In short: No. We do not use “Natural Flavors” or “Artificial Flavors” to hide ingredients in our products, We strongly believe in being honest and open about what is in our products and wish all companies would take it as seriously as we do.
First things first, we need to clear up what appears to be a common misconception: what EXACTLY is meant by “natural” or “artificial” flavors when talking about food ingredients. If a compound in a flavor or essence is extracted from a source that occurs in nature (even if it is significantly modified before its final form) that is called “Natural.” Conversely, if a compound is created in a lab or process using other components to create a completely new compound, that would be termed “Artificial.” Another way to think about it would be that if you take water from the ocean and distill it to make desalinated water, that is “natural.” If you take a fuel and burn it, creating carbon dioxide and water vapor, technically that water was created by a chemical process (burning) and you have “artificial” H2O. The distinction between the two is how they originate, although both typically go through a considerable amount of changes to get to their final form.
The USDA, FDA, and FTC allow manufacturers in the United States to… well… hide small ingredients under the umbrella of “natural flavor” and also under “artificial flavor.” It’s legal, rather common, and it’s a jerk thing to do to your customers. The practice is prevalent enough that many people with a voice will tell those who listen to completely avoid anything with the ingredient “natural flavor(s).” You may have seen lists on the Internet of “names of sugar” with Natural Flavor as one of them. The interesting thing is that “artificial flavor(s)” has the same potential for abuse – it isn’t any better. Ultimately it comes down to: how much do you trust the people making a product? Do they go so far as publishing their recipe? Have they tried actually using the product for 100 days and publishing all of the data including blood tests and more? We to prove ourselves trustworthy.
We work exceptionally hard to make certain that none of our products have ANY maltodextrin at all. This is extremely difficult to do because maltodextrin is commonly used as a binder and bulking agent so that liquid flavors can be made into a powder – the manufacturing industry loves the stuff, but we don’t want it in our products. Instead we use Acacia Gum. It works nearly as well as maltodextin but also lets fats mix with water (it’s an emulsifier) and even though it’s a fiber that humans can’t digest, your gut bacteria turns it into butyrate and other short chain fats. it’s extremely cool stuff. It’s also more expensive and more difficult to use and source than maltodextrin, which is why the foods industry doesn’t like to use it unless you stomp your feet and throw a fit like a petulant child.
Finally we arrive at “what EXACTLY is in the natural/artificial flavorings you use?” – We can easily tell you what IS NOT in it, it’s far harder to say what is in them. Let us expain the issue.
The way our flavor manufacturer works is they will not divulge a list of the exact specific components in a flavor, they consider that a closely held trade secret, and the same applies to both flavors made from ingredients that occur naturally, and flavors made from ingredients that are synthesized in a lab. What we can do, especially for concerns regarding allergens, is check to see if a specific ingredient or compound is present in one of the flavors. Such is the case with our Pistachio flavor for Keto Chow – the question was raised “hey, I’m allergic to pistachio nuts – does this have actual compounds (proteins) from pistachios that would trigger an allergy?” It takes a few days for us to get back an answer. In the case of Pistachio, the answer was that the “Natural” flavors do not contain any actual compounds from pistachio nuts and is therefore safe for people with pistachio allergies. Cool! Pina Colada, however does contain actual Pineapple extracts.