For a long time, we wondered just what tea companies mean when, on their packaging, the ingredients in a certain blend are listed as (for example):
‘Green tea, natural flavouring, natural vanilla flavouring with other natural flavouring.’
That’s a lot of flavouring! Why list ‘natural flavouring’ as a separate, different ingredient from ‘natural vanilla flavouring…with other natural flavouring’? Just what does that mean?
One of the worst offenders in the arena of vague ingredients lists is Twinings. That’s why we decided to email them to get the answer, and to confirm why some ingredients are listed with percentages, while others are not. Their initial response was:
Thank you for contacting us.
It is a legal requirement within the Food Standards Agency that the main ingredients reflected in the product’s name has the exact percentage disclosed. For example, our Lemon & Ginger infusion contains Ginger Root* (37%), Natural Lemon Flavouring With Other Natural Flavourings (25%), Lemongrass*, Blackberry Leaves*, Lemon Peel, Sweet Fennel*, Natural Ginger Flavouring With Other Natural Flavourings (3.5%).
Furthermore, ‘Natural Flavourings’ included in our blends are direct extracts of fruit, herbs, spices or other plant material. These extracts are manufactured starting with the raw materials which undergo various heating, extraction and separation processes to concentrate the flavour compounds within those raw materials.
I hope this helps, but if you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me again.
We replied and pointed out that this response didn’t explain why, in their example, they listed ‘lemon natural flavouring with other natural flavouring’ – or why that will frequently be paired with ‘natural flavouring’ as a separate ingredient. Just how many times do they need to say it contains natural flavouring? And how are those things different? They said:
Thanks for your reply.
The safety and permissibility of a particular flavouring is governed by specific European legislation and likewise the way flavourings should be declared in a list of ingredients is mandated under European legislation. We monitor existing and developing legislation very closely to ensure that our products are produced and labelled in accordance with current European and UK legislation so the way in which our flavourings are printed on the pack, is done so in line with strict regulations. A flavour can still be natural without having to reference the ‘natural’ in the UK but we try to include natural where we can, so if it has been omitted then it is likely it is artificial.
As their very name suggests and as defined in European legislation, ‘flavourings’ are added to foods to impart odour and or taste. Within an ingredients list, the main ingredients reflected in the product name or highest percentage ingredient must be listed, along with any other ingredients that give the product name it’s taste characteristics or allergens.
Take for example our Mango & Strawberry infusion (https://www.twinings.co.uk/tea/fruit-herbal/mango-strawberry-20-tea-bags). Within the ingredients list it states ‘Natural Strawberry Flavouring with Other Natural Flavourings (10%).’ This part of the ingredients makes reference to the main strawberry element of the infusion as indicated by the product name and is listed as ‘Natural Strawberry Flavouring’; however to achieve a stronger strawberry flavour we mix ‘Other Natural Flavourings’ which is then added to the overall infusion as a separate component.
Within this infusion we also have listed ‘Natural Flavourings (10%)’ which does not directly relate to product name, however, as there is no ‘Natural Mango Flavouring’, with mango being referenced in the product name, the ‘Natural Flavourings (10%)’ are a combination of ingredients to help produce a mango-like taste character.
I hope this information helps, but if you require anything further, please don’t hesitate to contact me again.
So, there you have it – convoluted as it is. We love this customer services agent for putting so much effort and thought into trying to explain this to us…though it does beg the question: what will happen to the ingredients lists on UK tea bags following Brexit?
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