A company in the United Kingdom can transform chemicals found in oranges into the coveted flavor of grapefruit. By mixing the orange compounds with molecules made by living organisms, Oxford Biotrans creates natural flavors without having to ever crack open a grapefruit.And they’re not the only people using biology to make one natural ingredient out of another. Other companies are using microbes to forge scents and flavors normally found in roses and other plants or animals.“There’s a growing consumer preference for natural-labeled products,” says Jason King, CEO of Oxford Biotrans. “Companies want to be able to put goods on a shelf saying this product uses all natural flavorings.”Using biotechnology can meet some of this demand. But how does it work, and when can scientists do it? And what are natural flavors, anyway?
What are the “natural flavors” in your food? Biotech is making the answer more complicated.