What are artificial flavourings?

How can scientists synthetically replicate the taste of real food?

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What are artificial flavourings?

Artificial flavourings are used to improve the taste of food or to chemically re-create a flavour that cannot be achieved through conventional production. Artificial flavours can be produced cheaper than their natural counterparts and they can also be so concentrated that much less of them is required to generate the same taste, making them very cost-effective.

To chemically re-create the taste of a naturally occurring flavour, specialist flavour chefs first obtain the essential chemicals from the foodstuff they’re trying to emulate. These chemicals are leeched out of the food through either boiling, roasting or some other refining process. This leaves a concentrate (the natural flavouring), which can be further vaporised or liquefied to obtain an even more concentrated version.

By looking at the substance through a chromatograph (an instrument that enables the separation of complex mixtures) flavour scientists can establish how the molecules in the concentrate are arranged, and then replicate the chemicals to create a man-made equivalent of the original flavour. Differing combinations of the same molecules can lead to a whole host of different flavours.

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