A byproduct of industrial processed food is that many “normal” things you might eat have some anything-but-normal ingredients. Take lemonade, for example—an old-fashioned, simple recipe consisting of water, sugar, and lemon juice. A reductionist approach to lemonade would be break it down as such: water, sweetener, texture, lemon flavor, and yellow coloring. Food scientists have been able to do exactly this and produce “lemonade” on a cheap, industrial scale.
In this post we break down the ingredients in a popular convenience store lemonade and what exactly they are doing.
Ingredients found in the convenience store “lemonade”
- High fructose corn syrup
- Lemon juice (from concentrate)
- Citric acid
- Modified cornstarch
- Ester of wood rosin
- Sodium hexametaphosphate
- Sodium benzoate
- Potassium sorbate
- Yellow #5
Source: Some website
High fructose corn syrup: Heavy subsidization of corn has left the United States with too much of it. To eat up the surplus, scientists have found ways to extract all kinds of products by processing the plant. HFCS is one of these products, and acts as a sweetener. It’s also dirt cheap (at least when corn prices are low) and American beverage producers have found all sorts of ways to include it.
Citric acid: Used for tartness and preservation.
Modified cornstarch: As the name implies, modified cornstarch is cornstarch that has been treated to change one or more of its properties. In the case of lemonade, modified cornstarch is probably acting as a thickener to give the juice some texture.
Glycerol: Glycerol is colorless, odorless, thick liquid found in many beverages and household products.
Ester of wood rosin: Found in many beverages, ester of wood rosin is used to re-create an authentic lemonade taste. It’s also suitable as a stabilizer or emulsifier, helping keep various ingredients together. Ester of wood rosin is somewhat natural in origin, typically being derived from the stumps of longleaf pine trees.
EDTA: An abbreviation for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, EDTA usually accompanies sodium benzoate and light acid in beverages. Why? Without it, carcinogenic benzene will form.
Yellow #5: Also known as tartrazine, Yellow #5 is a colored dye that makes Minute Maid’s lemonade look somewhat like lemonade. Due to research findings on tartrazine, the United Kingdom is currently phasing its use out as well as related color dyes.