Science Technology

This Is What’s Really Inside Your Natural, Artificial And Organic Food Flavors

Fun fact for you guys: Natural food flavors can still have artificial ingredients inside them. Crazy, right?

food flavors

I mean, how much do we really understand what goes into flavors, anyway? All we see is whether they’re natural or artificial on the ingredient label. What we don’t realize is that a single “flavor” ingredient is actually more like ten or fifteen — all used to deliver and boost the product’s taste. The only reason we’re not seeing these on our ingredient labels is because the law doesn’t require it.

Even for me, a food scientist, that feels kind of shady. For those who are looking for that transparency, though, here’s what’s required of some of the most common flavor classifications you’ll see on food products.

What Compounds Are Approved?

When making a flavor, scientists will piece together a bunch of different aroma compounds to form a single, desired fragrance. Those compounds have to be approved by the USDA, who in turn relies on industry experts from the Flavors and Extracts Manufacturing Association to tell them what chemicals get the green light. There’s currently about 2,000 total ingredients on FEMA’s list, which is regarded as one of the most credible on the planet.

Natural Flavor

To be frank, how the food industry deals with the word “natural” can be kinda sketchy, since there’s no legal definition of what a “natural” food is. At least we have a definition for flavors, though.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, any extract, oil, or other essence of a natural food, plant, or bacteria can be classified as a natural flavor. All of the different aroma compounds inside have to come from those. If any artificial flavors are used as well, the labeling has to change to “Natural and Artificial Flavors” in the ingredients list. So while LaCroix can throw “natural flavor” on their label, Hawaiian Punch has to mark that they have both.

Remember how I said that artificial stuff can still legally be in natural food flavors, though? The solvent the natural aromas are dissolved into, plus any stabilizers, emulsifiers, preservatives, or weighting agents, can be synthetic. So if you see “natural flavor” on the ingredient label, that may not be the same “natural” you’re expecting it to be.

Artificial Flavor

Photo: Mike Mozart // Flickr

If the flavors inside are 100% synthetic, you’ll see this on both the front and back of the food package. Jell-O’s artificially flavored vanilla pudding, for example, says “artificial flavor vanilla” on the front and “artificial flavor” on the back. The only time this changes is for something like Hawaiian Punch. That name doesn’t really evoke a specific fragrance, so they don’t have to label anything on the front. The back will still say “artificial flavor,” though, so at least you know whether its aroma components are natural or not.

With Other Natural Flavors

Photo: Mike Mozart // Flickr

When it comes to the front of a food label, stating the type of natural flavor becomes a bit trickier than what’s on the back. If an actual food ingredient, like vanilla beans, is providing the aroma, you can just say its name. Breyers gets to do that since their ice cream is just flavored using a natural vanilla, for example.

It’s uncommon, though, for the compounds in natural flavor to come from a single source. Often times, a single flavor will get its parts from ten or fifteen different natural sources, and has to be marked as such. This is the case with some varieties of Hint Water, so you’ll see “with other natural flavors” on the front of a bottle.

Organic And Organic-Compliant Flavors

Just like organic foods, the flavors that go into them also come with a host of requirements. Flavors do not have to be certified organic, however, and the industry tends to not make them. Your organic foods, as a result, tend to not have have certified organic aromas inside.

How does the industry get away with this, you ask? At a bare minimum, only 95% of the components of a food have to be certified organic to get the USDA Organic label. Flavors almost never exceed 5% of the formulation, so they can be organic-compliant instead and be fine.

Organic-compliant flavors, though, do come with a set of additional requirements. The components that provide aroma and color must be natural and cannot be altered in any way. Natural solvents that don’t use petroleum are the only ones allowed, and no GMOs or irradiation (a form of mild, benign radiation that can sterilize food) can be used in the product. Additional preservatives, emulsifiers, and weighing agents must also all be natural. Finally, no sewer sludge can be used to make these flavors, because apparently, that was a problem in the past. Yikes.

Hopefully, with all of the above information, you can be more conscious about the products you choose to purchase based on what goes into them not just from an ingredient standpoint, but in terms of flavor type as well.

Cravings Drinks Fast Food What's New

Dunkin’ Donuts Debuts New Girl Scout Cookie Flavored Coffee

Dunkin’ Donuts just dropped the biggest bomb on every Girl Scout’s money pouch.

The global donut empire recently debuted three new flavors for their hot and iced drinks, all inspired by traditional Girl Scout cookie flavors we’ve all come to love.

Instead of seeking out a Girl Scout for some Thin Mints, which already sounds kinda sketchy, stopping by Dunkin’ will satisfy any cravings you might have.

On top of making the dream of gulping Samoas come true, these flavors are added to caffeinated drinks, so a sugar rush will be instantly followed by a caffeine rush, a perfect mixture for the beginning of the day.

Stop speeding through sleeves of those tender cookies and start drowning yourself in a Thin Mint, Coconut Caramel, or Peanut Butter Cookie flavored drink.

Obviously, these are supposed to mock one cookie flavor or another. The Thin Mints flavor unsurprisingly takes the place of the cookie it’s named after, Coconut Caramel could be akin in flavor to Samoas, and Peanut Butter Cookie resembles either the Tagalongs or Do-Si-Dos.

Appropriately, there is no flavor for Trefoils. Nobody really cares about Trefoils.

While these are the only three official Girl Scout flavors on the menu, a new donut being rolled out for March called the Mint Brownie Donut, with minty brownie filling and green frosting on top sprinkled with brownie bites, mocks the classic Thin Mint.

After getting all of these flavors the last thing you will be is thin.

