Why can't they get artificial banana right?

My wife and I can’t stand artificial banana. I’ve always said that it tastes like copper pipe. She just says it tastes like, well, you know what. They do a pretty good job with a lot of the artificial flavorings like vanilla, for instance. But when it comes to banana (and a lot of people say strawberry too) it’s so different from the natural flavor that you wonder how they ever associated them. So, why is banana any harder than anything else?

By the way, I’m a super taster, which basically means that I can tell Coke from Pepsi, Cool Whip from Reddy Whip, and banana from copper pipe.

Bananas don’t have quite the acid like other fruits. With other fruits, you include some acid mix that reminds the taste buds of the actual fruit.

Bananas don’t have that specific apple mix of acid or that orange acid which makes anything fruity have a specific tartness.

In the book Fast Food Nation, there’s a few page section where author Eric Schlosser talks about artificial flavors. He visits a lab where they create them, and meets with a ‘flavorist’. Creating artificial flavors is described as sort of a mix of science and art. He lists the ingredients in a typical ‘artificial strawberry flavoring’, and it’s about a 3-inch high paragraph of chemicals like benzyl isobutyrate, diacetyl, ethyl propionate, and a whole bunch of other things I’d rather not know about. These flavorists have fake-sounding but apparently real machinery like ‘gas chromatographs’, ‘spectrometers’, and ‘headspace vapor analyzers’ to help them pin down a foods flavorings. But even still, it’s an imperfect science. Who knows? Maybe the perfect bananna flavoring is the Holy Grail of these guys? :slight_smile:

He doesn’t talk specifically about artifical bananna flavor, but there is one section that might be part of the reason you’re looking for. He talks about the importance of “mouthfeel” – textures and chemical interactions that effect how you percieve flavor. Banannas have such a distinct mouthfeel, that even if they get the flavoring reasonably close (not saying they have), it’s still never going to be quite right.

Oh, let me qualify and clarify:

Take an “apple” flavor…chances are the succesful apple flavor is a granny smith (green)apple falvor, which has a specific acidic taste, making for a specific tartness that R&D labs can duplicate.

Mmmm … Artificial banana Circus Peanuts and Runts.

Doesn’t get faker than that.

There is such a thing as a “super taster”. Some people can taste certain bitter flavors that other people cannot.

And, um, I spelt “banana” wrong every time in my previous post because I was talking about the fake ones. Yeah, that’s it. :smiley:

From the mailbag archives (SDSTAFF Ian):
How do they make artificial flavors?

Boy that mailbagger from IAN wasn’t very helpful.

Food TV did a special on candy, and some of the most distiguishable flavors were based on tartness, which is produced by certain amounts of acid powder, more or less. Real good and acidy foods - like oranges an apples - were very easy to distinguish and replicate using tartness controls like acid powders. Foods lacking tartness, especially the fruit variety like banananananas, are less distinguishable by tartness, and more dependent on texture, so there isn’t much to work with in terms of getting bananananana flavor into a candy.

Bananas have the same problem as watermelons, when it comes to flavors. Fact is, they just don’t have much flavor at all. So what do you do? You take what flavor they do have, and you concentrate it. Many of the substances you’re complaining about probably are actual banana flavor, but concentrated to the point that you don’t recognize it. Try dried banana chips, sometime, to see what I mean.

Isoamyl acetate is the primary flavor component in bananas.
How stuff works has a nice write-up with links to listings of all sorts of different flavor agents.
An accurate banana flavoring is likely not any harder to create than apple or peach flavor. Of course if 90% of the population thinks the banana flavor is good as is, there’s not much incentive for companies to create an improved product. A socialist state with central planning by a committee of banana lovers might be the best way to popularize a better banana flavoring :smiley:

Oh, and try “grape” flavor and tell me that’s supposed to really be grape.

I love dried banana chips!

sorry to interrupt. carry on.


In my organic chemistry lab last year, we made that, and the compound that gives rum it’s flavor. It was right before spring break, and if we had mixed those two chemicals with some of the 200 proof ethanol floating around the lab, I bet we could’ve had a pretty good time!

IMHO, the taste of banana Laffy Taffy is bananatastic. What sort of “fake banana” are we referring to? I’d rush out and look for banana Circus Peanuts, but I’m pretty sure they’re only meant as a sculpting medium for young children, not a foodstuff. :slight_smile:

I once read a magazine article about food science that said the reason artificial flavours often don’t taste like the real thing is because people like it that way, and realistic flavours just don’t sell.

They interviewed a chemist in this article and according to the chemist, their goal is to match peoples perceptions of what a flavour should taste like, not to match the flavour exactly. He mentioned a time they came up with some sort of snack (a candy I think, I don’t remember exactly) that tasted exactly like real strawberries. But in tests, consumers greatly preferred the artificial strawberry flavour to the real thing, so that’s the version that went to market.