Flavors (also described incorrectly as aromas, sweeteners, taste enhancers or even appetizers) are a series of diverse compounds that aim to increase feed intake in sensitive animals, especially young ones. They are used frequently in complete diets and milk replacers for piglets, calves and other young ruminants, and lately in super pre-starter feeds for broilers. They are expensive (at least the good ones are), so one must ensure they work properly.

Some scientists have questioned, with reason, that a perfectly fresh and balanced diet needs no flavors, but in practice, such is rarely the case. Nevertheless, this is not the entire reason why flavors are used so extensively in the animal nutrition business. In my opinion, it is the commercial brand recognition they can impart on certain key products that are associated with a specific feed manufacturer. This is a hardly recognized fact among scientists (unless we speak of marketing scientists) and a real fact of every day commercial life. It is not to be taken lightly, especially among those of us who still debate the right flavor for our feeds — at least when it is animal appetite that is concerned. Marketing requires paying special attention to it, too, and we (the nutrition professionals) should keep into account that our colleagues in the marketing and sales department have their own requirements as well.

So, next time you think of adding, removing or changing a flavor in any specific product, make sure you justify this action to your marketing/sales team, because they will be required to justify this change to your customers.