Growth in natural colour solutions fuels an enhanced consumer experience

By Nathalie Pauleau, global product manager for Natural Colours, Naturex, part of Givaudan

Demand for natural products is on the rise as consumers look to improve their lifestyle and diet, and this trend has only been strengthened and accelerated by the events of the past few months.

Increasingly consumers are seeking naturally formulated foods with recognisable ingredients that enhance sensory appeal, while maintaining a clean label. They want the food and drink they buy to be naturally formulated and free from chemicals and additives.

Natural colours can play a key part in enhancing the appeal of these ‘better for you’ food products. They are perceived as healthier, and can play an important role in market positioning, as consumers associate different colours with different properties.

Growth in natural colour solutions fuels an enhanced consumer experience

Courtesy of Naturex/Givaudan

This association was clearly demonstrated in a recent Givaudan consumer insight study on functional drinks. Six thousand consumers from across the UK, Germany, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia were asked to define which colours they associated with which health benefit, with very clear results. Yellows and oranges were associated with immunity and vitality, reds with energy and vitality, and blues and greens with immunity, relaxation, and sleep.

Enhancing the enjoyment of food and drink

Colour can also play a key role in enhancing the sensory experience of food, making it more enjoyable – an important consideration in the current environment. We ‘eat with our eyes’ and if it looks good, we expect it to taste good.

Food that is attractive and exciting is always a win with the consumer, but never more so than in today’s social media generation. Vibrant, ‘instagrammable’ colours attract attention and help manufacturers differentiate their products. Social media sharing is also an important channel to promote products to a wider audience and build loyalty.

Blues, greens and purples are popular with foodies, work well photographically on social media and are especially popular for confectionery, bakery decoration, ice cream and beverages.

Colours for meat alternatives

Another trend driving the demand for natural colours is the rise of plant-based foods. These have now moved from niche to mainstream, going beyond the vegan and vegetarian market as consumers choose to eat less meat for health reasons, concerns around animal welfare, and environmental and sustainability concerns.

The use of natural colours in plant-based products was identified right from the start as a basic requirement for new product developments in this category. Around 95% of new meat alternative product launches contain colour solutions from natural sources, and more specifically, from plant-based colouring foods. The reason for this strong preference for natural colours is that they are a good fit with the main drivers of this market, namely health sustainability and ethical concerns.

Appearance is a big factor for consumers when choosing meat alternatives and one of the most complex colour challenges for meat alternatives is recreating an authentic transition from red to brown during the cooking process. Not only is this appealing visually but it also helps to ensure that products are not over cooked and so gives a better eating experience. But this can be a real challenge due to the complexity of food matrices in meat analogues that commonly use a range of vegetable proteins.

Growth in natural colour solutions fuels an enhanced consumer experience

Courtesy of Naturex/Givaudan

Naturex’s VegeBrite®Reds and Brown natural colours are customised solutions specifically formulated to meet this challenge. Using a combination of different natural extracts and concentrates it is possible to create the much-desired cooking transition effect from a fresh, meat-like red colour to an authentic brown grilled or cooked meat.

For products which replicate pre-cooked meats, creating an authentic and stable colour depends on a number of factors including the protein matrix, the process used to create the protein base, the application and the manufacturers labelling and regulatory requirements.

While still playing catch up with plant-based meat products, fish and shellfish alternatives also look set to become a growing part of the plant-based trend, and like plant-based meat, natural colour solutions are the first choice for fish and shellfish substitutes.

In conclusion, the demand for natural food formulation, recognisable, clean label ingredients, and ‘good for me, good for the planet’ food is driving increasing demand for natural colours, especially ones that are minimally processed and easily recognisable.

Related content

Leave a reply

Food and Drink Technology