What Does “Natural Flavors” Really Mean?


Picture this: You head to your local grocery store to pick up ingredients for a healthy and tasty breakfast. You grab your shopping cart, head inside, and make a beeline for the juice section (because what’s a delicious breakfast without some fresh orange juice?) You grab the first carton of orange juice you see and scan the ingredient label. “Orange juice and other natural flavors.” Oranges, check. Natural flavors, check! You throw it in your cart. You continue your shopping trip, picking up a healthy-looking cereal and oat milk to go in said cereal – both of which also claim to contain “natural flavors” per their ingredient labels. You check out, head home, and eat your breakfast that contains pure wholesome ingredients and all-natural flavors. 

Or so you thought. Have you ever wondered what “natural flavor” actually means on an ingredient label? Who’s deciding which added flavors in a food are natural or not? Is anything natural at all nowadays? Wow – you’re one insightful thinker. If any of these questions have ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. And, lucky for you, we’re here to answer them all for you. Read on to learn about what “natural flavors” really means, and better yet, stay tuned for the rest of this blog series where we’ll dive into all things surrounding natural flavors, whether you should consume them or not, and how they stand up against organic, artificial, and other added flavors.

What Even Are Natural Flavors?

Let’s get right down to it! The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the primary regulator behind natural flavors and defines them as “a substance extracted, distilled, or similarly derived from natural sources like plants (fruits, herbs, veggies, barks, roots, etc.) or animals (meat, dairy products, eggs, etc.) via a method of heating, with its primary function in food being flavoring not nutritional.” We know, it’s a mouthful! So we’re going to break down what the FDA actually means by this definition.

The key point to remember is that natural flavors are simply that – flavors – meaning they don’t actually make up an actual caloric ingredient in the food you’re eating. For example, in that orange juice we discussed earlier, there may be real oranges involved, but there are also natural flavors that have been diluted with water or oils to produce an overall stronger orange taste. You may be asking, why don’t they just put more real oranges in the juice? The answer is simple: Fresh ingredients don’t have as long of a shelf life. Adding in natural flavors that emulate a certain taste without having to use a real ingredient means more delicious flavor, and less chance of expiration before it’s purchased. 

So Are They Natural Or Not? Should I Be Eating and Drinking Them?

In a nutshell, natural flavors are safe to consume. They are regulated by both the FDA, who we talked about above, and another food authority called FEMA (Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association). In general, natural flavors are created safely and are monitored and authorized properly. Additionally, as we’ve learned, these flavors are diluted to great lengths and are not actually providing nutritional value or calories to the food or beverage they’re included in. However, just because they’re derived from natural ingredients does not mean they are completely natural. What do we mean by that? You’ll have to wait to find out in the next part of this blog post series. We’ll dive into the nitty gritty of whether or not you should be consuming natural flavors, and if there are better alternatives out there.

Spoiler alert: At The Pizza Plant, we keep our pizzas free from any added flavors and unnecessary ingredients. In fact, all of our ingredients are organic, easy to pronounce, and truly healthy and wholesome. Just take a look at our ingredient labels. Our plantbased pizzas have nothing to hide – and neither do we! 

Found this post insightful? Be sure to spread the plantbased message by sharing it with a friend or family member. For all The Pizza Plant grocery locations and to find one near you, visit our store locator page. To order nationwide shipping, visit our delivery page

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