But before you do, you should make sure you know what that means.
If you’re getting ready to enter today’s food and beverage market, you’re going to have to address natural, organic, and ‘clean label’ trends. There are a lot of heuristics for consumers interested in living a ‘clean label’ lifestyle, such as: “Don’t buy products with more than three ingredients”, “Don’t drink anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce”, and “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t have had in her pantry”. There is a large (and affluent) market of consumers that have taken these guidelines to heart and a legion of companies are happy to cater to that market. You may be one of them. That’s great! We love to work with those companies, but our job is also one of education: helping companies and their customers really understand what they eat and drink. If you’re going to change what the world is drinking with your new beverage, you’ll have to navigate the tension between what you are allowed to put on your product’s label and what you are allowed to put in the bottle.
Since we are Flavorman, we’ll start with flavors. The three most common ingredients in all packaged foods are water, salt, and sugar. The fourth most common is “natural flavors”. That term is a bit vague. It is fairly common knowledge at this point that “natural flavors” does not mean “the naturally occurring flavor of the item named on the front of the package”. What it does mean is that the flavor(s) in the product comes from sources that occur in nature – fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts, bark, and so on.
The creation of natural flavors from raw materials is an extensive procedure. An array of extractive and transformative processes are used to yield an extremely concentrated form of a single flavor component. Those single components can then be combined with dozens of others to create the “natural flavors” in packaged foods. In short, the cherry flavor you love in your favorite cherry soda may come from nature, and it may be delicious, but there may not be a single bit of cherry, its juice, flesh, skin, pit, or stem in it. Instead, the cherry flavor may be made from a combination of single flavors from other fruits, vegetables, roots, etc. Making a consistent, delicious product that tastes like cherry out of only cherry-derived flavors is surprisingly difficult, but it can be done. If you were to do it, there’s a small labeling reward for you. The product could be labeled as having “Flavor From the Named Fruit.”
The topic of natural sweeteners is even more convoluted. The most maligned of them all is the infamous High Fructose Corn Syrup. Consumers associate it with unhealthy products and the national naturally-oriented retailers won’t even carry it. You can’t use it in your naturally-positioned drink. Period. However, there are many options that enjoy widespread acceptance and sound “healthier”: Agave, Honey, Cane Sugar, Stevia, and Monkfruit. The truth is, they all contain sugar, and if you add even a bit of any of them, you can’t say “No Added Sugar” on your label. Note that these pass the pronunciation test, but several wouldn’t pass the great-grandma’s pantry test. They seem to get a pass with some consumers because they sound better for you than sugar, and because people really want sweet drinks. The important thing for you to remember is you have good options.
You are going to have to do something to protect your product from the ravages of time. Preservation is the way you do that. Your goals are simple: To maintain the nutrition and flavor of your drink, and sustain the color and look of the drink over time. Even the most stringent naturally-positioned products have to take this into account and have to find a way to safely deliver products that can sit for a period of time before being bought and consumed. Some of the “scariest” sounding names on labels are the preservatives. It’s a good thing, then, that there are a lot of natural-friendly options for preserving your drink. Whether it’s through the careful selection of ingredients used or the way the product is processed before bottling, you can find natural-friendly solutions that keep your drink stable for as long as it is waiting to be bought.
Moving on from the broad category of “Natural”, you will find more labeling options in the realm of organic ingredients: the USDA “Organic” seal and “100% Organic” stamp. Those categories are more defined, and your job is to make sure that you are providing your customers with what they are looking for on the label, and what they expect in the bottle. We’ll get into those categories in a more technical article in a few weeks, but for today, we’ll encourage you to read up on all the definitions that we’ve mentioned in this article. If you have any questions for the Beverage Architects of Flavorman, please reach out. We’re here to help you change what the world is drinking!
Whole Foods Compliant https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/food-ingredient
Organic Certified https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic
Sweeteners Explained https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/nutritive-and-nonnutritive-sweetener-resources