Blue Mountain Flavors: Partner in Food Innovation
January 20, 2021
Blue Mountain Flavors’ mission is to empower customers to flavor the foods of the future. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for this company to support the mission of the NC Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL).
Started in Indianapolis by Dr. Bill Baugher, Blue Mountain Flavors has been family-owned and operated since 1988. Now headquartered in Kinston, NC, the company develops a broad range of savory flavors, including kosher and halal products, in dry, oil-based or water-based formulas.
Meet Dr. Jon Baugher
Dr. Jon Baugher is the current President of Blue Mountain Flavors, but he’s been familiar with it for much longer as Jon’s father started the company. Jon did his due diligence by earning a bachelor’s of science at James Madison University and then master’s and doctoral degrees in Food Science from NC State University.
Even with his strong background, Baugher said, “Nothing could have prepared me for being President in 2020. There was just no playbook.” Blue Mountain Flavors has been less impacted by COVID than other food manufacturers, mainly because the company has seven separate production rooms rather than large assembly lines, but it was a challenging year nonetheless.
Expert Flavor Purveyors
Blue Mountain Flavors’ products are developed at two manufacturing sites in Kinston. One site focuses on reaction flavors, which can be oil-soluble or water-soluble flavors. Reaction flavors are manufactured using combinations of heat, pressure and specific ingredients to create consumer perceivable flavors termed as “notes”. The company sells existing flavors to customers, or they can help a company develop a flavor from scratch.
Blue Mountain Flavors can make sunflower oil have a fried chicken note or apply a roasted note to canola oil. Rather than grilling or frying a product, Blue Mountain Flavors can make a note to use at low levels and impart that desired flavor to the finished product.
The other manufacturing site focuses on dry blending. Here, food scientists create novel flavors to add to spices and blends used for products like gravy and soup. These dry flavors can be easily incorporated into finished products, regardless of the production equipment. Customers for dry blending include supermarkets, fast food restaurants and manufacturers of fresh-to-canned products.
Customer Relationships Come First
In an on-campus R&D Culinary Lab, a food science specialist/chef works in the kitchen with new flavors the company developed—experimenting with how to cook with the flavor and how the flavor performs when cooked. Blue Mountain Flavors also custom-tailors flavors to the customer’s specifications. The team creates flavor samples, the customer sends feedback, and the flavor is then fine-tuned to the desired effect based on the customer label requirements.
Food manufacturers strive to provide the consumer with a clean label product. Therefore, the customer can advise or work with Blue Mountain Flavors to request that flavors are manufactured using only preferred ingredients.
Another perk at Blue Mountain Flavors is half the facility is kosher and halal certified.
Early NCFIL Investor
Blue Mountain Flavors decided early on to support NCFIL. Baugher was “seeing so many lost opportunities for start-ups or small- to medium-sized companies to launch as well as many agricultural products being sold outside of North Carolina,” resulting in money leaving the state.
NCFIL to the Rescue
That’s why Blue Mountain Flavors decided to support NCFIL—they provide gold-standard equipment at a reasonable cost for food innovators to come in and vet good ideas. According to Baugher, this is just what entrepreneurs and small businesses need to be inventive and what North Carolina needs to grow more agricultural dollars.
And NCFIL is not just a facility, said Baugher. Executive Director Dr. Bill Aimutis and his team offer a wealth of information, have experience launching products, and can connect clients with resources and other companies.
NCFIL + BMF: Many Possibilities
Blue Mountain Flavors and NCFIL are well-positioned for future synergy. Using NCFIL’s top-notch spray-drying equipment, Baugher foresees the opportunity to “take water-soluble flavors and test how to use them in functional dry blends.” He also thinks using NCFIL’s facilities to enhance Blue Mountain Flavors’ R&D facilities is a “tremendous asset.”
Plant-Based Food Industry: The Sky’s the Limit
Baugher enthusiastically believes that plant-based food innovation is boundless as more tools emerge to make novel and creative food systems. “I see a diversity and wealth of plant-based products from other cultures being utilized by the U.S. in novel ways,” said Baugher. No matter what the product or plant source, he also said that flavor and product quality will continue to rule.
R&D has slowed during the COVID pandemic, but it is not stagnant. Most food scientists are anxious to return to labs, and large companies have called upon smaller companies, like Blue Mountain Flavors, for support since they’ve been able to stay open amid COVID shutdowns. In fact, Blue Mountain Flavors will launch a robust lineup of fully customized plant-based flavors in spring 2021.
NCFIL Can Help
The future of plant-based food innovation is bright, and NCFIL can help. Baugher looks forward to the continued relationship of Blue Mountain Flavors and NCFIL as well as the support NCFIL will offer to North Carolina’s agricultural industry.