Naturally derived colors in demand

by Keith Nunes
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The macro trend of consumers seeking products featuring simple, clean labels combined with an 8 to 6 vote by the Food Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration against disclosing additional information on the product labels of food and beverages containing certified color additives have prompted increased demand for colors derived from natural sources.

The advisory committee’s vote focused on the relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population. The vote was based on a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2008 that stated eight artificial colors are linked to hyperactivity in children. The eight colors are Yellow No. 5, Red No. 40, Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Green No. 3, Orange B, Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 6.

In its conclusion, the advisory committee said that based on its review of the data a casual relationship between exposure to color additives and hyper-activity in children in the general population had not been established. For certain susceptible children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other problem behaviors, however, the committee said the data suggest the condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.

Current industry efforts to identify effective naturally derived colors were not based on the vote itself, necessarily, but how close it was in the end.

“It was intense,” said Gary Howe, director of marketing within human health and nutrition for DSM Nutritional Products, Inc., Parsippany, N.J. “One more vote and we could be looking at a different situation. I don’t think this is an issue that is going to go away.”

Industry interest in naturally derived colors was further highlighted on July 21, when Sensient Technologies Corp., Milwaukee, issued its second-quarter financial results. For the period ended June 30, the company recorded net income of $33,486,000, equal to 67c per share on the common stock, a 17% increase compared with the same period this past year when the company earned $28,685,000, or 58c per share. Sales for the quarter climbed 13% compared with the previous year to $376,994,000.

Within the company’s Sensient Colors Group L.L.C. business unit, sales increased 17% during the quarter to $132.4 million and operating income increased to $24.6 million, up 18% compared with the same period during the previous year. The company identified the demand for naturally-derived colors as a key reason for the increase in revenues.

In early July, Royal DSM, the parent company of DSM Nutritional Products, announced that it completed the acquisition of Vitatene S.A.U., León, Spain, a producer of natural carotenoids. The company said the acquisition of Vitatene will allow DSM to strengthen the natural carotenoids offerings of its nutrition business as consumer demand for natural products continues to grow. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition trends with what Mr. Howe has been seeing in the colors market.

“Across the beverage seg-ment we are seeing more interest in natural colors,” he said. “We are seeing increased requests coming through and the applications range from soft drinks, functional waters to juice drinks.”

Through its CaroCare pro-gram, DSM has established a portfolio of colors based on carotenoids, which are pigments from natural sources. Beta-carotene is one of the more prominent carotenoids and it has a yellow to orange pigment that may be found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables.

“Beta carotene certainly allows for a cleaner label,” Mr. Howe said. “We have two forms, a natural beta carotene and another we call ‘nature identical.’ One is developed through fermentation and the other one is synthetic, but identical to what you would find in nature.”

Chr. Hansen, which has an office in Milwaukee, recently introduced its FruitMax range of colors for food and bev-erages. The product features a color range that includes seven shades from red to violet, and all are manufactured from sources such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, and allows beverage processors to label the ingredients as color: fruit and/or vegetable concentrates.

“Historically, the U.S. market demand for natural colors has not been as strong as the European market demand, but the past couple of years we have experienced a considerable increase in requests from U.S. food manufacturers looking to replace artificial colors with natural alternatives,” said Kurt Seagrist, senior vice-president of colors. “One specific sub-trend is the rising consumer demand for ‘clean label’ food products, meaning foods with few food additives listed on the product label. Particularly in the dairy segment we see many food product launches focusing on an ‘all natural’ positioning.”

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