What Does Artisanal Mean?
The word “artisan” comes from French word, meaning “skilled worker” or “craftsman”, so it follows that artisanal referred to handmade or crafted products. This has evolved over time with the Tester-Hagen Amendment in the US, which restricts the use of the term “artisanal” to producers making less than 500,000 USD a year and selling at least 50% of their products direct to local consumers.

Do Consumers Buy Artisanal Products?
There is evidence of a strong trend towards buying artisanal products. In fact, over the past five years, there has been a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28% for artisanal food and beverage products.

Moreover, not only are consumers interested in buying artisanal food and beverage, but they are also willing to pay a significant premium for them if they feel that the brand has integrity.

Why Do They Buy Them?
When you dive into the reasons why artisanal food products are popular, it is because people want something unique and local to them, but also because there is a perception that artisanal foods are more likely to contain high quality, natural ingredients.

In order to retain this point of difference and live up to their customers’ expectations, most artisans prefer not to use artificial flavours, opting instead for natural ones. Natural flavours are usually made by extracting essences or oils from naturally occurring organisms, such as plants. This is in contrast to artificial flavours, which are synthetically produced.

It should be noted that some larger brands have tried to capitalise on the trend towards artisanal products by launching new products that try to reap commercial benefits from the association, whilst still being mass-produced. Notable examples are “Artisan Doritos” and “Artisan Bagels (from Dunkin’ Donuts). This has led to a fair degree of scepticism from consumers and in recent years, inclusion in legislation such as the Tester-Hagen Amendment in order to protect real artisans. As a consequence, artisanal food is still very much an enduring trend but it is crucial for real craftsmen to make sure that they keep their brand promises and highlight what sets them apart from larger producers.

Why Use Flavours?
By using flavours, food producers are able to create nuanced and varied taste profiles in a cost effective and practical way. For example, companies like Quest are able to produce natural flavours that are heat-stable and allow a reasonable shelf life.

Flavours also allow artisans to easily experiment with new product development. This is vital for smaller producers as quick decision making and the freedom to experiment is a key advantage that they have over larger competitors.

How to Buy Flavours for Artisanal Food
For artisans, it is critical that their flavour suppliers are able to give them full details, specifications and ideally the provenance of the flavours that are going to be incorporated into products.
Many artisans commit to only using sustainably produced ingredients, so understanding where these ingredients come from and how they are produced is necessary to fulfil that promise.

Given that artisans do not have an in-house R&D department, leveraging the expertise of a trusted flavour supplier is invaluable when it comes to New Product Development (NPD). Quest, for example, has a large R&D department that can also provide advice on flavour combinations, reverse engineer competing products and ensure consistency.