For many decades, food flavors have been used for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications, despite the considerations and requirements for both applications being very 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. Certain demographics are more willing to overlook poor tasting medicine, children are not one of them.

Flavor in medicine transforms treatment from a chore into a choice, making healing a tasteful journey - Manuel Meyer, Innovation Scientist


The customer had a children’s ibuprofen that was already on the shelf. They knew their product had bitterness and a lingering burning sensation, but wanted to add a new flavor and remove the off- notes. The customer sent us their base which allowed us to formulate an array of flavor technologies to get the best result.

Technical Work

First, our technical team tasted the base to determine which off- notes were present. In this case, the base had a bitter taste and lingering burn. Off-notes can either be masked, off-set or amplified by certain flavors. For example, citrus flavors that have had terpenes removed can off-set bitter notes while those containing terpenes can amplify them. The customer had pre-selected two flavors, so working with these parameters we knew we’d have to add our taste modulator, Smoothenol®, in conjunction with the flavor. Smoothenol®, a natural flavor, is an effective masker/blocker used to address a wide variety of product issues like bitterness, astringency, metallic notes, chalkiness, sourness.

Technical began by adding the first flavor to the base to see how it specifically affected the off-notes. Through trials, it was determined that while increasing the amount of flavor helped diminish the bitter effect, it was not enough to offset the lingering burn. Smoothenol® was then introduced into the formulation. After three trials, technical found the perfect mixture between the flavor and Smoothenol®. The final product had a very well-balanced flavor with no lingering burn sensation.

Technical then began work on the second flavor. This was a concentrated flavor and therefore adding in the same usage level as the first flavor did not work. 10X less was used to get the same bitter masking results. Smoothenol® was added in the same concentration. The reduction in flavor not only saved the customer money, but also created a better flavor profile.

Both flavors were sent to the customer for their own panel testing and unanimously were approved.


The impact of flavor in medicine should not be underestimated, with better flavors improving patients’ acceptance and experience. Unpleasant flavors can create aversion to medicines and brands. Flavoring can mask the bitterness or other off- notes, but adding more flavor is not always the right solution.

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

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