As the food and beverage industry makes progress in using naturally-sourced colors in more applications, emulsions are taking on a bigger role.

“This is an area of innovation for sure,” said Jody Renner-Nantz, global applications scientist for D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky.

Colors that normally would be water-soluble may be emulsified and then placed in an oil-based system, such as those used in spreads, she said. Likewise, other colors are oil-soluble and do not work well in beverages. Emulsions may allow those colors to become water-dispersible.

D.D. Williamson this year introduced a new application for its oil-dispersible technology. It allows the use of a caramel color, normally water-soluble, for dispersion into an oil-based dairy system. The color gives manufacturers the option of adding a naturally-derived brown hue to their cream cheese or other solid dairy spreads. The color serves as an alternative to a blend of F.D.&C. red, yellow and blue lake pigments.

Emulsions also may allow colors from such natural sources as red beets or elderberries to be used in more applications, Ms. Renner-Nantz said, and they may be of assistance in adding naturally-sourced colors into compound coatings, such as white icing on the bottom of a breakfast bar. Through the use of emulsions, paprika may become water-dispersible.

Chr. Hansen last year used emulsion technology to launch ColorFruit Yellow 401 WSS and ColorFruit Green 802 WSS, two colors designed for use in transparent beverages. The two colors, which joined the company’s ColorFruit range, avoid any off-taste problems, which sometimes may be associated with transparent, naturally-sourced colors based on emulsions, according to Chr. Hansen, which has a U.S. office in Milwaukee.

The company’s ColorFruit range is based on natural sources such as paprika, lutein and beta-carotene.

The use of naturally-sourced colors fits into the overall trend of consumers looking for ingredients they understand.

“Increased demand for naturally-sourced ingredients shows no sign of slowing down,” said Kelly Newsome, corporate communications manager for GNT USA, Tarrytown, N.Y. “In the case of color ingredients, consumers are demanding more transparency. That means ingredients that they can easily recognize and feel safe consuming.

“This expanding market for natural colors means greater innovation overall in the natural color category. While GNT has always been the leader in natural colorants made from fruits and vegetables, we continue to research and develop raw materials and ingredients to offer the food and beverage industry innovative solutions that are crucial in this evolving market place.”

Sensient Colors, L.L.C., St. Louis, focuses on reducing thermal degradation and photochemical oxidation in naturally-sourced colors, said Steve Morris, general manager for Sensient U.S. Food Colors.

“For instance, vegetable juices subjected to high temperatures can experience a gradual degradation and loss of color,” he said. “Sensient now offers a red vegetable juice that can withstand the presence of high temperatures and lessen the degradation process.”

Sensient has developed Microfine, an aluminum-free, naturally-sourced color line that may be used in place of certified lakes, he said. Color shades include lemon yellow to burnt orange and strawberry red to berry purple and blue. Available in powder and dispersion forms, Microfine colors may be used in such applications as compressed sweets and confectionery items, dry mixes and fat-based systems.

Food Ingredient Solutions, L.L.C., Teterboro, N.J., and FMC Corp., Philadelphia, are two other companies that offer naturally-sourced colors.

Food Ingredients Solutions offers Vivapigments, which are pigments that may be used in place of F.D.&C. lakes in such applications as coatings, panned confectionery items, rubs and sauces.

FMC last year bought Phytone Ltd., a producer of naturally-sourced colors based in the United Kingdom. Phytone’s products and formulations are used by global customers in the food, beverage, personal care and nutrition sectors.

Yogurt manufacturers have opportunities to use naturally-sourced colors since fruit preparations may provide color, Ms. Renner-Nantz said.

Ms. Newsome said GNT’s Exberry range of colors from fruits and vegetables is an option for yogurt, including Greek yogurt that consumers may view as a healthy and natural food.

“With this in mind, it is particularly important to formulate with ingredients that reinforce that idea,” she said. “From a marketing perspective, using fruit and vegetable colorants would be the ideal, as they are trusted and easily recognized by consumers.”

Mr. Morris agreed naturally-sourced colors may be used in Greek yogurt.

“We know consumers eat with their eyes, and they form a perception of what a food will taste like before the first bite,” he said. “This is especially true for Greek yogurt products, which convey health and wellness.

“Natural colors play a vital role in making Greek yogurt products more visually appealing to the consumer. For example, a Greek yogurt dessert could be introduced using a variety of natural colors. Strawberry pink shades could be used in the summer months, berry purple shades in the spring, bright oranges in the winter, and yellow shades to convey caramel in the fall.”

California ruling has global effect on caramel color

A ruling in California last year has led to increased specific requests involving caramel color from customers around the globe for Sethness Products Co., Lincolnwood, Ill., said David Tuescher, technical director.

“Last year it went into effect,” Mr. Tuescher said of the Proposition 65 ruling. “This year we’re seeing the consequences of that action.”

In California, warning labels now need to be placed on products sold in the state that contain 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI) above a certain level.

Food and beverage companies outside California have noticed. For example, even though the 4-MeI rule does not pertain to Europe, European customers request caramel color with low 4-MeI levels, Mr. Tuescher said.

The California ruling affects Class III caramel colors, which are used in baking and beer, and Class IV caramel colors, which are used in colas, Mr. Tuescher said. Sethness has developed Class III caramel colors with 4-MeI levels in the range of 20 to 35 parts per million (p.p.m.) and Class IV caramel colors with 4-MeI levels in the range of 10 to 30 p.p.m., Mr. Tuescher said.

D.D. Williamson, Louisville, Ky., also has seen an increase in requests for caramel colors with reduced 4-MeI levels, said Jennifer Guild, global food science and regulatory manager.

“D.D. Williamson believes strongly that the decision to list 4-MeI on Prop 65 is wholly unsupported by any evidence or reasonableness,” she said. “At the same time, recognizing the potential for this decision and its impact on our industry, D.D.W. scientists have formulated exclusive Class III and Class IV caramels with substantially reduced levels of 4-MeI for those food manufacturers struggling to avoid Prop-65 labels in California.”

Doug Karas, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, last year said a person would have to drink more than a thousand cans of soda in a day to match the 4-MeI doses admininistered in studies that showed links to cancer in rodents. Health Canada determined low levels of 4-MeI that can be found in food, including certain caramel colors, do not represent a risk to Canadians.