Hot Chicken seasoning, or any of our other seasonings, click here.


  • Adam Shaffer
  • Adam Shaffer,
    Senior Food Scientist/Food Wizard

Spice Profile: Cinnamon

Posted by Adam Shaffer on 10/21/16

Cinnamon 1

Ah, cinnamon...the spice so good that Mother Nature herself had to make it twice. No, seriously: cassia cinnamon is the spice you consume in cinnamon buns and breakfast cereals, while Ceylon cinnamon is the one that's been in the news in the past for its healthful properties.

Granted, the different types of cinnamon come from different trees in different parts of the world, but they both have the same instantly recognizable warm spice flavor. Cinnamon can be the defining characteristic of a food (cinnamon buns, snickerdoodle cookies, cinnamon gum), part of a blend of dominant spices (ras el hanout, pumpkin spice, baharat), or as an accent note (many granolas will use honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar to help carry through the sweet brown flavors of the oats).Cinnamon 2

Cinnamon isn't only used in food; ancient Egyptians would place cinnamon inside their mummies to help control odor, much like modern humans use cinnamon-scented candles, potpourris, and wreaths in their homes. Cinnamon can also be used as an insect repellent; a few stick of cinnamon in a sachet inside a closet can help deter moths, while ground cinnamon can be used to deter ants from their chosen paths.

Let's not forget beverages; cinnamon is one of the defining spices in the autumn special pumpkin spice latte, and is the best part of Fireball whiskey. Speaking of, how about a recipe? This one was named after Eric Collins, a lab technician at Fuchs.

The Collins

1 shot Crown Royal whiskey
½ shot Fireball cinnamon whiskey
8 oz cream soda

Add all ingredients to glass and stir well.

Of course, it would be negligent of the author to not mention that Fuchs can supply cinnamon, along with dozens of other spices and hundreds of flavor profiles. To learn more about us, click here.


  • Adam Shaffer
  • Adam Shaffer,
    Food Wizard

Spicing Things Up with Garam Masala

Posted by Darla Byerly on 10/11/16

garam masala 2

As a food scientist with a background in spices and seasoning blends, people often assume I have culinary experience and love to cook. I always smile and say “I’m not a chef,” which reminds me of one particular chef who always reminds me “I’m not a scientist” (you know who you are).

garam masala 3When it comes to cooking at home, I’d qualify it as a “labor of love” rather than something I love to do. I’ve got about 5-6 main dishes that I make on a regular basis and can pull-off with my eyes closed. Admittedly, it requires some major inspiration for me to expand beyond those boundaries. Recently I had one of those inspirational moments and decided I wanted to make something with curry. I stumbled upon an interesting recipe that called for everything I had in my pantry, except Garam Masala. Of course I’m vaguely familiar enough with Garam Masala to know that it is a blend of spices commonly used in Indian cuisine, but if you asked me to name those spices, I’d have to smile and remind you that “I’m not a chef.” Fortunately for me, I work at Fuchs North America, and I found a formula for Garam Masala that I quickly mixed up and used in my recipe that night. Overall, the warm spices from the Garam Masala gave my dish a distinctively authentic taste, and it got two-thumbs-up from my husband! Not only did he enjoy a second helping during dinner, he had it again the next day for lunch and texted me multiple smiley faces!

So what is Garam Masala? Traditionally, Garam Masala is a blend of whole spices and seeds that are roasted and toasted prior to grinding to bring out the flavorful aromatics. However, you can put it together rather quickly by combining the following ground spices:garam masala 1

1 Tablespoon each: cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cloves

2 teaspoons each: cardamom, ginger

1 teaspoon each: coriander, nutmeg, mace

½ teaspoon: chili pepper

So whether you’re a chef, a scientist, or something completely different, I hope you feel inspired to make something new! Enjoy!


  • Darla Byerly
  • Darla Byerly
    Senior Food Scientist

Meet Elizabeth Lindemer

Fuchs’ Corporate Executive Chef

“As the chef for Fuchs North America, I have the opportunity to share my passion for food with our customers and help them overcome their culinary challenges every day.”

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