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At tasting parties, with the bean in one hand and the real deal in the other, food scientists, marketers, and executives silently rate the fidelity of the flavor.They hold up signs with numbers, and if the overall rating is not an 8, 9, or 10, the flavor doesn't pass on to the next stage of development, Brasher says.
"[When] we were developing a pumpkin spice flavor and added cloves, that rang the dentist office bell for me," he laughs.
"I hate that flavor." It just brings back too many memories.
Out of drum after drum, all down the room, come smells evoking everything from apple pie to piña coladas to freshly mown grass.
Here, at the Jelly Belly candy factory, memories are reincarnated as jelly beans.
When they began development of the chili mango bean, Elise Bernstein, a food scientist, says, they descended on a local Trader Joe's and spirited bag after bag of the chili-covered fruit to their labs for tasting.
Sourcing inspirational ingredients is a matter of utmost importance in the design of a flavor.
With the precision of chemists, they mix batches with slightly different amounts of each component, adding compounds like aldehydes for a fresh green flavor, or esters for a fruity note. "In the flavor industry, we sometimes say one plus one equals three," reflects Lee: mix pear with orange, for example, and what you get is peach.
In addition, special compounds must be deployed to make flavors meld with the properties of their "vehicle," as the vessel for the flavor is known.
And she recalls the way the air tastes when it's full of sugar from wandering the factory floor as a small child, watching row upon row of candy corn kernels ride up conveyor belts to be shipped.
For Bernstein, that special memory is of a certain spice cookie she ate as a child when her family lived in Germany: "Whenever I taste those, I go back to that time, when I was eleven or twelve. the amounts of them, the way they're mixed, there's nothing else like it." Lee, who once made a raw garlic bean by mistake, is ever the maverick: cloves still remind him of youthful dentist office visits.