Unique features of flavourings


Flavourings (or flavourants) are any chemical, either naturally occurring or synthesised in a laboratory, that impart a certain flavour and aroma to a food product.

A flavourist is someone who does the identification and imitation of the flavours found in food.


Most flavouringsused commercially are “nature-identical”, which means that even though they are chemically synthesised; their composition is identical to a naturally occurring flavour compound.


Flavourings can be split into three categories:


Nature-identical flavourings

As mentioned, these chemicals’ production is done in a laboratory, either by synthesising flavouring substances chemically, or by isolating them from other products.

By law, nature-identical flavourings cannot contain any artificial substances.

They are indistinguishable from the flavour compounds found in the food they imitate.


Natural flavourings

Natural flavourantsare obtained directly from plant or animal raw materials.

This can be achieved through the use of enzymes, microbes, or mechanical means. Some examples include fruit and vegetable juices, beef and yeast extract, and herbs and spices.


Artificial flavourings

Artificial flavourants come from products which would normally not be meant for human consumption.

Rather, they come from products such as crude oil; which go through a chemical manipulation to create substances which give food a certain flavour or smell.

While this might sound unhealthy, in reality artificial flavourings are often safer than their natural counterparts, as they contain no impurities.

Some are much safer – for example, artificial almond flavouring cannot contain deadly cyanide, while a natural extract potentially could.


Esters are some of the most commonly present artificial flavourings, and give food a sweet or fruity taste.

Ethyl vanillin is another good example, and is widely present in the production of ice cream.


What flavourings are present in products


Flavourings are normally used not just to enhance taste – which happens mainly using the tongue – but also the aroma of foods.

Smell is an important part of the flavour of a food – both before and after it actually enters your mouth.


For this reason, chemicals which only affect the taste of the food – in other words; are used exclusively to bring out the sweetness, sourness, or saltiness of the food – are called flavour enhancers rather than flavourings.


Another use for flavourings is also ensuring consistency in flavour between batches; and often have to blend together to create unique flavours for a specific brand, or to imitate a particular taste.

For example, we can create passionfruit flavouring by combining volatiles from grapefruit with tropical notes like pineapple, cherry, and orange.


Products that contain flavourings


Although flavourings comsuption is generally in low quantities; they are present in a wide range of processed foods, including:


  • Sweetened dairy products like yoghurts
  • Soft drinks and juices
  • Cakes, biscuits, and confectionery
  • Sweets, candies, and chocolates
  • Savoury snacks
  • Spreads
  • Cereals


Types of flavourings


Here are some of the most common, and popular flavourings:


  • Limonene = Orange
  • Benzaldehyde = Bitter almond, cherry
  • Cinnamaldehyde = Cinnamon
  • Methyl anthranilate = Grape
  • 2-Isobutyl-3 Methoxypyrazine = Green pepper
  • Acetyl-L-Pyrazines = Popcorn
  • Ketones = Caramel
  • Phenolics = Smokey flavours
  • Diacetyl, acetylpropionyl, acetoin = Butter
  • Allyl hexanoate = Pineapple
  • Ethyl maltol = Candyfloss
  • Isoamyl acetate = Banana
  • 2,4-Dithiapentane = Truffle
  • Manzanate = Apple