When savouring the latest tailor-made taste sensations at food giants such as KFC, Wimpy, Vovo Telo and McDonalds, Chrissy Beedle may be the taste architect that worked alongside these groups to inspire some of their refreshing beverages.
Beedle, Slo-Jo’s Executive Manager of Research and Product Development, is a self-taught taste architect with 16 years of creating flavours across South Africa’s leading restaurant chains, having refined her palate in confectionaries, the banking sector and airlines.
From a brief from a client, she is able to produce innovative products that lead taste trends in the local market. We had the opportunity to learn more about her career, travel influences and how she has throughout the years fine-tuned her palate.
What’s a day in the life of a taste architect?
I’m more of a late-night owl, rather than an early riser, working late, often with our partners in the US. There’s prepping or holding client presentations for their next menus, conducting trend research, coaching staff, co-ordinating research and development on our product lines, lots of product testing, re-engineering product formulations and developing new ones. Somewhere in between, there is dinner with my hubby and son – Italian, of course! Fresh and homemade. It’s a 24/7-hour job that requires constant passion for what I do.
How do you keep abreast of taste trends?
Constantly shopping with my eyes. From work to play, everything inspires and leans towards a specific trend of sorts. Trend spotting on social media, colour, seasons and fashion trends sometimes even spill over to beverages if you know how to look at them! Keep an eye out for popcorn, s’mores and caramel flavours that you will be seeing a lot more in the future. Travelling and experiencing authentic flavours in each country as well as keeping an eye on commercial chains and their successes.
How does travel influence your work?
Very much! It’s nice to know what the world is doing globally, but at the same time I know that we (South Africa) are normally about 2 -3 years behind a real big trend. Green matcha is still new here, and we’ve been watching it since 2014. Another great example is the trend towards cold brewed coffee – it’s been around for ever all over the world, but is only really becoming more mainstream now. Besides experiencing new and exciting flavours across the globe, travel has also opened my eyes to creative and innovative ways to present our delicious beverages like glassware, garnishing, etc. New trends abroad also help us stay ahead of our industry by being able to figure what needs to be developed and re-adapted for the South African palate and taste at the right time for the market.
What would you say are the unique flavours or qualities Africa has unique to the rest of the globe when if comes to flavours?
We like things on the sweeter side. Most of our notes tend to lean towards slightly sweet on all our products developed. However, we have a large percentage of our population that likes it spicy and hot. Think Ginger Beer and Chakalaka. Probably our favourite flavours as a nation include those that take us back – or have a nostalgic note to them. Think Milk Tart, Lemon Creams, Peppermint Crisp, very South African and great flavours for us to work with for our local brand chain stores. But for those of us that enjoy a healthier alternative like fruit, we have refreshing alternatives like fruit crushes available that our market loves like mango, mixed berry, granadilla and lemonade.
What can we expect from Slo-Jo in the near future?
Continued ongoing development, new product lines and exciting new product flavours. We have some exciting vending solutions such as chai, caramel, coconut, non-GMO powders on the rise and for those of you who enjoy our decadent range, you can now enjoy our ‘skinny range’ too, which boasts no compromise on taste and flavour. Our Skinny chocolate, coffee and chai range is now also available at Mugg & Bean. There is never a boring moment at the Slo-Jo Flava Factory where my team and I of Taste Architects play every day!