A Little about Lemon

Lemon flavor is great tasting, simple and environmentally friendly. The lemon oil we use to formulate flavors is extracted from lemon peel by cold pressing it from the rinds.

Typically this oil is comprised of:

Limonene: 75%, Citral 10%, as well as Terpinene, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Heptanal, Octanal, Nonanal, Decanal, Undecanal, l-Linalool, alpha-Terpineol and 4-Terpineol.

Citral, however, is the characterizing component of lemon oil. Most people say Citral reminds them of Lemon Pledge®. Flavor chemists carefully select oils, blend and enhance, so lemon flavors are peceived to be desireable, fresh and juicy, and not like furniture polish.

Lemon flavor has a reputation for being unstable. This is primarily because of Citral, which is an unsaturated chemical. Unsaturated chemicals are less stable than saturated. In an aqueous, acidic, high temperature environment Citral will transform.

Transformation leads to off-notes (such as Cymene, Cresol and Methyl acetophenone).  Weerawatanakorn, M., et.al. provides some insight into these reactions in their publication “Reactivity and Stability of Selected Flavor Compounds”. Flavor chemists who decide to join the Society, must understand these reactions, their by-products and how to prevent. The syllabus, which is found on the Society’s website, goes into detail regarding which reactions a certified flavor chemist is expected to understand.

The transformation that Citral undergoes is more likely to happen in an acidic beverage, so decreasing acidity may slow down degradation of Citral. Trouble is, food scientists add citric acid (sour) to a food, confection or beverage product when they make a lemon flavored product. Why? Because it’s confusing to smell lemon flavor and not taste sour. Also, food generally needs to be acidic to prevent pathogen growth. Pathogens are harmful microbes like Listeria monocytogenes, E.Coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.

Flavor and beverage companies patented techniques to improve stability of citrus beverages. One flavor company claimed to improve stability of citrus flavors by “optimizing the raw materials used and the processing steps used in production” . None the less, developing a stable citrus beverage has been called “The Holy Grail”  by Perfumer and Flavorist Magazine.

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  1. Interesting! I wonder how the flavoring soda machines at some fast food restaurants work. The Jack in the Box near me has a machine that you can get any sort of lemon flavored soda from!