Food colouring goes natural

COMPOSITION FINAL PTCAG

Chr. Hansen has the natural products, along with the expertise, and experience to help food and beverage manufacturers deliver consumers visually enticing products.

Food and beverage manufacturers go to a lot of trouble to ensure their products meet consumers’ aesthetic expectations. After all, if it weren’t for food colouring, hot dogs would be grey, margarine would be white, and red gummies wouldn’t exist.

But why do they bother? After all, isn’t food all about taste?

No, says Lisa Flower, marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand at Chr. Hansen. “People eat with their eyes – and the visual appeal of a food is strongly linked to its colour,” she told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“Colour has an important role to play in the first impressions that are made. Colour also plays a role in the expectations of the consumer of the food. In fact, it can even be the reason a consumer chooses one product over another.”

While historically most food colouring has been artificial, things have changed. Natural food colouring is one of the major trends in the industry.

“The release of the 2007 Southhampton study on the impact of certain artificial colours on children’s behaviour really fast-tracked this conversion,” said Flower.

Though contentious, the study suggested a link between artificial colours and hyperactivity in children; and prompted the European Union to require some colours to carry the statement: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” on labelling.

Although there is no such labelling requirement in Australia and New Zealand, the move away from artificial colouring has also taken hold here.

Aldi, Woolworths and Coles responded to the demand by ensuring all of their private label products did not contain artificial colours. And most manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand have also converted their products to natural colours.

According to Flower, there is now another option for brands who want even cleaner labels.

“This is known as colouring foodstuffs. While natural colours are typically extracts from a natural source and may attract an E-number (a European code used to list permitted food additives on labelling), colouring foodstuffs are concentrates of the juice of a fruit or vegetable and can simply be labelled as this, for example red beet concentrate or sweet potato concentrate,” she said.

Chr Hansen

Chr. Hansen offers a spectrum of natural colours (including curcumin, paprika, cochineal, annatto and beta-carotene) and colouring foodstuffs (including red beet, sweet potato, black carrot and spirulina).

All are either extracts or concentrates of the colour from a natural source. These could be from fruits, vegetables and even fungi, algae, seeds or insects.

These products are suitable for everything from beverages and confectionery to cheese, desserts and ice cream.

While acknowledging that it is sometimes difficult to replace an artificial colour with a natural one, Flower maintains it doesn’t have to be.

“There are some formulations and interactions between ingredients that make conversion tricky or more expensive to implement. But with the right conversion partner, you can find the natural colour or colouring foodstuff alternative that makes sense for your brand and product and gives your consumers what they are looking for,” she said.

Chr. Hansen considers itself well placed to be such a partner.

“Natural colours lend themselves to most applications, although it is very important to consider the different factors such as processing conditions, temperature, light exposure, pH, acidity and the other ingredients to ensure the right colour is selected for the product,” said Flower.

“Chr. Hansen has a highly experienced sales and technical team based in Australia along with global application centres that offer full technical support to customers to assist  conversion and application questions.”

The first step in this process involves establishing if the client is looking to avoid E numbers completely, or is simply looking to avoid artificial colours.

Further questions revolve around what colour and shade the client is looking to achieve, the desired shelf life of the products, the type of packaging to be used and storage conditions; as well as processing conditions like high temperature, time, pH and other ingredients, fortifications or flavours used in the formulation.