Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Leopoldo Jr.. Leopoldo Jr. Wonders, “How are artificial flavors made ?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Leopoldo Jr.!

Are you a fan of delicious flavor? Who isn’t, right? Maybe you love a hot, cheesy pizza. Or perhaps you think a strawberry smoothie hits the spot. Flavors make our foods come to life! They make eating and drinking two of the most fun things we can do every day!

If someone asked you how you sense flavor, what would you tell them? Would you say you taste flavors with your tongue? That’s true! But would you believe it actually involves more of your senses?

Scientists have studied how humans sense flavor. They believe that the sensation of flavor is a combination of both taste and smell. They also believe temperature and texture add to flavor.

In fact, some scientists believe that smell is a more important factor in determining flavor than taste is! They point to a study of the taste buds. It found that there are only a few basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory.

However, the ways food can smell is basically limitless. Think about soft drinks and candy, for example. Many of these items are made of similar substances and have the same basic tastes. However, their flavors can be quite different. Manufacturers use a wide variety of scents to make their products stand out.

Some foods have their own unique flavors based on their natural chemical composition. For example, an orange tastes . . . well . . . like an orange! You can say the same thing for a banana and hundreds of other fruits and vegetables.

When you eat an orange, your nose detects its smell. Your tongue senses its taste. And, of course, your hands notice the fruit’s texture. The overall sensation is the flavor you know as “orange.” This is what you expect when you eat an orange.

But what about when you drink orange Kool-Aid®? Or eat orange sherbet? These items are not oranges, but they taste a lot like them. Are oranges used in making these items? Maybe, but probably not—these foods have most likely had artificial orange flavoring added to them.

Scientists call these artificial flavorings added to foods flavorants. They’re chemical substances that alter the foods they’re added to in order to make them taste a particular way. The orange sherbet you eat might taste like natural fruit. But it may not contain any actual oranges! Instead, artificial flavorings may be used to create that “natural” flavor!

Flavorants are created by people called flavorists. They work for companies who develop new flavors. Many times, artificial flavors are chemically almost identical to natural flavors. However, natural flavors are sometimes difficult or too expensive to make. Cheaper, easier artificial versions are created instead.

What flavors do you enjoy? Did you realize that flavor isn’t all about taste? The next time you bite into a favorite food, think about how you’re experiencing the flavor through your other senses!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.6, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

Where there’s smoke, there’s tomorrow's Wonder of the Day!