‘Natural flavouring’ doesn't always mean 'good'. Because just one natural flavouring can contain up to one hundred ingredients, selected from 3,000 different chemicals…
Welcome to the surprisingly unnatural world, of natural flavouring.
They’re on ingredient labels everywhere but natural flavourings are rarely all they seem. Among other fun facts, by consuming natural flavourings you’re at risk of ingesting beaver juice.
Yes, we did just write that. Apologies if you were eating.
So with this fun fact and plenty more to come let’s leap into natural flavouring in all its delights.
Natural flavouring: what’s the difference between natural and artificial?
Chemically, there’s little difference. Artificial flavours are produced from a manmade source but both artificial and natural flavours go through processing to create the end product. Crucially, both have chemicals added to them after they’re extracted.
Due to the wide variety of ingredients that typically go into natural flavourings, “there does not seem to be much of a difference between natural and artificial flavors,” said David Andrews, a scientist at the Environmental Working Group.
Want your body to fire on all cylinders? Then steer clear of chemicals and consume natural sports nutrition.
Despite different origins, the end product is similar and - on a cellular level - your body likely reacts to them the same.
Natural flavouring: what does it mean?
For flavouring to be classed as ‘natural’, it must be derived from a natural source. But ‘derived’ covers a really broad definition.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines natural flavour as:
“The essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavouring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavouring rather than nutritional.”
What a mouthful.
In short, take any part of any plant/animal and heat, beat, roast, process, boil, reduce and add enzymes to it to create an oil. Sounds delicious.
Natural flavouring: what’s bad about it?
Firstly, there’s a problem with the perception. Folks see the word ‘natural’ and think ‘healthy’.
This is what healthy looks like. Real, whole food
This is often not the case. As Food Activist Vani Hari explains
“Flavors typically contain preservatives, emulsifiers, solvents and other “incidental additives”, which can make up 80% or so of the formulation".
Just to be clear, your ‘natural’ flavour can be 80% something else. So almost entirely something else basically. And what could this ‘something else’ be? Back to Vari:
That’s up to 80% total manmade cr@p in your ‘natural’ flavour, none of which goes on the ingredients label. And in case you were wondering, yes, propylene glycol is the same stuff in the antifreeze you put in your car in winter.
Natural flavouring: a 3,000-ingredient chemical cocktail
For the final nail in the natural flavours coffin, here’s the Washington Post explaining how 3,000 chemical food additives and as many as 100 ingredients can find their way into these delightful - and oh-so natural -flavours:
"Many of the chemicals that make up natural flavors fall under a category called “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. An estimated 3,000 chemical food additives are in this category, yet this does not mean that these chemicals have been widely studied and approved by the FDA. Food companies do not need to disclose the ingredients of a natural flavor if all of the ingredients, which can be up to 100 in one flavor, fall into the GRAS category.”
The flavour of your food should not be crafted using chemicals
Natural flavouring: what’s good about it?
Erm, not a lot. Unless you’re a food or sports nutrition company trying to inject some life back into your processed - and now flavourless - creation, while making customers think it’s actually still any good.
At 33 we’d rather make a better product in the first place.
You know, using real, whole foods for the ingredients. Things that come with nutrients, flavour, and enjoyment as standard, and which deliver a stack of performance and health benefits that go way beyond the calorie, protein, carb and fat contents.
We don’t do flavouring. We do flavour. From actual food. Take our Better Fuel Energy Drink mix for example. The delicious mild taste here comes from pineapple and baobab. Not pineapple and baobab flavouring, the actual fruits themselves.
Better Fuel: Made with just five natural ingredients - upgrade your energy drink today
So you get a delicious carb drink that your stomach and energy levels will love, all with an added hit of natural anti-inflammatories into the bargain.
That’s the power of actual nature - ride stable energy levels, rid yourself of stomach trouble and give your body something it actually wants.
Natural flavouring: what was that about beaver juice?
Sadly, yes. Called castoreum, it’s “been added to food as a natural flavouring for at least 80 years”. What is it? An oil secretion found in the sacks located between the anus and genitals of beavers. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.