Flavorist Deborah Dolen
In autumn of last year I went to Germany, Italy, France, and Spain to discover new flavors and techniques.
As far as flavor formulas and compounds go I do consider “FlavorArt” in Italy my “gold standard” for Flavor Laboratories back in the states – because like my company, they will spend the money on high impact very tasty ingredients that cost thousands a kilo and not settle for a bare basic flavor notes that are far more inexpensive and “get close enough” but we know not AS good to the target flavor profile. I do not know of any flavor house except FlavorArt that will allow their flavorist to pick perfect but pricey materials to build a flavor formula. Expensive flavor materials has been my “edge” and my customers and my customers customers do notice. Europe was also very important to me because the European Union does have some of the highest standards in the world when it comes to flavor materials, which materials they limit or flat out ban and why – first only to California and their Propositions.
Competing with China on Our Own Turf
Regarding the eliquid world – one thing I learned in Europe and recently from my own bottlers here in the states is that the demand for vaping in China is FAR greater than our own consumption and at the same time the demand for “American made” has Chinese mogul merchants keeping our US based bottlers (also known as co-packers) extremely busy. You may have heard the joke “There is a city in China called America” well, we can now say there is a city in America named “China.” This made it more clear to me why I had to be aggressive last year in raw materials purchasing because I am up against the sheer demand of the same materials to supply China who is buying it up.
Steeping Eliquid Allows for a Full Bouquet of Molecules
Another thing I learned in Europe is steeping of eliquid has a lot of merit. I had always felt a great flavor does not need to be “steeped” and I was very wrong. A chemist in France showed me why and it took awhile for me to even get over my shock. He suggested even three weeks was great for most (but not all) flavors to “develop in a full bouquet” in the base substrate. Citrus flavors are a main exception as they are most flavorful from day one and tend to fade over time.
Quick Notes on Perfume Formulation
As a side trip I took a perfume compounding class by master perfumer at Galimard in Grasse, France. If your into DIY perfume construction click here for notes on that Perfume Construction by Deborah Dolen. Barcelona was my favorite and you could walk for miles all night in Las Ramblas looking at artists and food trucks that line the streets as well as fueling up at endless coffee [Espresso] shops to keep on walking. The Espresso shops mainly served a million different ways to serve bruschetta which I also found a very common offering in London and other countries. The states is far more into decadent and fatty fast food than Europe. My primary goal in Barcelona was to watch the coffee operations and visit, of all things, oxygen bars. Yes, we flavor oxygen too. I planned to return home to the states to open Steam & Bean. This has been a LONG time coming.
Eliquid Materials Cannot be Marketed as Generally Recognized as Safe
Just before my trip to Europe I attended an annual October four day global Flavorist Conference on Longboat Key, Florida with some of the worlds most renowned flavorists, and attended industry regulation FDA meetings – The main point of interest at the global conference was the head of FEMA – (flavor materials that have GRAS status) [Generally Recognized as Safe] spoke about his frustration with eliquid endeavors advertising their ingredients as having GRAS status. GRAS flavor materials have never been tested for inhalation
and although I vape, I stood up and admitted I vape but agreed no one should be offering “GRAS” status as an inducement to buy eliquid. I vape at my own risk. He made it clear letters were being sent to any entity involved in the practice to stop doing it. This caused distention and a lot of hand raising by some who were present and doing it. Silly questions like “How do WE know what the end use is?”
VG Based Flavor Concentrates – There is a Way
At this conference I also learned HOW to formulate using VG and not PG as my carrier. I never believed an allergy to PG was possible until it happened to me one day, testing a flavor way too much. I got a rash. I had vaped an obscene amount that day testing flavor. So this led me to need VG when possible as my carrier. Another flavor chemist at the annual conference told me exactly how to do it but it requires a machine that is a hundred grand. He had the equipment two hours away. I sent him my hardest and most VG hating materials – and it came back LOVELY! I sent him West Indian Lime and it tasted JUST like a lime Lifesaver if not better. No PG involved. During that time I had placed orders on line for the few companies claiming to have VG only formulations and they were very expensive with no discount. I later found it was because the flavor was gross and not close to the claimed taste as well as not even concentrated. I deduced they made so much money off the first sale they never need repeat business. It was that simple. I will say a FEW flavors can be done this way without expensive equipment but it is JUST a few. We will soon offer a line of VG only based flavors but they will be a short list to start. Not every flavor formula works as well as the lime did and I need to modify and study each and every one of my formulas. I decided to begin with our top ten sellers as not to be overwhelmed on my own time commitments.
