I am a LaCroix addict. Hardly a day goes by that I'm not sippin' on that bubbly. Along with that, I'm also a bit of a health nut. So when I saw that LaCroix advertises that it contains only "natural flavors," I wondered if my addiction was totally healthy. At least there weren't any artificial flavors in it, right? 

Eventually, after drinking other naturally-flavored water that didn't taste all that natural, I started to wonder what exactly I was drinking. What are natural flavors? Where do they come from? And how exactly are they different from artificial flavors?

I decided to look at LaCroix, Hint, and Perrier. I checked each of the company's websites to see what they had to say about their own natural flavoring, and then I compared this info to other sources.


La Croix's website states, "The flavors are derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit...There are no sugars or artificial ingredients contained in, nor added to, these extracted flavors."

According to the Wall Street Journal, who recently looked more into these natural flavors, the "natural essence oils" are made by heating up the skins or rinds of fruits to make a vapor that is then "captured [and] condensed."  

Seems legit. 

Hint Water 

According to Hint's website, "Individual essences and extracts are obtained from plant sources (fruits, vegetables, spices), using a variety of ancient culinary techniques that separate the flavors we want from the sugar, color, pulp and other components that we don't." And "other natural flavors" simply refers to natural flavors that are included to help round out the overall taste, but are not the flavor labeled on the bottle.


When I headed over to Perrier's website, I came up empty regarding details about how they derived their natural flavors. But from what I gathered from La Croix and Hint's websites, it appeared that "natural flavors" truly weren't that much to worry about. 

What the FDA Says

While these flavors come from sources found naturally, according to the FDA, they can be chemically altered to create the desired product. 

But the Code of Federal Regulations actually says: "A natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis," of things like fruits, spices, vegetables, and even meat, strictly for flavoring and not nutritional value. 

Got it? Basically, the FDA allows anything to be labeled as natural as long as it doesn't contain any "added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."  

Still, Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, explained to American Scientific that, "Consumers pay a lot for natural flavorings. But these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts."

At the end of the day, it's always my responsibility as a consumer to see what each company discloses about their own personal use of natural flavors and then decide for myself which products to drink and not drink. Will my investigation into natural flavors keep me from drinking my LaCroix? Probably not. It seems totally legit. With no apparent health risk, I've decided that drinking my flavored, fizzy water in addition to plain ol' H20 shouldn't be a problem.