Demand for natural colors up as consumers seek simpler labels

06 November, 2015
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The following excerpts are from the article Demand for natural colors up as consumers seek simpler labels by Rena Archwamety for CHEESE MARKET NEWS.

October 16, 2015

MADISON, Wis. — “All-natural” has gone mainstream as several food giants are trading artificial ingredients and synthetic colors for naturally-derived options and cleaner labels.

Starting in January, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese’s Original variety in the United States will no longer be made with artificial preservatives or synthetic colors. Its trademark yellow cheese sauce will instead be derived from natural sources like paprika, annatto and tumeric.

Other large companies also are making the switch to natural colors. In February, Nestlé USA committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from all of its chocolate candy products, and the next day The Hershey Co. announced it was switching to simpler ingredients. In June, General Mills said it would remove artificial flavors and colors from all its cereals, aiming for 75 percent by January and 90 percent by the end of 2016.Mondelez International’s Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer Mark Clouse said during a conference presentation that the company aims to remove artificial colors and flavors by 2020.

Making the switch

FDA has approved the safety of artificial colors covered by the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FD&C) as well as natural colors on the U.S. market. However, consumer demand has prompted many companies to switch to more expensive natural options, says Campbell Barnum, vice president of D.D. Williamson & Co. (DDW), which is a major provider of natural coloring for cheese and dairy products.

“DDW supports the science and safety of both categories,” Barnum says. “Consumer perception and preference are driving the switch from FD&C colors to naturally-derived colors in premium-priced food and beverages, as the latter are more expensive in terms of cost-in-use.”

This higher cost is due to concentration differences between natural and artificial colors, Barnum says. Stability in heat, light and different pH levels also are key considerations when switching to natural colors.

“As a result, often the best solution is a blend of natural coloring in order to hit the desired hue that is stable in the customer’s application,” Barnum says. Natural colors have improved, and Barnum says the color industry has innovated to bridge the performance gap between natural and FD&C colorings. For example, DDW developed a liquid spirulina, a natural blue color from algae, that offers better light stability than the conventional version to help ease the switch from FD&C Blue 1. DDW also is now manufacturing liquid carotenoid color emulsions, such as water-dispersible beta-carotene, to provide stable yellow hues in yogurt, ice cream and dairy beverages. In September, DDW opened a new manufacturing site in Louisville, Kentucky, for these EmulsiTech color emulsions.

“We will continue to see the growth rate of naturally-derived coloring exceed that of FD&Cs, but most companies will continue to use some synthetic colors for cost, hue or stability reasons,” Barnum says. . .
Lynne Galia, head of communications for The Kraft Heinz Co., says throughout its process of making the switch to natural ingredients in Kraft Mac & Cheese, the company has spent a lot of time listening to its customers through research and visiting with them in stores and in their homes.

“They told us they wanted products with improved nutrition and simpler ingredients like no artificial flavors, artificial preservatives or synthetic colors,” she says. “But they were equally emphatic they didn’t want their iconic Kraft Mac & Cheese to look or taste different.”

The company started with its shaped macaroni products, which launched with no synthetic colors in January 2014, but took longer to perfect the formulation for the popular original variety.

“Until we were confident we had the right recipe for Original Blue Box, we were not going to change the product,” Galia says. “We tested a number of recipes with consumers and only recently felt we had the right combination of ingredients to deliver the distinctive taste, appearance and texture consumers expect from Kraft Mac & Cheese.”

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