by Aaron Hackle
August 15, 2017
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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