National Flavors LLC
National Flavors completed construction of a new 36,000-square-foot headquarters at 3680 Stadium Park Way in Oshtemo in 2018. Its multi-million dollar investment created space for new offices, labs, manufacturing, and distribution. It continues to maintain a location on Crosstown Parkway in Kalamazoo for warehousing and distribution.
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
Dan Hinkle, President
A TALE OF TWO JACKS AND JOHNS
National Products was started in Kalamazoo in 1941 by a father and son team, Jack and John Polzin. Jack was a sales representative for another flavor company. John just graduated from Kalamazoo College with a degree in chemistry following his return from service in the U.S. Army during WWII.
Across town in Otsego, another Jack—Jack Hinkle—founded a bakery in the 1950s. Along with his wife Marilyn and sons, John and Ron, the family baked Long Johns, apple fritters, butter flake rolls, cookies, cakes, and breads.
The two families did business together over the years as the flavor company helped the bakery’s products taste delicious. When it came time to leave his family’s business, John Hinkle joined the renamed National Flavors in 1995. His son Dan followed suit in 2008. As part of the company’s succession plan, Dan purchased the company in 2012.
THE PURE TASTE OF JOY
“We deliver joy through flavor,” says Dan Hinkle. “Our customers make experiential products that are consumed for enjoyment. When consumers eat ice cream on a hot summer’s day with their kids, our mission is to help that ice cream taste great, enhance their experience, and bring a small amount of joy into their lives.”
THE EVOLUTION OF FLAVOR
“When you go to the grocery store, look at the variety of products on the shelf in every category. Whether it’s a beverage, frozen dessert, or cereal, it’s an incredible time
for consumers. From third-party certifications like organic,
fair trade, or GMO-free to different combinations of flavors
or ethnic foods, there is something for everyone.
Flavor is a key differentiator and is the No. 1 reason consumers buy the brands that they do,” explains Hinkle.
PACKAGING UP FLAVOR
National Flavors blends essential oils, botanical extracts, fruit, fruit juices, essences, distillates, and aromatic compounds to enhance the flavor of foods and beverages. Their product is in liquid form and shipped to the customer to be used as a key ingredient in customer’s recipes for frozen desserts, baked good, confections, beverages, and fruit preparation products like applesauce and pie filling.
YUM. THAT’S TASTY!
National Flavors ships over three million pounds of flavors
representing 1,200 SKUs (stock keeping units) to more than
1,000 customers annually.
THE FLAVOR CHEMIST
“Every essential oil has hundreds of components. To understand each of those components individually, a flavorist has to be familiar with several thousand raw materials to understand the finished product. Heating and cooling processes also affect flavors in varying ways. In ice cream, flavors compete with sweetener and fat. In a baked good that’s going to be heated at 300 degrees for half an hour, heat will impact the flavor differently. To formulate changes in flavors for a baked good versus a frozen product, you need to understand the fundamentals of how the processing conditions impact the flavor of the product,” says Hinkle.
“R&D team members typically come to us with a science-based degree such as organic chemistry or food science. They then train as an apprentice under a certified Flavor Chemist. After five years they take a test to achieve Junior Flavorist Certification. After two more years, they take their final test to allow them to become a Certified Flavorist through the Society of Flavor Chemists.”
Product developers constantly come up with ideas for new products. To support their quest to be first to market, National Flavors developed a streamlined sampling service called Flavorush. Within 24 hours, a flavor sample can be sent to the customer who would have to wait five to ten additional days for a sample to arrive from one of National Flavors’ competitors.
- Breakfast is no longer reserved for the morning; consumers want to taste cereal milk, cinnamon bun, and French Toast all day.
- One of the most popular flavors, Birthday Cake, saw a 57-percent increase in new product releases from 2016 to 2017, according to data from Global Data Group Intelligence.
- The addition of boozy flavors to foods is also a current craze with bourbon, Irish Cream, Mai Tai, Margarita, Mojito, and Sangria infusions.
- Consumers who look for clean and natural labels choose products tasting like chai tea, cinnamon, ginger, and grapefruit extract.
- Farm-to-table trends continue, and Michigan apple, blueberry, and cherry flavors are top picks!
WHO WORKS THERE?
Research and development (including flavor chemists), production, shipping/receiving, administrative, quality control, regulatory, information technology.
INTERESTED IN A CAREER?
Visit www.nationalflavors.com/Home/WhoWeAre#wwa-careers for more information.