Though FDA offers a definition of natural flavor, understanding what substances are and are not considered natural when used as flavorings is a difficult task. Federal regulations define a “natural flavorant” as “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 any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

Few companies reveal that exact mixture used in their ‘natural flavorings’ for proprietary reasons. However, naturals companies increasingly list whether their flavorings are derived from vegetarian- and vegan-approved sources.