A Look Into Food and Beverage Flavor Labeling

If you’ve made it to our site, you’re probably looking seriously into bringing a product to market, or iterating on your product line. What’s standing between you and that goal are merely a matter of taste, logistics, and a whole lot of information from the governmental bodies that protect our food and drinks. 

This article is a brief overview of how food and beverage flavor labeling works and what some of the rules are. Let our expertise guide you. We can support you and your product as you move from ideation to commercialization with a tasty product that you can be proud of.

What Are Labels For?

The purpose of food and beverage labels are to ensure that the food we eat, whether from the United States or imported from other countries, is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. 

Food and beverage labels are transparency tools. They provide comfort and protection so consumers can make informed decisions about their food choices and purchasing habits. Food labeling goes far beyond the black and white rectangle located on the back of most of the goods we buy; it now includes categorized health information to further support consumers as they make decisions about their food.

Grocery stores all over the country are lined with products labelled “Gluten-Free,” “Organic,” “Certified Organic,” “Natural, “Non-GMO,” and more. Food is more than just energy—it is, and always has been, a reflection of traditions, beliefs, and values. Food and beverage labels are tools that companies use to share the values they offer their customers and allow consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. 

Who is Responsible for Labeling Practices?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which falls under the umbrella of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the government body responsible for setting, updating, and enforcing guidelines on food and drugs to protect consumer’s health, safety, and money. They ensure that people in the United States have the aforementioned tools to help make decisions as both producers and consumers.

The FDA has the authority to remove harmful products from the market and punish the companies who put them there to begin with. Following their rules and regulations to a T is absolutely necessary for all companies. 

When it comes to hyper-specific nutrition labels like “Non-GMO” and “Organic,” what we call a clean label, things become a little trickier. To learn more about converting to a clean label, refer to our past blog post here.

“Certified Organic,” is perhaps the gold standard of these clean labels. To attain this label, products that fall within 4 types of organic production—crops, livestock, processed/ multigrain ingredient products, and wild crops— must meet strict guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The “Non-GMO,” label that you typically see is actually granted by a nonprofit organization “dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply” rather than a government agency.

We take pride in our knowledge of and ability to abide by standards across the food and agricultural sector to protect both the producer and the consumer. 

What Are the Rules For Flavors? 

The government and non-government requirements for these food labels vary, so we’ll touch mostly on some basic FDA rules and regulations.

When it comes to flavors, the rules and regulations get pretty specific, for example, “natural” versus “artificial” flavors:

The term “natural flavor” refers to, “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” 

As far as “artificial flavor” goes, it is any substance used to impart flavor on a product that is not “derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof.” 

That is to say, there are miles of scrolling through government documents required to get it all right. One of the core government documents with regard to food safety standards is the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Its original iteration was enacted in 1938, and it gave the FDA the powers it wields to this day. 

One of the sections that we’re most concerned with is FDCA Section 403(k), which “provides that a food is misbranded if it bean or contains any artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, or chemical preservative, unless it bears labeling stating that fact.” 

In those miles of scrolling and the words of those extensive guidelines lies our mission: to ensure that your products meet the standards of the government and the labeling authorities that are important to your objectives. 

We’re here to support you on your product’s journey from beginning to end; contact us today to become partners in flavor development and open a world of support for your brand. 

Flavor Insights believes this information to be correct. No warranty, guarantee, or representation is given or made in respect to the information provided. Flavor Insights is not in a position to validate the actual production or labeling of products. Flavor Insights recommends that all finished product labeling be reviewed by legal counsel, and finished product and label claim testing be confirmed to ensure product label accuracy.