Spoiler alert: “Natural Flavor” isn’t all that natural

Here’s how to determine how “real” and “whole” your food and drink actually is. Think back to your last visit to the grocery store. For Covid’s sake, let’s assume you were shopping for healthy items. How did you formulate your choices? Did you base your purchases on what you understand to be healthy? Maybe you appreciated the verbiage, “Organic” or “Made with Real Fruit” or “Natural”. With food labeling claims, the devil’s truly in the details. The term "natural flavoring” is an inherently deceptive marketing tool; it gives us consumers a sense of perceived health. We are led to believe that natural flavoring somehow differs from artificial — we assume that “natural” is superior. Wanna hear a secret? Natural and artificial flavors are both synthesized in a lab and nutritionally speaking, natural and artificial flavors are the exact same molecule (forbes.com). Neither holds any nutritional value and both are used to make a food or beverage taste or smell better... all to lure you back to that next bite or sip.

The Chemical Process Behind Creating a “Natural” Flavor

(Photo credit: Museum of Food and Drink)
So what’s natural about “natural flavor”? Not much! *shrug* Scientists find the chemical responsible for a specific flavor in nature. They then extract it and add it to various types of food products, drinks and other processed foods. Natural flavor is a food additive, it refers to over 2500 chemically defined flavor substances, and most important, IT IS NOT FOOD! (forbes.com)

How About “Made with Real Fruit”?

“Made with real fruit,” is another tough claim to navigate at times. Oftentimes, “made with real fruit” translates to fruit juice concentrate (blegh). Concentrate doesn't contain the same benefits as whole fruit and is often high in fructose and other additives. (webmd.com) The truth is: advertisers can get away with saying A LOT without the responsibility of validating their claims. “Real fruit” falls victim to the same game as “natural flavor” — sounds great, but usually isn’t.

Costs and Convenience are REAL considerations

It’s important to note that cost, availability, and convenience can pose some issues for a food or beverage supplier. If a supplier’s product contains Rainier cherries, seasonality is but a brief three-month window. Cherries are expensive, and the availability of these beauties is limited with shipments to much of the U.S. As a result, there may not be enough supply in less bountiful years. For these reasons, it certainly seems much easier to use artificial (or as many would say: “natural” or “real”) ingredients. So, while many food and beverage companies have the best intentions, the realities of Mother Nature have them cutting corners… especially as they scale. With health and immunity currently at the top of our minds, I invite you to accept the challenge to avoid labeling sorcery and perceived health marketing. Here are a few things you can keep in mind while shopping:
 WE KEEP IT REAL, and it shows!
  1. Purchase whole foods with a short and 100% USDA Organic ingredient list.
  2. Ensure the ingredients listed on the back of the package are whole and match what’s on the front. Be aware that purees, concentrates, and extracts.
  3. Look out for additional certifications: Fair Trade, QAI, Certified vegan, certified gluten-free. These require third-party certification, and it’s a lot harder to fake.
Support brands that go the extra mile when it comes to product integrity. Deception is rampant in food & beverage, but with this extra knowledge, we hope you feel empowered to make great choices! Also, while you’re here — a reminder that Boochcraft juices all of our fruit in-house for your hard kombucha. No concentrates, no purees, no bullshit. Just real fruit, directly from farms.