New Flavors 2016
New flavors for 2016 happen to be also perfect for Valentines Day – they include: Strawberry Milk it tastes like what you remember as well as the “Milk Man”), Cake Batter (tastes like cake sprinkles in cake batter) [that was the best I could do without the troublesome butter notes] and my staff finds quite tasty but the long shot was our last years Beach Fruit which became our number one best seller over the holidays which really was not expected in the holiday run at all. The resales of Beach Fruit is impressive. Ambrosia is also another good flavor inspired by the more sophisticated shisha market.
Ambrosia is basically our famous mandarin orange with coconut, pineapple and marshmallow. Those who own our blending kit can mix them at 25% each and have a great selling new flavor.
Other great selling flavors for Valentines (that can also be marketed successfully Mother’s Day) also include red hots, chocolate and cherries as well as cotton candy.
Other top selling flavors still include our Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry Jam, Lemon Pound Cake and our Vanilla.
Our First Test Kitchen – Steam & Bean, Inc
Steam & Bean, Inc became the final name for our first brick and mortars store and “flavor test kitchen” located in Palmetto, Florida, serving a variety of coffee drinks as well as almost any flavored eliquid you can imagine. We will also make candy there, fudge and other sweets. We even make cotton candy to test our flavor and that is done by adding two drops of our flavor on a sugar cube and tossing it in a cotton candy maker. We just use the cotton candy makers sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
I thank everyone who offered ideas on choosing the name. The contest was in oru las newsletter. It was a VERY fun experience and a lot of people participated immediately. My staff at Steam & Bean uses my proprietary basic 40 flavor kit that makes over 140 flavors to flavor coffee beans or eliquid. I chose these two products because both are lucrative, fit well and will stay strong even in a bad economy.
As far as regulations and vaping — I feel when any regulations come down about vaping – if they are too stringent, the coffee side will still be very healthy and if you only own a vape shop – your same flavor can be used for flavoring coffee beans. I also have coffee shops coming to me wanting to add a vape line. I give them the same advise about the situation below – “great – but separate the two liquids…as I discuss in detail below…”
Potential Regulations on Eliquid
So, let’s talk about that for a minute. Any regulations will at minimum require the separation of candy like flavors from nicotine bases. This will happen sooner than later. Any other more stringent regulations will take months if not years and be contested and dragged on in the courts.
Too many attorneys are vaping and there is too much money at stake.
Not to mention a LOT of people have been able to quit smoking and quit vaping altogether.
But the separation of fun flavors that attract youth will most likely happen this year-if not just on a state level. Parents are upset (although MANY parents tell me they are HAPPY to know eliquid is ALL
their teen is doing and support it,) I still get weird comments such as some parent thanked me VERY publicly on Twitter
for selling their 15 year old eliquid – when I never sold them eliquid. I have over 130,000 Twitter followers so this was embarrassing. I guess her child ordered flavor on-line and used it to make it.
So this is one example of why there will be a separation and a bigger spike in the DIY market soon. Today I was at 7-11 and noticed RJ Reynolds is ONLY selling TWO flavors of eliquid. Tobacco and Menthol. That is when I was SURE this is coming. RJ already KNOWS it and why they are not investing in a bunch of a variety of already flavors-atleast in the United States.
What to Do? Sell it SEPARATELY.
We sell our eliquid UNFLAVORED in a one ounce glass dropper bottle that is HALF full. We tamper seal the bottle, and have always used child proof caps, age restrictions as well as proper warning labeling. But the separation of flavor and nicotine allows the customer to add their own flavor and it also prevents us from dedicating our nicotine base to a flavor that may suddenly become unpopular while a new flavor becomes the “craze.” So this method actually saves money. We offer flavor independently and this can be as a side gift or a straight sale of just flavor. No one can regulate flavor if there is no nicotine or other banned ingredients in it. I have always told my vape customers to train their customers to add their own flavor early in their business endeavor. It’s been hard for them to listen with a zillion cool looking brands out there with already mixed eliquid. But I feel many brands will become worthless overnight because of this primary issue at hand.
And to answer your question before you write me or comment…yes the dose would be double if they added no flavoring at all – but it would taste awful and you would have to be crazy to want to vape unflavored eliquid. So the definite assumption is the end user should add something – even if it is lame vanilla extract from home. The reason I do not believe RJ Reynolds will do as well as they think is because the very nature of vaping is SOCIAL as is true with coffee shops. Customers enjoy going to a shop or lounge for social reasons, above and beyond just the pursuit of a good coffee or vape. It’s the human interaction and relationships RJ Reynolds cannot buy.
Learning to make a variety of coffees and even how to run a coffee shop are all over YouTube and I invested many hours mesmerized by the amount of talent and help out there. They even have Barista competitions! The best video tutorials I saved for training videos for my own staff. And yes, we are having a total blast at the new Steam and Bean. My entire community is very supportive of the concept.