Marking 140 years of flavour extraction at its Italian site, Synergy Flavours’ technical manager, Giorgio Ferluga, discusses flavour innovation, extraction techniques and what the future holds for Synergy Italy. Giorgio has worked at the company’s site in Trieste for 32 years – before and since Synergy’s acquisition – and is directly involved in flavour creation. He also heads the search for new flavour-creation techniques and equipment.
A history of flavour extraction in Trieste
Formerly known as Janoušek, the business was set up in Prague by the Janoušek brothers in 1883, who started producing and mixing extracts, infusions, distillates and essential oils for liqueurs and food products. It was the third largest supplier of natural flavours and extracts in the world and operated offices in Italy, Barcelona and Vienna. While the Prague site was nationalised following World War II, the Italy operation based in Trieste lived on to serve customers both in Italy and further afield.
The 1990s saw major changes for Janoušek. The onset of the Balkan war led to the company losing 70% of its sales, which at the time was largely made up of customers from ex-Yugoslavia, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Janoušek had to adapt quickly and find new customers. As taste preferences can differ widely across regions, the team had to learn about and cater to new markets quickly.
While very challenging at the time, this adaptability has become a strength, as Synergy Italy now prides itself on servicing new and changing markets to meet consumer preferences. The site has gone from strength to strength since cooperative group Carbery acquired it in 2018 when it became a division of Synergy Flavours.
Traditional techniques and modern methods for extraction
Synergy Italy uses traditional extraction techniques as a complement to modern flavour technologies. Sometimes traditional techniques are the best fit, but this is assessed product-by-product. For example, Synergy Italy’s traditional Maraschino flavour, a cherry liqueur produced by alcoholic distillation of Maraska cherries, was created 40 years ago and remains popular today.
Synergy Italy produces flavours unique to the region, leveraging its heritage and expertise in extraction methods. For example, the Italian provenance citrus range, which includes Sicilian mandarin, Italian blood orange and Calabrian lemon flavours, comprises natural infusions, washes and distillates, to support manufacturers with incorporating true Italian citrus flavours in whatever way is most suitable for their product. As the Italian style of food and drink remains popular around the world, Synergy’s location, access to the best Italian raw materials and ability to use a variety of methods to capture authentic flavour notes makes its offering attractive to manufacturers.
When manufacturers deal with natural ingredients, attention to detail is critical – dealing with these ingredients is a craft. For example, Synergy’s hop essence range has been developed using modern steam distillation techniques that ensure a clean flavour delivery without the added bitterness that is common in traditional dry-hopping techniques. This means that the essences are suitable for traditional beer products and low- and no-alcohol beers, addressing increased consumer demand for these options.
The future of flavour extraction at Synergy Italy
Since the acquisition, the headcount at the Trieste site has grown by more than 60%, and the company has retained the vast majority of staff working at Janoušek before the acquisition. Synergy Italy has also onboarded distributors to expand its geographical reach and currently has distributors across 11 countries.
The company is in safe hands with Synergy, and the site’s revenue has almost doubled since its acquisition in 2018. Now, the team is looking to invest in more equipment for the laboratory to continue innovating in flavour development and help its customers overcome the taste challenges of today and the future. Synergy has preserved the heritage of the Trieste site while making it more competitive and modernised, all while investing in the local community with initiatives such as keeping nearby streets clean of litter and regular donations to the local hospital.
To find out more about how Synergy Flavours supports customers in Italy and around the world, visit the website here.
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