What Do Natural Colours And Flavours Really Mean?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create the natural strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and seasonal flavours in our IsaLean™ Shake? The chemistry of these flavours is a complex, rewarding combination of taste and smell that are also influenced by colour and texture.

All foods at their most basic are defined as compositions of edible chemicals. For example, a fresh orange is composed of thousands of chemical ingredients including ascorbic acid, limonene, citric acid and fructose. In the foods that we eat, what we generally accept to be ‘flavour’ is made up mainly of aromatic volatile compounds.

These compounds are said to be volatile because they readily vaporise. Upon reaching the nasal cavity, they act on olfactory cells, causing the sensations perceived in the brain. The brain then characterises these compounds and associates along them with taste, colour and texture for food familiarity.

These volatile aromatic compounds may number in the hundreds even in the simplest of foods. For example, the flavour of a strawberry can have as many as 80 or more compounds depending on the variety and season, while the flavour of brewed coffee depending on variety is estimated to be made up of 800 or more compounds that give it special characteristic notes (1,2).

Natural Flavours as Ingredients

Based on the legal definition, natural flavours used as an ingredient in a food must consist of only aromatic compounds that are found in nature (3). On the other hand, those flavours that are categorised as artificial are man-made compounds that do not exist in nature.

In either case, these flavour compounds are generally non-nutritive, meaning that they wouldn’t contribute any nutritional value to the food. Sweeteners or flavour enhancers, which can also be natural or artificial, are listed separately if used.

Natural flavours can be derived directly from a food in the form of a spice, plant extract, essence, essential oil, or a distillate. They can also be a product of a food after being subjected to the use of enzymes, fermentation, roasting, or heating.

There are more than 1200 different natural flavour aromatic compounds that can be used in various combinations in food (1). Most of these natural flavours are identified by their chemical names. Examples include benzaldehyde for wild cherry or almond, ethyl butyrate for pineapple, methyl anthranilate for grape and methyl salicylate for wintergreen (1).

The number and complexity of these compounds to produce a signature flavour is why they are all individually combined under the term ‘natural flavours’ on a label of a packaged food. The term helps to inform customers of the function of these ingredients and reduce any confusion that may occur from an actual listing of their chemical names or underlying sources.

Natural Colours as Ingredients

Colour influences flavour – for instance, we associate strawberry flavour with red, orange flavour with orange, and grape flavour with purple. Most flavours are colorless so added colours are often required for consumer appeal and sensory value in packaged foods.

When using colours in foods, Australian and New Zealand Food Standards require that any use of artificial colour or artificial food dye must be clearly labelled as required per the labeling guidelines (3). The use of natural colours, however, are not labelled as such as the term might be interpreted to mean that the colour is naturally occurring in the food itself.

However, unlike the complexity that exists with natural flavours, natural colours are generally present as one or only a few ingredients, so these are listed out individually. Among these might be saffron or turmeric for yellow, tomato concentrate or lycopene for red, caramel made up of heated sugar for brown, or purple carrot extract for purple.

Flavours and Colours in Isagenix Products

In line with our no-compromise policy, we are committed to developing nutritional products that don’t contain any artificial ingredients. That includes no artificial flavours or colours. Because of this commitment, the company partners with specialised experts and suppliers that have invested in technologies for flavouring and colouring of natural products. So, you can rest assured that your favourite Isagenix products are created with the highest quality natural flavours and colours.

References

  1. Potter NN and HotchKiss JH. Food Science, 5th ed. 1998. Springer: New York.
  2. Schwieteman ML, Colquhoun TA, Jaworski EA, et al. Strawberry flavor: Diverse chemical compositions, a seasonal influence, and effects on sensory Perception. PLoS One. 2014; 9(2): e88446. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921181/
  3. FDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 21: https://tinyurl.com/y7tab8ug
2018-01-04T09:06:07+00:00January 4th, 2018|