Dealing with flavors all day, evaluating  food and beverages, smelling, and tasting, trying to distinguish the flavors – and doing it all in a multicultural group of other young people: Five Symrise junior staff members are in the Flavor Academy to become flavorists and fulfill their career dreams. 


The first thing that stands out when the Flavor Academy doors open is the laughter. They laugh a lot, and often. Five staff members, between 21 and 31 years of age, study, and have fun during their flavorist training course even though the program is ambitious and thus involves a very intensive workload. Two of these young talents are Suttipong Phosuksirikul from Thailand’s capital Bangkok and Diana Salazar from Mexico City – the other trainees are from Singapore, Germany and the USA.

Suttipong Phosuksirikul and Diana Salazar are now standing with Master Flavorist Thomas Riess at a lab table. They have cut through three mandarins and are smelling the fresh, orange segments. “Fruity, juicy and peely, unique,” says Salazar of the smell. “Ester-like and aldehydic,” complements Suttipong ­Phosuksirikul. In the subsequent step, both will identify the molecules that could be used to replicate the aroma of this citrus fruit. They start with a list and brainstorm together about which substances and in which proportions they would include. Then they take the small glass containers with the selected aroma molecules from the shelf and weigh them very accurately. Salazar uses pipettes to transfer drops of the seven, eight ingredients they have chosen to a beaker. Sometimes it’s just 0.1 ppm, sometimes 10 ppm – parts per million that all contribute to the final taste. They experiment, make a lot of trials and ­record their experiences.

Students get to know 500 different substances at the Academy.

“With the Flavor Academy we can transfer the same level of knowledge across all global locations and promote exchange.”

Katharina Reichelt
Head of the Flavor Academy

Training for young talents

The exercise is intended to show the students, all with completed professional studies, how complex flavors are. “They get to know 500 different ingredients in the Flavor Academy that they must be able to recognize and use in compositions,” describes Master Flavorist Thomas Riess, who has worked in the company for 30 years. Alongside 30 to 40 other experienced colleagues, he guides and teaches the five trainee flavorists. The team provides a broad training program, from flavorist profession to application, regulatory expertise and presentation techniques to glimpses into production.

Dr. Katharina Reichelt, who has participated in the training program almost 10 years ago, also leads the Academy alongside the group of research flavorists. “The school has existed for 15 years. Previously, flavorists were trained on the job,” explains the graduated nutrition scientist about the Academy’s beginnings. As Symrise grew globally, it became clear that it would make sense to create an aligned, bundled flavorist training program for the Taste, Nutrition & Health segment. “With the Flavor Academy, part of the Food & Beverage division, we can transfer the same level of knowledge across all global locations and promote exchange with the main office in Holzminden and also between the other locations.” According to Katharina Reichelt, around 20 candidates every year either apply for the program or are referred to the training by their managers.

Katharina Reichelt went through the Flavor Academy herself  and is now responsible for training the next generation of employees.

The young people are then evaluated in a lavish assessment center. Relevant previous knowledge is an important prerequisite. They are trained chemical lab technicians or have a bachelor’s degree in food chemistry, chem­istry or nutrition and at least two years of job experience. “We need people who can communicate well, because they will end up having a lot of customer contacts and, most importantly, they have to work as a team,” says ­Reichelt. They also must be good with trends, or at least interested in them, have basic technical knowledge and be sensory fit, of course. “In the assessment center, for ex­ample, they have to memorize smell and taste impressions of the first day and be able to recognize and describe them the next day,” explains the experienced flavorist.

Creative apprenticeship years

From October of the respective year, the five selected young talents come to the Flavor Academy in Holzminden. Here, they first learn a common language of taste which they can use to talk about flavors and smells. They work with terms such as “earthy,” “woody” or “car­amel,” and connect these with flavor raw materials they have tried.

They then familiarize themselves with various raw materials, tasting and describing them, from individual substances such as vanillin to essential oils, extracts or ester compounds. Another task is to taste ready-made market products, recreate their taste and explain the process to each other. “It could be that a customer later says, ‘I like the taste, but the green notes don’t fit,’” Reichelt gives as an example. The team then must change the green notes like grass or bell pepper and consider how these integrate with other flavor notes.

Around 20 candidates apply to the school every year.

Together, the budding flavorists smell hundreds of different flavors.

Diana Salazar deals in depth with the taste and scent of many different products.  

The basic training lasts until the end of May of the following year and involves an interim test. After this, the five trainee flavorists go back to their home countries for a training on the job module. There, they work closely with an experienced flavorist in their daily work and sometimes change location or division. They then return to Holzminden for their final exam – their masterpiece – which is due at the end of the two-year program. “They get a project briefing modeled on that of a customer,” explains Reichelt. “They have two and a half weeks time to create a flavor composition that has various requirements. For example, they may only use natural raw materials and must keep to a certain product cost budget.”

If they pass the exam, they will be promoted to Junior Flavorists. After another two years, they can be promoted to Flavorists and after eight to ten years, to Senior or Master Flavorist. “We really want young people to see a career path with us,” says Reichelt. “This is why we rely heavily on in-house talents that we already know and that we have a connection with.”

Creating good taste with a scientific basis is something that really speaks to me. Diana Salazar, Student

Passion for the job

For Diana Salazar, the job is already a dream. “After an internship in the beverage application lab, I worked as an assistant to a Flavorist at Symrise and got to know the work that way,” the 26-year-old remembers. The job involves a lot of the things she loves: She studied mathematics and chemistry and likes to cook, mostly the many Mexican dishes from her home country. She is also a dancer and choreographer. “Creating good taste with a scientific basis is something that really speaks to me,” she says. Her classmate Suttipong Phosuksirikul confirms this with an energetic nod. The 31-year-old’s family owns a small restaurant. Cooking has always been in his path and no matter where he is, he always tries the local specialties. After completing his mas­ter’s degree in food technology and working in various jobs in the industry, he has now been at Symrise for two and a half years. “As soon as I heard about the Flavor Academy, I was in,” says Phosuksirikul. “The link between science and creative cuisine is absolutely ideal for me.”