Foods are coloured to make them more appealing, appetising or visually exciting. Social media has placed added pressure on food companies to deliver products that are deemed Instagramable. This has given rise to trends like Starbuck’s Unicorn Latte, which have taken the market by storm as rainbow effect food colouring has been taken up by other manufacturers in packaged food and beverage categories.
“Colour is a key driver of food purchase. There is an increasing number of food & beverage launches centered on colorful efforts to stand out on the shelf. Instagramability of a food is a major driver for consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z drive this trend,” Sarah Browner of Innova Market Insights told FoodNavigator.
This is supporting increased innovation around colour, Browner continued. “Colors which add vibrancy and richness are expected to be seen more and more in the food and beverage products.”
Ingredients supplier GNT’s UK managing director Paul Collins concurred that colour is moving up the agenda. “Marketing is being driven towards what products look like,” he explained at the Ingredients Show staged at the NEC in Birmingham last month.
Colouring foodstuffs: Delivering clean label colour
While vibrant colours are in growing demand, food manufacturers are also under pressure to deliver them in a way that meets expectations around clean labels.
A 2017 study from FMCG Gurus highlights this issue, with 65% of consumers claiming to check the product label for artificial colours and 30% suggesting natural colour claims were important when purchasing food and beverage products.
According to Collins, this is a complex issue because the term ‘clean label’ means different things to the industry and consumers. “Clean label is a business-to-business term. If you come to the consumer level it has no meaning,” he suggested. “Consumers want to understand what is in their food… The more recent phase has been clear label. Meaning clearly understandable.”
The drive for clarity in the ingredients list has led many food makers to look at colouring foodstuffs as a means to deliver bright, exciting colours that are also label neutral.
Colouring foodstuffs – fruit, plant and vegetable concentrates – are minimally processed with no chemical alteration, meaning that they are classified as an ingredient with colouring properties instead of an additive. This means the ingredients list remains transparent and easily understandable.
Chr Hansen, which launched a line of oil soluable colouring foodstuffs last year, said that colouring foodstuff are a significant way for food makers to deliver colour while also making sure the ingredients list is relatable.
“Colouring foodstuffs are just as vibrant as natural colours and, for the most part, synthetic colours. There are limitations [on] how they can be produced. The easy explanation is that all production processes are simple procedures that you could do in your own kitchen. It is basically taking a food that has pigment in it already suitable for colouring and then extracting the fruit, vegetable or edible plant into a concentrate. This precludes some production techniques like selective extraction,” Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, global marketing director for Chr. Hansen Natural Colors, explained.
Positive colour claims
GNT offers a range of colouring foodstuffs – colour pigments derived from fruits and vegetables – under its Exberry brand. The colours manufacturer is also encouraging its customers to adopt positive colour claims like ‘coloured with fruit and vegetables’.
“We think it is time to be positive. It isn’t about saying what a product doesn’t include – the food industry should be telling consumers clearly what is in products through messages like coloured with fruit and vegetables,” Collins argued.
Innova’s Browner concurred that colouring foodstuffs open the door to positive – and even functional – claims linked to colourings. “Natural food colors are opening up opportunities to deliver vibrant colored foods in a cleaner way. Color rich foods and spices like beetroot, spirulina and turmeric are increasingly recognized for their health benefits as well as their color vibrancy.”