What are Natural Flavors?
Natural flavors are food additives that provide particular tastes or aromas to food products.1 They are used in a wide variety of baked goods and beverages to enhance or impart a desirable flavor that lasts through the shelf life product.
Natural flavors are available in several forms:
Flavorings such as essential oils and spices have been added to food products since ancient times. The Persian physician Avicenna pioneered extraction of aromatic essential oils from plants. In the 18th century and with advances in food processing, the flavor industry recognized the need for enhancing and maintaining the flavor of food products throughout the products shelf life.2
Most processed food products contain some type of food flavoring, artificial or natural. The current wave of health conscious consumers and all-natural products have increased the demand for natural flavorings.3
According to the FDA, the term "natural flavor" means, “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive obtained from a spice, fruit, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products.”1
Natural flavor has several functions in baked goods:
- Taste: enhancing the innate taste of baked goods, masking undesirable tastes or adding unique tastes
- Aroma: provides a pleasant and appealing aroma
- Increase shelf life and stability: mainly with plant extracts that possess antimicrobial properties
Natural flavors in the proportions used in baked goods don’t provide a significant nutritional value. Some natural extracts such as mint and cinnamon may provide some health benefits mainly anti-inflammatory properties. Some natural flavorings such as vanilla, nuts, coconuts, cinnamon may cause allergies in some consumers
Natural flavors are obtained through different processes depending on the source and final form.2
- Liquid extracts: are separated through solvent extraction or distillation followed by purification. Supercritical fluid extraction is a novel environmentally-friendly approach to flavor extraction with no residual solvents.
- Powdered flavorings: Liquid extracts can be dried using spray- or freeze-drying.
In addition to plant extracts, natural flavors includes those made via enzymatic and microbiological (bateria, fungi and yeast) processes.2
In baked products, dry flavorings are best added to dry mixes for easy scaling and good distribution. In wet mixes, aqueous...