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The History of Grape Flavoring

Grape flavoring may not be an object you see very often on its own, but it’s a key element in things you probably interact with frequently, from grape-flavored sodas to candies and other snacks. The first artificial grape flavoring was created in the late 1800s, when scientists isolated a chemical called methyl anthranilate from orange blossom extract, which was used in many perfumes and colognes at the time. The chemical, or ester, was notable to the chemists because it smelled like grapes. It was also cheap to produce using coal byproducts from the emerging coal industry, and soon it was used to add grape flavor to foods and beverages, starting with sodas. In the 1920s, scientists sought to distinguish between artificial and genuine grape flavors. In the course of their research, they discovered methyl anthranilate in real grape juice. Interestingly, the chemical was found in concord grapes, which were more popular in America in times past. Today, red and white grapes from Chile and California are more common, and these do not contain methyl anthranilate, which may explain why grape flavoring seems so different from what modern Americans think of as “real” grape taste. Grape flavoring has, of course, remained ubiquitous in the food industry and is still common in soda, snacks, and candies today.

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