ROCKVILLE, MD. — Consumer demand for food and beverages featuring natural ingredients is having an impact on the market for food additives, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts.

“The current climate toward additives is driving new innovations, especially but not exclusively for new natural formulations,” said David Sprinkle, director of Packaged Facts. “Natural color additives, flavor enhancers, carbohydrate and protein based fat replacers, and preservatives are critical areas for new additive research, testing, and development.”

Color remains a critical factor in food appeal and marketability. Growth in color additives is being driven largely by a transition, in many products and product lines, away from synthetic colors and toward natural colors, according to Packaged Facts.

Earlier this year, Leatherhead Food Research, Surrey, published a report indicating that in 2011 sales of colors perceived as natural were higher than colors considered synthetic. In 2011, global sales of natural colors were estimated to be $600 million while sales of synthetic colors were estimated to be $570 million.

Common sources of natural colors include carrots, annatto, tomatoes, beets and sweet potatoes. On Sept. 13, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of spirulina extract as a color additive in confectionery and chewing gum products. Spirulina is a blue/green algae that may be used as a natural source of blue color. One drawback to the trend, according to Packaged Facts, is colors perceived to be natural face cost and formulation issues.

The market research firm also said convenience foods continue to support market development, although application of additives is somewhat segmented within the sector. One example is the launch by Nestle USA of its Honestly Good line, which was launched in July and includes six frozen entrees made with natural ingredients and no preservatives. The products feature lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables, packaged with a separate pouch of flavored sauce, according to Nestle.

This past August, the Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., discovered the limitations of ingredients perceived as natural. The company announced it was discontinuing its 100% Natural line of soups. The Camden, N.J.-based company said it is replacing its 100% Natural brand with a new brand of soups called Homestyle. Mark Alexander, president of Campbell’s North America business unit, said the 100% Natural line did not live up to the company’s expectations. He cited two reasons: First, not all consumers are seeking natural products, and, second, the standards that are in place for a product to be called natural limited the 100% Natural product’s taste performance.