What Does 'Natural' Really Mean?

When it comes to packaged foods, the term ‘natural’ can seem a little out of place. ‘Natural’ can mean many things, for example, not flavoured (in potato chips  or yoghurt), while in other categories, ‘natural’ can mean that the added flavours and colours are from ‘natural sources’. 

It’s also important to note where the word ‘natural’ occurs in food labelling. When you see ‘a natural source of protein’ that means the protein occurs naturally in the product, however ‘contains natural protein’ could indicate that it has been added to the product. The use of the term ‘natural flavours’ on food labelling has been shown to produce positive opinions towards the product. Unfortunately, most people don’t realise that these natural flavours are still generally created in a lab by chemists. 

When it comes to the word ‘natural’ there is no formal legal definition either, which means that natural flavours and colours can undergo many different kinds of processing. Did you know that manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients within their ‘natural flavours’? Some brands also use the term ‘natural’ to mislead consumers into thinking that all their products are natural (while still containing nasties like preservatives and other additives). Natural flavours are a much used ingredient to many food products, according to the Environmental Working Group, they are the fourth most common ingredient in processed foods.

The main reason so many brands use natural colours and flavours is because they are a more cost effective substitute for the real thing. In particular, they use ‘natural’ food colouring to meet consumer expectations of what looks most appetising, e.g. making salmon pinker. At Fine Fettle we know real ingredients don’t need natural colours or flavours - we let them speak for themselves. 

How can we make sure we know what we’re putting in our bodies when the front of packaging labels can be confusing and misleading? Always read the ingredients list. If there's anything there that you can’t pronounce, contains a number, or that you’re unfamiliar with, you probably don’t want to be putting it in your body. Also beware of any ingredients that begin with ‘natural’ as they are often still processed. 

We’ve made this very easy to do on our products - our ingredient lists are short and easy to read on the back of the pack, and are full of real ingredients  - no hidden nasties in sight. All our products are made from whole foods (that you can actually see) with minimal processing, resulting in flavourful products, packed with nutrients and other good stuff. With no preservatives, it can mean that some of our ranges have a shorter shelf life, but they’re so moorish, you’ll want to eat them all in one go. 

At Fine Fettle, we know how important it is to know exactly what goes into the things we eat. Try some of our FLATS vegetable crackers, or our apple crisps for a delicious and natural snack today.