Artificial Grape Flavor Is Modeled After Which Grape Variety?
Over the decades millions of children have wondered about a very simple thing: why does the artificial grape flavoring found in grape candies and grape-flavored medicine taste absolutely nothing like the grapes you eat?
The answer is both elementary and curious at the same time. Oddly enough, the flavor we all so closely associate with “artificial” grape flavor isn’t artificial at all, but is actually a compound found predominately in a variety of grapes grown in the Northeast United States: the Concord grape. Concord grapes are used almost exclusively for grape jellies, jams, and the like as well as for wines but very rarely used as table grapes.
Conversely, the vast majority of children grow up not eating dark purple Concord grapes but varieties of what are called “table” grapes which are much sweeter and generally green or red in color. As a result, there is a huge discrepancy between what most people perceive as the real flavor of grapes (e.g. the flavor of the actual grapes they grew up eating and most likely continue to eat) and the flavor of grape flavored candy, drinks, and medicines.
The compound responsible for the distinct Concord grape flavoring and the compound that food scientists create in the lab to give candies and such that distinct flavor is Methyl Anthranilate. When found in candies and related products, it is called an artificial flavoring because it was manufactured, but it’s chemically identical to the exact compound found in the grapes from which it was originally isolated.
Image courtesy of FHWA.