Colored by Nature – Natural Color Use in Beverages

28 November, 2016
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The following excerpts were taken from the article Colored by Nature in Beverage Industry Magazine, November 2016. Click here to read the full article.

Despite formulation cost challenges, natural colors [are] on the rise

With a growing interest in getting back to nature, consumer demand for natural ingredients has flourished. As beverage-makers formulate new products, more now are choosing natural colors to appeal to this consumer desire.

Natural challenges

Although natural color solutions offer consumer appeal, they also can incorporate a unique set of challenges into a formulation.

Stephen Lauro, president of Anaheim, Calif.-based colorMaker Inc., says that many considerations must be made when using natural colors in beverage formulations, and that the decision to use natural colors should be determined at the beginning of the research and development (R&D) process.

“Natural colors must be considered first, before flavors, packaging and distribution, because the selection of a natural color will impact the choice of flavor, package and even distribution,” he explains. “Natural colors can and do deliver visual appeal to beverages. However, natural colors may be sensitive to pH, heat processing and light. As a result, beverage developers must be careful to select natural colors that will be compatible with the beverage’s flavor-system (low pH or neutral pH), packaging (clear bottle versus opaque carton), and heat processing (hot-fill-and-hold, [high-temperature-short-time] HTST, or [ultra-high-temperature] UHT).”

Campbell Barnum, vice president of branding and market development at D.D. Williamson and Co. (DDW), Louisville, Ky., also emphasizes how natural colors can impact beverage formulation. “[N]atural colors offer healthy ingredients sourced from familiar products to address this growing consumer trend; however, natural colors require increased technical expertise since some colors are more heat and light stable than others, and, often, a blend of natural colors offers the best stability,” he says. “It’s best to work directly with the customer’s beverage base to determine the most stable color solution.”

Making the transition

As more new products launch with clean labels, experts note that many existing beverage brands are announcing or implementing transitions to natural colors.

However, as a result of the challenges posed by natural color solutions, brands that are transitioning might experience their own set of obstacles when attempting to keep their products synonymous with the original, synthetically colored version, experts say.

Staying synthetic

Despite increased interest in natural and organic coloring solutions, artificial colors still are used for many beverage applications. “Beverage manufacturers continue to use artificial colors despite the consumer trend toward natural colors,” colorMaker’s Lauro says. “Artificial colors continue to provide beverages with a maximum shelf-life.”

He says that synthetic colors can be selected at the end of the R&D process because they have little to no effect on the formulation process, unlike natural colors.

DDW’s Barnum says that FD&C-certified synthetic colors have superior light, temperature and pH stability in beverage formulations. “However, some are susceptible to degradation in the presence of vitamin C, like Red 40 and Yellow 5 and 6. Red 40 fades in dairy products, whereas naturally derived red beet color maintains a pink hue,” he says.

Lauro adds: “We say, ‘If it looks good, you will drink it; if it tastes good, you will drink it again.’ That is to say, product color sets the stage for flavor anticipation.”

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