Cleaning Up Your Ingredient Panel

21 November, 2016
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The following excerpts were taken from the article Natural Colors: Cleaning Up Your Ingredient Panel in Candy & Snack Today magazine, September/October 2016 issue, pp. 40-43.

Consumer demand is driving pressure to use natural colors. Suppliers explain where to start and the challenges and benefits of making the switch.

“IF FOOD DOESN’T TASTE GOOD, consumers won’t buy it a second time. If doesn’t look good, they won’t buy it a first time.”

This edict, issued by Ted Nixon, CEO and chairman, DDW—The Color House, might drive chills up the spine of confectionery manufacturers, particularly those striving to eliminate artificial colors while at the same time preserving the perfect appearance of their products. Food coloring suppliers say it’s absolutely possible to affordably make the switch, without compromising flavor or, ultimately, consumers.

Many obstacles are being overcome, including costs, which have come down, technology, which has improved, and challenges when dealing with heat, light and pH stability. However, supply chain factors should also be considered, since the food that acts as the source material is vulnerable to many environmental conditions.

Studies reveal growing numbers of consumers are clamoring for manufacturers to reformulate to eliminate artificial ingredients of all types, colors included. In fact, according to a 2015 Nielsen Holdings PLC poll, 29 percent of North American consumers consider[s] a lack of artificial colors to be “very important,” while 42 percent of consumers globally express the same sentiment. Additionally, 43 percent of U.S. consumers try to limit or avoid artificial colors, as reported in a 2016 International Foods Information Council study.

In response to these conditions, during the past year, DDW has seen a 15 percent increase in requests for natural color samples from North American manufacturing customers. One-fifth of those have shipped to snack and confectionery companies, the supplier reports.

DDW Application Scientist Scott Ondracek says for every pound of synthetic color, 20 to 40 pounds of color derived from natural inputs are required.

With natural color, the manufacturing sequence also often changes. Color could need to be sprayed on in the final production stages, or injected toward the end of production. The latter adjustment could require purchasing new equipment.

Switching to natural colors requires flexibility. For the best outcomes, Ondracek says working from the ground up is most effective in all respects, financial and otherwise.

With the imperative that food must look appealing, another factor at play is how color serves as a quick reference for flavor, Ondracek explains. He reports people’s perceptions can be altered by color, using as an example the phenomenon of adding more orange coloring to orange juice without adding higher concentrations of real juice, which alters consumers perceptions, causing them to believe the juice tastes better.

“Without the secondary reference that color provides, people become confused,” Ondracek says. He cites as another example of a test whereby people were given a green colored beverage that was cherry-flavored and only one in 20 guessed correctly.

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