21 November 2019

Natural flavours vs flavours

Understanding the differences between a flavouring and a natural flavouring is something that is taught during the very early stages of a flavourists career. It’s a vital piece of information that ensures we can produce the right flavours for customers based on current legislations.

For customers, the need to understand this difference is not essential. However, here at JPL we believe our customers would find it useful to get an insight into how this affects what we produce.

With the current market being heavily influenced by healthy eating, the term “natural” has become more necessary than ever before. Therefore, as a flavourist, most of our projects are specifically for developing natural flavours. The main advantage to a customer in using natural flavourings is to be able to use the term “natural flavouring”. This offers a cleaner label declaration and can increase the chances of being listed in a major retailer and for their product to be picked up by a health-conscious consumer.

However, there are plenty of restrictions when it comes to designing natural flavours such as cost. One of the best examples is the difference between a Rhubarb flavouring compared to a natural Rhubarb flavouring. The raw material cost of the natural can increase 30x that of the non-natural even when using an identical formulation, the only difference being how the ingredients are sourced.

Another challenge when designing natural flavours is that all compounds are available synthetic however not all compounds are available natural. This becomes more obvious for savoury flavours, when designing synthetic savoury flavours, we have a huge array of cost effective compounds on offer to us. However, when we look to the natural offerings there are a lot less options available and a lot of the options available can be extremely expensive.

Different legislations around the world can result in a natural flavouring being natural in one state but not eligible in another. This most commonly happens when a customer asks to replicate a natural flavouring from the USA, the USA have access to hundreds of compounds approved as natural that the EU legislation does not recognise as natural.

Non-natural flavourings are often the favoured choice for customers not focusing on clean label products as there are more flavouring substances available and they are far more cost effective.

Synthetic aroma chemicals share the exact same chemical fingerprint as their natural counterparts meaning it is easy to convert from natural to non-natural without compromising on taste. Also, some natural substances come from barks, which results in the material having to be harvested from cutting down trees which is not the case for synthetic substances.

Like everything else in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides, this is why for every project we will ask our customers which type of flavour they would prefer. Only they can tell us what is right for them