In response to some recent reporting on a lawsuit filed against the makers of LaCroix Sparkling Water, we think it is critically important to provide clarification on flavor ingredients and their use in beverage flavors.When news of the lawsuit broke, some initial reports repeated the suit’s claim that the FDA has declared specific flavor ingredients used in LaCroix Sparkling Waters as synthetic. This is simply not true.
The suit references Title 21 chapter I subchapter B part 182 subpart A section 182.60 of the US Food & Drug Administration’s Code of Federal Regulations – a section which helpfully provides a list of flavoring chemicals that it deems safe to include in beverages even if they are from synthetic sources. But the flavoring chemicals listed have both synthetic and natural versions. In fact, the items listed (and many, many others used every day in naturally-positioned beverages) can be – and routinely are – derived from natural sources. Take for example: limonene. Limonene is one of the most common naturally-occurring food chemicals on the planet. It is found in nearly every fruit that you eat. In fact, it is the common natural aroma chemical that comprises over 90% of the flavor in all citrus fruits. Only small differences in other aroma chemicals distinguish a lemon, a lime, a grapefruit, and an orange from one other. The same applies to linalool. Linalool is naturally found in many different foods and can be derived from a variety of natural sources, like the camphor tree. Flavor materials like limonene and linalool have been derived from nature for centuries via different methods such as simple extraction, distillation, and fermentation.
To drive headlines and clicks, the suit implies that these flavor materials are not only synthetic, but that they must also be dangerous, because one or more are found in other household products like insecticide. The truth is that this is nonsense. The magazine Popular Science recently discussed this common misperception and rightly pointed out that the fact alone that a natural chemical is used in an unnatural product like insecticide does not make it harmful. One of the most common household remedies for an ant problem is to squeeze fresh lemon juice on the thresholds of your home. Why? Because of the natural limonene in lemon juice. Of course an insecticide would include such a potent component as well. Another example is casein, a primary natural protein in cow’s milk. Casein is also used in making glue, but no one would try and claim that milk is a dangerous chemical.
US FDA: has a specific, robust legal definition of natural flavors like the ones developed at Flavorman. A natural Flavorman flavor is a representation of the natural aroma chemicals found in the named fruits and concentrated to make it a stable, economically-viable, consistent, and artistic expression of the flavor profile you or your consumer wants.
Stable: The aroma chemicals found in fruit are stable inside the fruit, but what will happen to these materials when they are subjected to pasteurization or other harsh processing conditions required for your beverage? Most often the answer is that there are unwelcome results. Oxidation and flavor degradation are the most common. Flavorman’s flavors are created specifically to taste exactly the way you want them to after your beverage has been made shelf-stable, up until the point your consumer gets to enjoy it, and down to the last drop.
Economically-viable: We can address this in two ways. First fruit itself is generally weak from a flavor perspective. The aroma chemicals which make most fruit taste like we expect them to usually comprise around just 0.01-0.1% of the fruit. Without these materials, the fruit would taste sweet and tart. If we were to flavor a finished beverage exclusively with fruit juice, you would need to use a massively larger amount to get the flavor impact you want. General math will look something like this: $3 fruit juice used at 5% = $0.15 cost in use (CIU). $25 flavor used at 0.2% = $0.05 CIU. Secondly, aroma chemicals which comprise a fruit are frequently not readily-available. You would have to harvest a very large amount of fruit for a very low yield of flavor materials, making it both terribly expensive and not very environmentally-friendly. Take green apple for example. The fresh green flavor notes coming from the skin of a Granny Smith apple are also found in more readily-available natural sources such as mint leaves! The aroma chemicals in the apple are empirically (chemically exact) the same as in mint leaves and provide the same taste you expect. And it is still natural.
Consistent: Agricultural products have variability driven by climate and seasonal changes, region, speed to harvest, and a variety of other factors. Isolation and use of aroma chemicals in flavors eliminates crop variability and provides consistent taste for your product from batch to batch.
Artistic: Using a natural flavor provides many different benefits for your beverage brand, but most importantly it gives you the ability to meet your flavor expectations and create something unique in the market. You may want a natural flavor that is a jam-like, cooked, green, seedy strawberry with a touch of grape and a tart cherry finish. Natural flavors afford you the freedom to paint a flavor masterpiece, and to do it with naturally-sourced aroma chemicals even if they are not specifically derived from a strawberry.
We hope that this information gives you more clarity, dispels some misinformation, and helps you understand natural flavors and the ingredients used in them. We love what we do, and we are exceptionally proud of it, so please reach out any time if you want to talk flavors!