For many decades, food flavors have been used for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications, despite the considerations and requirements for both applications being vastly different. Food-designed flavors lack the functionality and ability to effectively function in complex, active environments – like those in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products. While historically flavors were only utilized for their profile attributes, the need for flavors with inherent masking properties has become a global requirement. 

Active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) inherently have unpleasant flavor profiles – astringent, bitter, metallic, to name a few. Due to these off-notes, the importance of flavor in medicine cannot be understated. Unfavorable or poor tasting medicine can lead to taste aversion which in turn can lead to negative associations to the brand.   

"More than 90% of pediatricians reported that a drug’s taste and palatability are the biggest barriers to completing treatment" (1)

Flavors Role in Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Products 

Flavoring is as much about taste as it is smell. Smell is responsible for about 80% of what people taste. There are four basic tastes that we can detect without a sense of smell: salty, bitter, sweet, and sour. To fully experience more complex flavors, smell and taste are required. With the addition of popular or emerging flavors, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies can entice consumers and differentiate their products from the competition. (3), (4) 

Palatability & Masking APIs 

Consumers are much more likely to adhere to a regimen if the product tastes good. This is especially important in the OTC and nutraceutical market. Active pharmaceutical ingredients present challenges when it comes to flavoring medicines. APIs usually come with off-notes that can lead to taste aversion with medications. Adding flavor or taste maskers can alleviate those off- notes to create a better experience for the consumer. 

Enhanced Experience 

Products that have unpleasant flavor profiles are not well received by consumers. A bad taste will negatively impact the brand. Creating a greatflavored product will make the experience for the consumer that much better. A better tasting product has a much higher repurchase likelihood than a product with an unpleasant taste. 


Product differentiation is pivotal in today’s market. With so many products on the market, something must set you apart from the competition. Many OTC/ and nutra products have no flavoring at all. Since 2021, 48% of healthcare products have been unflavored or plain. Adding a unique and appealing flavor can set your product apart from the competition. (2) 


Children and adults have different sensitivities in regard to flavor. Finding a flavor that fits well with the target demographic is key.  


Flavoring is not just about making the product taste better; it is a strategic element that can significantly impact consumer acceptance, adherence; and ultimately the success of the pharmaceutical or nutraceutical product.  

The impact of flavor in medicine should not be underestimated, with better flavors improving patients’ experience. 

Formulators should consider the complexity of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products and their inherent challenges. Applying the same principles as food simply does not work.  

At Sensient, we offer unapparelled flavor capabilities that cater to the diverse needs of the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. Sensient delivers tailor-made flavor solutions that enhance product palatability, mask unpleasant tastes and differentiate brands in a competitive market landscape. Through innovative technologies, extensive research and a passion for sensory experiences, Sensient empowers brands to create products that not only meet but exceed consumer expectations. Contact us to get more information on our flavor capabilities. 

1. Milne CP, Bruss JB. The economics of pediatric formulation development for off-patent drugs. Clin Ther. 2008;30(11):2133–2145

2. Mintel GNPD

3. Taste-Smell Connection - Science World. (2020, June 30). Science World.,foods%20seem%20bland%20or%20tasteless.

4. Rusinko, R. J. (2023, August 10). The art of crafting flavorful supplements: Enhancing brand loyalty through taste. Nutritional Outlook.

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