The three new coffee flavors will be available through May, so even if it’s too cold out for those little troops, you have a few months to get the Thin Mint fix you might (will) have.

Photo by:
Packaged Food What's New

Lay’s Announces ‘Do Us A Flavor’ Finalists Including ‘Tacos’ And ‘Bagels’

As with previous years, Lay’s asked fans to stretch their taste buds and creative muscles and come up with brand-new flavors for the potato chip brand.

The company has just announced the three finalists for this year’s Do Us A Flavor competition: Everything Bagel, Crispy Tacos, and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Kinda wish this year’s batch of finalists were a little more… outlandish. Like if they made a bag of chips flavored like Jollibee’s infamous gravy.

The three finalists will have their flavors voted upon and one will win the coveted title of MasterChef $1 million.

Voting will begin on July 24 and will end Oct. 8 through You can also vote on social media with the hashtag #SweepstakesEntry and your choice of #VoteEverythingBagel, #VoteFriedGreenTomato, or #VoteCrispyTaco.

Still, we’re looking forward to trying all three and seeing which ones taste the best.

Features Hit-Or-Miss Now Trending Sweets

This Is Why Kit Kat Never Has Cool Flavors In The U.S.

For years, we’ve written about amazing Kit Kat flavors such as sake, green tea, chocolate mint whirl, and even cookie dough, but none of these offerings have ever appeared on American grocery store shelves.

Upon closer review, it’s not just that the U.S. doesn’t want to incorporate these flavors, it’s that the U.S. Kit Kat isn’t even owned by the same company as global Kit Kats.

It gets a little confusing, because you’d think all Kit Kats would be the same, but if you ever look at the U.S. Kit Kat packaging, you’ll notice it’ll say it’s produced by Hershey’s, while any Kit Kats outside of the U.S. have Nestlé printed on it.

You’re probably wondering how the hell this happened, but when Nestlé bought out Kit Kat from Rowntree (Kit Kat’s creator) in 1988, the Hershey Company already had a previous contract to produce Kit Kats in the U.S.

Nestlé couldn’t pry those rights away from Hershey’s, so to this day, ‘Merica is the only country in the world that has non-Nestlé produced Kit Kat bars.

Purple Sweet Potato! Unwrapping a little bit of Japan on #mybreak

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Because of this, all those cool flavors in Japan, Australia, Canada, and everywhere else in the world, come from the minds of Nestlé, while the U.S. has to be content with the minimal flavor efforts of white chocolate, strawberry, and the ever-daring “Dark” chocolate bars that Hershey’s goes with.

Kit Kat might eventually break out and start giving U.S. customers cool flavors, but until then, we’ll have to envy the rest of the world as we bite into our basic milk chocolate bars.

Time for a #break?

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Here’s An EXCLUSIVE Look At Pop-Tarts’ First Two Soda Flavors

Pop-Tarts are virtually a staple of American childhood, and anyone that has tried one growing up is sure to have some nostalgic memories linked to them. That trend continues for the next generation as Pop-Tarts introduces their two newest flavors, A&W™ Root Beer and Crush™ Orange.


As I’m sure you’ve imagined, the A&W™ Root Beer and Crush™ Orange Pop-Tarts will be filled with a bubbly root beer-flavored filling and a citrusy orange soda flavor, respectively.

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While interesting flavors to say the least, they bring a change of pace to the typical dessert and fruit flavors that Pop-Tarts traditionally makes. These brand new soda mash-ups will be available for purchase in May 2016.



Packaged Food

Tic Tac Creates Taste-Changing Mints For Millennials Who Can’t Commit To One Flavor


A new pack of Tic Tacs is set to hit shelves in June. The new flavor, or flavors, will be called Tic Tac Mixers. They’re designed specifically to change tastes as it dissolves in consumers’ mouths. Y’know, for those who just can’t commit to one flavor.

Bloomberg reports, there are three specific reasons why the new Tic Tacs exist. The first is, obviously, is to freshen consumers’ breaths. The second, to have a “sweet, fruity moment.” The third, to provide consumers with…”an emotional rescue.”

Because we all buy Tic Tacs to escape, right?

The two new varieties of Tic Tac Mixers are Cherry Cola and Peach Lemonade.

 Photo: Tic Tac Facebook


Finally, Pizza-Flavored Ice Cream Is Here


Sometimes there are two things in the world that are just meant to come together. Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Breakfast and Lunch. Cats and the Internet. And now, pizza and ice cream.

Little Baby’s Ice Cream, the geniuses (or nut cases) behind those cannibalistic ice-cream-man-of-your-nightmares commercials, have created a pizza-flavored ice cream. It shouldn’t come as a surprise for those familiar with the Philadelphia-based creamery, whose propensity for the wacky and weird has brought us flavors like Earl Grey Sriracha and Balsamic Banana. And they are located right next to a pizza museum called Pizza Brain. Alas, only the lucky locals can attest to whether the savory dessert tastes more cheesy or tomato-y, if it has pepperoni bits in it, or if it truly does taste better the next day.

via Incredible Things


Parody Ben & Jerry’s Movie Flavors

There can never be enough flavors of ice cream in the world. Check out these awesome mock-ups of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream based on popular movies from the past year. Designed by the creative minds from poster design firm Old Red Jalopy, these original flavors prove that you really can call anything ice cream. Don’t you think?

Among my favorites of the range are:

The Swirl with the Dragon Cashews

New Years Peach

Caramello Activity

But also be sure to check out the rest at NextMovie!

(via: NextMovieBlog Photos: Old Red Jalopy)