7 Common Flavor Labeling Terms and 2 Clean Label Secrets

November 18, 2019

Cheese Dip

Natural. WONF. Type. 100% Organic. Organic Certified. Made with Organic. Organic Compliant. These terms, and many others, are loaded with meaning. In the minds of consumers, they might be loosely defined or not understood at all. For today’s food manufacturers they require specific understanding in order to comply with changing regulatory guidelines.

Make no mistake—consumers care about labeling. Almost 90% of consumers look at a packaging’s nutrition facts panel at least some of the time when making a purchase, and more than half check it often or always. In addition, nearly 28% of global food and beverage launches in 2018 used one or more clean label claims. In the U.S., 39% of new products used clean label claims in 2018. What’s more, the global organic foods market continues to grow and is now valued at approximately (U.S.) $100 billion a year.

As a food manufacturer, you have a variety of flavor labeling options to reach your clean label goals. Here’s a brief look at the differences between 7 key terms, using the example of flavor products that taste like Cheddar:

Natural – A flavor labeled Natural Cheddar Flavor must consist only of natural flavor ingredients derived entirely from real Cheddar cheese, such as oils, extracts or chemical compounds derived from Cheddar cheese.


Natural WONF – To be labeled Natural Cheddar WONF (With Other Natural Flavors), a flavor must contain entirely natural flavor ingredients, but these can be derived from Cheddar as well as other natural flavoring materials, such as compounds derived from Mozzarella or Parmesan, or even from natural Butter or Milk.

Type – The term “Type” is introduced when the flavor is derived from natural ingredients other than the named product. So Natural Cheddar Type Flavor tastes like Cheddar, but could be made entirely from derivatives of some other natural source (again, Mozzarella and Parmesan are good examples, but it could be any other natural ingredient).

100% Organic — A USDA 100% Organic Cheddar flavor is derived from 100% real Cheddar cheese ingredients and contains no toxins, GMOs, antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial flavors or colors, sewage/sludge, irradiation, synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Organic Certified — An Organic Certified Cheddar flavor must have at least 95% certified organic content, and the remainder must be Organic Suitable, which means content that contains no toxins, GMOs, etc.

Made with Organic — A Made With Organic Cheddar flavor must have at least 70% certified organic content, and the remainder must be Organic Suitable content.

Organic Suitable/Compliant — An Organic Suitable/Compliant Cheddar flavor is derived from organic or non-synthetic sources only, and contains no toxins, GMOs, antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial flavors or colors, sewage/sludge, irradiation, synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) has decreed that starting on December 27, 2019, organic flavors must be used in organic certified products “when available.”

Flavors are just the beginning of your clean label toolbox. Here are two “secret” ingredients you can use to simplify your labels, and help consumers satisfy their appetite for products made by nature:

E.M.C.s – Continuing with our Cheddar example, Cheddar Enzyme-Modified Cheese is basically Cheddar cheese curd that has been treated with enzymes to produce a concentrated cheese flavor ingredient in the form of a paste. E.M.C. Cheddar contains real dairy components and allows you to remain clean label by using no flavor.


All-Natural Dairy Ingredients – The Edlong® Simply Dairy line contains concentrated dairy ingredients that naturally deliver impactful dairy essences. Edlong® Simply Dairy Cheddar is listed as Cheddar cheese on your product label, and is a perfect complement to a clean label product. These authentic ingredients provide a more balanced flavor profile and lack the “soapy” characteristic associated with other E.M.C.s.

Establishing a common flavor labeling vocabulary lets you have more productive conversations about product development, R&D, purchasing, marketing and regulatory requirements. For clean label help from every angle—including making sense of the upcoming USDA Organic regulatory update that will be implemented on December 27, 2019—contact Edlong.