The new flavour regulation forms part of the Food Improvement Agent Package of legislation, which was adopted towards the end of 2008 and entered into force with publication in the Official Journal of the EU at the end of December. The changes are applicable in two years.
Amongst the most significant changes, the new regulation will do away with the distinction between ‘nature identical’ and ‘synthetic’ flavourings, meaning that all non-natural flavourings will simply be called ‘flavouring substances’.
Meanwhile, natural flavourings can be labelled in one of four ways, depending on their precise make up: ‘natural flavouring’; ‘natural flavouring substances’; ‘natural (eg) strawberry flavouring’; and ‘natural (eg) strawberry flavouring with other natural flavours’.
But although the definitions of each term are laid out, Damien Bellusci, commercial director of Create Flavours, said it is not clear exactly what consumers will understand by them – and no research has been done on this so far.
To shed some light on the matter, the company has commissioned research that will test out the terms on consumers in the UK. Underway now, the research is expected to help inform the company’s new product development.
He told FoodNavigator.com: If one classification is a no-no, we can say to customers ‘you don’t want to go there’”.
He said that a lot of expense will be incurred by manufacturers to comply with the new regulation, including the packaging costs; if they chose something which is not well received by consumers it could mean for changing packaging all over again.
As for whether there is a need to educate consumers about what the new terms actually mean, Bellusci believes it would be a good idea, to avoid more confusion.
While the difference between nature identical and synthetics is only recently starting to be understood by consumers who look closely at food labels, now they have four different kinds of natural to grapple with.
Whether that education should come from industry or government, however, is not clear.
Create Flavours will be making some of its findings publicly available to the industry. It is also organising a training day on the new regulation on 23 February, at which it will present the data.