David Dafoe runs Flavorman, a 35-person business in Louisville that grossed $7 million in revenue last year concocting both soft and hard drink flavors for big players like Ocean Spray and Sunsweet and for artisanal producers like Dumante, maker of an espresso-flavored liqueur.
Founded in 1992 by Dafoe, Flavorman also runs Moonshine University, which offers courses in crafting distilled spirits. Fueled by the boom in boutique spirits, Dafoe, 53, expects revenue to double in 2015. In an interview that has been condensed and edited, I recently spoke with him about how he stumbled into the flavor business and built his company while contending with a serious illness that at one point left him blind and unconscious for three weeks.
If you’ve been hankering for a taco soda—or a soda of any flavor, for that manner—David Dafoe is your guy.
Dafoe is a flavor scientist and the founder of Flavorman, a Kentucky-based company that develops flavors for beverage brands. During a recent piece with CNN, Dafoe said that since founding his company back in 1992, they’ve created around 443,000 flavors—a staggering number that, if I’m doing my math right, comes out to around 50 flavors a day (weekends included!).
Beverage brands large and small rely heavily on David Dafoe’s taste buds.
Dafoe is a flavor scientist and founder of Flavorman, a 35-person firm in Louisville, Ky., that develops drink flavors for brands like Jones Soda, Ocean Spray, Joia Life and Diageo (DEO) (which owns Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff).
The small business has engineered 443,000 beverage formulations since it launched in 1992. Surprisingly, his clients aren’t all humans.
“We’ve formulated taco-flavored soda, bourbon soda [and] devil’s food cake vodka — not to mention beverages for dogs, cats, horses, even hummingbirds,” Dafoe said.
Ever asked a bartender for a bourbon, only to have a bottle of Jack Daniels land in front of you?
Most of us have. The misinformation goes beyondthat whiskey faux pas though. I once found myself in a heated argument about the rules of bourbon that I thought might come to fisticuffs. Granted, this bartender worked at the TGI Friday’s at the Dallas airport, but still. The conversation went something like this:
Him: Bourbon has to come from Kentucky.
Me: It doesn’t actually have to come from Kentucky.
Him: It’s my job to know, I promise it does.
Me: “I promise it doesn’t … oh never mind.”
watch this video on youtube.com
They call themselves the Ivy League of spirits—the Distilled Spirits Epicenter takes distilling so seriously they’ve created Moonshine University. We’ll explore this Louisville educational experience aimed at taking moonshining out of the hollers and into the classroom!
On March 24, 2015, the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation kicked off the SBIR Road Tour in Louisville, KY with SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Director of Innovation and Technology John Williams.
The Road Tour is a national outreach campaign led by SBA in partnership with the 11 SBIR/STTR participating federal agencies and local state programs. The Road Tour focuses on information and engagement of the technology seed funding opportunities provided by the $2.5 billion grant and contract program for entrepreneurs, innovators, technologists, and others who are involved in small business and high technology growth startups through federally funded focused R&D.
So you have a fabulous idea for a tasty new beverage. You’ve talked to your friends and they think it would be fantastic if your drink idea could be developed into an actual product, because they’re sure that your fizzy concoction would fly off the store shelves. Well, we’ve got some good news for you. Having a great idea for a new drink is the first and most important step toward launching your own beverage brand. Now comes the hard part, actually developing the brand. This is a time-consuming process that has a lot of moving parts. You’ll need to consider financing, formulation, ingredient sourcing, package design, distribution, and more.
Have we scared you off yet? Hopefully not, because we have more good news. We can help get you started with our in-house expertise and, of course, our tried and true process.
The new year is often a time of great evolution. In a city like Louisville, change seems to be the name of the game, year on year. Neighborhoods are revitalized, new businesses thrive, old enterprises innovate and communities come together.
Louisville isn’t perfect, no place is, but there are a whole host of people and organizations in this city striving to make a difference. For the first cover story of the new-look Voice-Tribune, we’ve selected a handful of groups and individuals who have been creating positive change in Louisville for the past few years, and are working harder than ever to spur even greater progress in 2015. We’ve chosen to focus on food, community, technology and the arts. This is not a comprehensive list, merely a sampling of the thousands of Louisvillians who help catalyze change in this city, creating one of the most fun, vibrant and diverse towns in America. Keep reading
Consumers may mark the passing of 2014 with a midnight glass of bubbly, but odds are they’ll begin and end the evening with cocktails boasting a burst of cinnamon, a dash of ginger or a hint of mint. Flavored spirits grew more popular this year, and the trend is set to continue growing in 2015 with the rise of more artisan and small-batch products.
Cinnamon has been a particularly popular flavor for whiskey and other spirits this year, but ginger has been on the rise and next year is likely to bring even more ginger-flavored spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails.
“It fits in well with that savory-sweet spice trend, so if you’re going to mix it in anything else, it will provide those notes to the finished product,” said Kirsten Wemer, lab manager at Flavorman in Louisville, Ky. Her company works with clients to create new beverage recipes. “Ginger is the next cinnamon.”
Louisville’s Flavorman made its name as a beverage-creation consultant developing recipes for sodas, energy drinks, blended whiskeys and flavored vodkas.
As craft distilleries pop up and bourbon’s popularity grows, the mix is changing on the alcohol side of its business with newer takes on old spirits like gin, brandy and a different power drink — flavored moonshine.
As a result, Flavorman is seeing a new era of innovation, one of its chief beverage officials said.