Natural Flavors: 101 – Common Questions About Natural Flavors

By February 6, 2023Blog, News
"Natural Flavors 101 Guide Cover" "A bowl of fruit with natural flavor extracts" "Illustration of a natural flavor molecule"

Staying Ahead Of The Natural Curve

In an attempt to both address a growing market and respond to the health preferences of our customers, natural and organic flavors/extracts will continue to be an important focus for Custom Flavors.

What Exactly Is “Flavor” Anyway?

What we consider “flavor” is the end result of a complex combination of taste, smell, and trigeminal sensations. These sensations, such as heat (as in chili) or cold (like peppermint) provide our tastebuds with the information our brain needs to process specific tastes. “Taste” is the sensation of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami directly detected by receptors on the tongue. “Smell” is the reception of volatile organic compounds (chemicals) in food (or the environment) by olfactory neurons.

As most of the experience of eating is smell, most ingredients and flavors heavily rely on smells to achieve their profile. Whether that be an imitation of the combination of the volatile organic compounds that already exist in foods like fresh strawberries or a cup of coffee, successful and delicious flavors are best used when recreating the exact experience of consuming a specific food or beverage.

What’s the Difference Between Natural Flavors and Artificial Flavors?

The source, of course! As with other products, there are a few different regulatory bodies related to natural and artificial flavors. Not known by many and specific to flavor manufacturers and flavor suppliers, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t define the term, “natural…” except when talking about flavors/additives:

  • Natural Flavors: Flavoring compounds derived from the manipulation of plant or animal material, used only for flavoring and provide no nutritional value.
  • Artificial Flavors: Flavoring compounds derived from lab-synthesized substances that provide no nutritional value.

Similarly and more specifically, according to the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States (FEMA), a Natural Flavor means that the flavoring components are derived from a natural source, such as a spice, fruit, or vegetable. They can come from meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or even dairy products. The flavoring components are then standardized using a carrier or solvent such as tapioca fiber, dextrose, propylene glycol, or ethanol. Natural flavors are also available as Non-GMO.  

An Artificial Flavor means that the flavoring components are made in a lab rather than derived from an existing source. Natural and artificial flavors contain both natural and synthetic flavor components and can be used in any application not requiring strictly natural flavors. Also available in Non-GMO.

Why Are Natural Flavors So Popular? Why Now?

Did you know that the global natural flavors and fragrances market was valued at USD 9.15 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3% from 2022 to 2030?

This increase in demand for products formulated with natural flavor has also led to the view of products formulated with artificial flavor being of lower quality. Custom Flavors has the capability to transform a currently used artificial flavor into a natural one, as we’ve done for many manufacturers before. Whether you need to keep up with market demand or want to diversify your product line, our team can adjust the strength of a flavor as well as the carrier in order to best fit a finished product formulation.

Consumer awareness of the foods and beverages they consume and the desire to live a healthy life is rising exponentially. With this exploding market segment growth surrounding healthier food and beverages, the voice of the customer is overwhelming—they want healthier, more natural products. As such, Custom Flavors expects interest in natural and organic flavors to continue to thrive.

What Are Some Common Natural Flavors?

  • True-to-fruit natural flavors for gummy applications
  • Sweet, decadent natural flavors for protein beverage and nutrition bar applications
  • All-natural versions of popular, nostalgic flavors focused on candy or for energy drinks and pre-workout powders

We’re Capable Of Producing More Than 20,000+ Unique Tastes

We want to help you create exciting, natural products that keep your customers raving about you and them for years to come. From natural nutrition bar flavors to natural gummy flavors, and everything in between, we can help you find the perfect flavor profile.

With 60% of our existing 20,000+ flavors consisting entirely of natural ingredients, we are offering new natural flavors and extracts every single day. By natural extension, our high level of customer service, innovative product development, cutting-edge technology, and strong, responsive team round out the core values that we’ve become known for over the years.

Natural Flavors & Retail Guidelines With Custom Flavors

Hesitant to get started on something in the space? Last month, we covered a huge topic in the natural/organic space…getting into (and staying on the store shelves of) grocers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprout’s, and others:

“What does the average Whole Foods customer look like? Well, according to Business Insider, they’re 29-35 years old and make around $80K a year. They (and millions of other Whole Foods customers) enjoy organic, natural, and ethically-sourced foods/beverages that taste great and make them feel better about their health. They want to know where their purchases come from and how they were made. They want to be able to easily identify products that are well-regulated and continuously tested for safety and quality…”

Instead of trying to navigate strict flavor/ingredient guidelines, lean on a team with both the experience and the capabilities to back it up. Read more about Whole Foods and other natural/organic compliance here.

Looking For More Organic Content?

Check out our previous article on organic extracts for another spotlight on how important organic and natural ingredients are to us here at Custom Flavors. If you need some tasteful inspiration, here are a few of our most popular organic extracts & flavors:

Organic Extracts

  • Blood Orange
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Vanilla
  • Cocoa

Organic Flavors

  • Mixed Berry
  • Pear
  • Elderberry
  • Passionfruit
  • Tart Green Apple

Need more help navigating the natural/organic space? Contact our expert team of flavorists here and request a sample today.