Airdate: Jan 19, 2009
Scientist: Joan Harvey
KSC Flavor - Secrets
Want to know what's in Dr. Pepper? Don't ask the company's flavor director.
"Do we have top secret flavors? Of course we do. There's one formula that there's only like four people in the world that know what go into that formula. It's under lock and key. Everything is very top secret."
This secret recipe for the Dr. Pepper soft drink is so classified that even Joan Harvey isn't privy to it, and she's the director of flavor development at the company where it's made. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. So how do you go about trying to create or replicate a cola recipe? With the right training, you can come pretty close.
"If you're an analytical flavorist, you may be able to tear them apart and try to put them back together, and you can get pretty close. If I'm looking to make a cola flavor, what I would do is I would go out and buy all the cola flavors, and taste them. In most formulations I can taste three base ingredients. And that's a spice flavor, which is a cinnamon; I can taste vanillin, and citrus. Citrus, I say lime. So I take those three ingredients, I'll combine the three of those things together, you get the right ratio, you'll get someone to say it's a cola flavor."
Joan Harvey has conducted this exercise with kids, and there's always one who makes the cola connection.
"That's what makes flavor science so exciting. Because you start out with 10 ingredients that are very distinct, and when you combine them together they don't smell like any one of those things by themselves."
You think you can figure out what goes into different flavors? Play the flavor savor game at kidsciencechallenge.com. The Kids' Science Challenge is a competition for 3rd to 6th graders to come up with new ideas for scientists like Joan Harvey to solve. That's kidsciencechallenge.com
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.