Know options for naturally derived colors in confections, beverages

by Jeff Gelski
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Companies wanting to switch to naturally derived colors from synthetic colors may find two categories ripe for innovation: confection and beverages. Speakers at the "Global Outlook for Food Color" conference held last month in Atlanta talked about technologies and ingredient launches in the two categories.

Natural pigments for confection

Colarome, Inc., St.-Hubert, Que., in February plans to launch natural pigments that may be used to color the surface of confections. Other potential applications include cereal bars with a yogurt coating and cake icing.

The pigments are powders made of natural dyes that are encapsulated in a water-insoluble rice protein matrix. Optionally, the color coating may be covered with a shellac or wax to provide shine. The pigments are tasteless and odorless.

Colarome has applied for a patent for its proprietary technology. The pigments are sourced from such items as red cabbage, beet and turmeric. Red cabbage is the coloring principle for purple, blue and turquoise. Beet is used for red. Turmeric is used for yellow, and annatto is used for orange. Copper-chlorophyllin works for green while caramel color is used as the coloring principle for dark brown, medium brown and tan.

Using red pigments may cost 5c to 14c per kg (2.2 lbs). Using purple pigments may cost 8c to 13c per kg, and using yellow pigments may cost 1.5c to 3c per kg.

The trend of using naturally-derived colors in confection and other food and beverage categories already has started in the United Kingdom, where the Food Standards Agency has called for a voluntary removal of six artificial colors in 2009.

Overseal Natural Ingredients, Derbyshire, U.K., has created color solutions specifically for the confectionery industry, including for such applications as hard-boiled candies, gums and jellies and sugar-coated confectionery. Color options to replace synthetic colors are either naturally-derived colors that are pigments produced by nature or coloring foodstuffs sourced from fruit and vegetables. RFI, Blauvelt, N.Y., distributes Overseal Natural Ingredients’ colors in the United States.

Keeping bright juices bright

Red cabbage juice and purple sweet potato juice perform best as colors in beverages with pH measures between 2.5 to 4.5, said Jody Renner-Nantz, a food science chemist with D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky. They may stay red longer and give more of an impression of a berry flavor. Purple sweet potato juice may provide a vibrant pink color up to one month after application, she said.

Vegetable-based anthocyanins tend to provide a more stable color in beverages than other fruit and vegetable sources, she said. Anthocyanins are soluble glycosides that produce colors in flowers and plants. Still, formulators may need to compensate for color loss when switching to naturally-derived colors from synthetic colors in beverages, Ms. Renner-Nantz said. They may use a higher dosage of naturally-derived color, or they could put the beverage in translucent packaging, thus prolonging the life of the anthocyanins.

About 400 to 500 new beverages per year contain beta-carotene, an isomer of carotene found in dark green and dark yellow vegetables and fruits, said John Foley, technical service manager, nutrition: Food and Beverage Applications, for BASF. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. Studies have shown vitamin A to provide benefits in vision, immunity and skin protection from sunlight, Mr. Foley said.

Beverage formulators may microencapsulate carotenoids, he said. They may use modified starch, soy protein or fish gelatin as carriers. When replacing synthetic colors with naturally-derived colors, potential problems include sedimentation, ringing, cap staining and bottle stain. Possible reasons for the problems include using the wrong beta-carotene, applying the beta-carotene at the wrong time and needing a stabilizer. Juice or gum may stabilize colors, Mr. Foley said. A beverage with no juice may prove to be the most challenging system.

DSM Nutritional Products, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., claims its carotenoids deliver better stability than food dyes, especially in the presence of vitamin C. Coloration of a juice drink may include 10% betacarotene. Potential non-juice beverages include a lemon lime beverage with 10% beta-carotene.

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