Originally, all flavors were natural, derived from plant and animal sources through thousands of years of experience. Some of these materials were very simple collections of spices used in local foods. Others resulted in some very sophisticated processes such as wine and cheese making. These natural flavors and flavor processes proved entirely satisfactory until relatively recent times. It was only since the development of large cities and heavy industrial development that natural foods and flavors became totally inadequate to provide an adequate diet to a rapidly expanding population.
It was the growth of the food processing industry that provided the initial impetus to developing synthetic flavors. As processed food took ever larger proportions of our total diet, the demand for large amounts of flavors that are stable to heat, cold, vacuum, and other food processing conditions created the development of synthetic flavors, primarily based on the synthesis of chemicals that occurred naturally in our traditional foods.
A few years ago, it was generally assumed that the use of synthetic flavors would continue to grow and eventually almost entirely displace natural flavors because of their lower costs, increasing quality and unlimited availability reative to natural flavors.