Rising Demand for Natural Colors Galvanizes R&D Efforts

Rising Demand for Natural Colors Galvanizes R&D Efforts

Movement away from the use of artificial to natural colors in the US food and beverage industry will experience sizable growth going into the next decade, according to Christine O’Keefe, analyst with The Freedonia Group.  Among the factors supporting this growth is a rising consumer-driven demand for safety, sustainability, traceability, and transparency of the supply chain.  But while nature abounds with traceable, sustainable substances for virtually every color and hue in the rainbow, many natural colors have limited applications due to their inherent low chemical stability and color intensity, restricting or barring use in foods and beverages subjected to pH changes and high temperatures during processing, as well as food and beverages stored in transparent packaging.  In contrast, traditional artificial colors demonstrate high chemical stability under a broad variety of conditions and are capable of imparting vibrant colors.  As a result, much of the recent research and development in natural colors for food and beverages has been focused on the improvement of product stabilities to increase shelf life and reduce the dosage rates needed to achieve vibrant colors.

Improving Stabilities of Natural Colors

pH levels have significant effects on many natural colors.  Anthocyanins, for example, are sensitive to pH and not only lose their overall intensity as the pH of the matrix they are in rises, but also shift in color from red to purple.  As such, anthocyanins may not be viable for foods and beverages that undergo a pH change during storage or manufacturing.  Heat can also cause red anthocyanins to shift to purple shades.  Other natural colors, such as curcumin yellows, while known for their excellent temperature stability, are sensitive to light and will fade if stored in transparent packaging. 

Color intensity differences between artificial and natural colors exist in part due to the much lower concentration of pigments in the latter.  Although similar color intensities are theoretically attainable with natural colors by using them in higher doses, many natural colors impart off flavors and/or alter the texture of the product when used in higher concentrations.  For example, betalains can imbue foods with an unwanted beet-like flavor at higher dosage rates. Moreover, higher usage rates can escalate production costs relative to the use of artificial colors.

New Natural Colors

In the ongoing quest to develop and commercialize new pH-, light-, and heat-stable natural colors, leading producers such as Chr. Hansen, Naturex, Sensient Colors, and DDW have brought new products to market in the past few years.  Specific recent product launches include the following:

  • CAPCOLORS Orange 057 WSS (Chr. Hansen) is an encapsulated beta carotene-based orange color for beverages. This product is made via Chr. Hansen’s proprietary CAPCOLORS encapsulation technology, which increases the coloring agent’s resistance to light, heat, and bottleneck ringing, while also providing quick dispersing and dissolving properties.
  • SupraRed (Sensient Colors) is a heat-stable natural red color for neutral pH baked goods and dry grocery products. According to Sensient Colors, SupraRed provides a previously unattained level of heat stability for these applications.
  • DDW’s EmulsiTech line features clear orange (paprika-based) and clear yellow (beta carotene-based) liquid color emulsions colors. Suitable for use in beverages, hard candy, fruit spreads, and other food products, these coloring emulsions boast a 12-month shelf life and high heat and light stability.
  • Also in the works at DDW is a new anthocyanin food color derived from a purple corn hybrid cultivated in the US. Depending on the pH, this coloring agent provides a vibrant red to purple hue and a clean, neutral taste. End uses include juice drinks, energy and sports drinks, enhanced waters, fruit preparations, salad dressings, yogurts, cereals, snacks, and confectionery products.
  • miChroma Turmeric OC LWD (Naturex) is a light-resistant and flavor-neutral curcumin-based yellow that contains 10% pigment content to produce an intense yellow color for sauces, snacks, ice creams, baked goods, and other applications.

Learn More About the Natural Colors Industry in the US

For more information on the outlook of natural colors used in the US food and beverage sector, see The Freedonia Group’s study Food & Beverage Natural Colors Market in the US.  This comprehensive report presents historical demand data (2006, 2011, and 2016) and forecasts (2021) by color, including red, yellow, orange, brown, green, blue, purple, and other natural colors.  The study also evaluates company market share and competitive analysis on industry competitors including Chr. Hansen, Sensient Colors, GNT, DDW, and Naturex.

About the Author:

Aaron Hackle is a Corporate Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he works on studies related to the US and Global chemicals, industrial components, and oil and gas markets.

  Chemicals      Industry Studies