Ever stumbled across the back of a drinks bottle and wondered, what exactly am I drinking? With so many additives, preservatives and flavourings it can be a little confusing to understand.  Let us give you a quick crash-course through some of the things you may find at the back of your favourite low and non-alcoholic drink.


A flavouring is a compound with 0 nutritional value but act to enhance flavour in a product. Anything labelled “Natural” is derived from a plant or animal whereas anything “Artificial” has been made in a lab. So it may seem that natural flavourings are healthier or the better choice.

An example

Let's look at vanilla. Vanilla flavour can be obtained naturally through vanilla pods, like adding those black pods to custard, in an extract; using alcohol and vanilla beans to make an intensely flavoured liquid or artificially via the synthesis of the compound vanillin. Lab-made vanillin makes up about 94% of all vanilla flavourings whereas the original sources account for just 6%. On a fun note, castoreum is a natural vanilla flavouring. It’s excreted from the castor sacs of the beaver, located very close to the anus. Luckily this method of natural, yes this would still be a natural flavouring, has long fallen out of favour.