KANSAS CITY — Red color brightens the appearance of sweets and soft drinks. It assists in making plant-based meat alternatives look more like meat. Besides functional attributes, certain red colors fit well with attributes in demand, such as clean label and vegan, which leaves out carmine sourced from insects.

“Natural reds are the most common and requested color,” said Patricia Bonets, application scientist for Chr. Hansen, which has a US office in Milwaukee. “Natural reds are frequently used to achieve different shades such as oranges and purples in combination with other natural pigments.”

Manufacturers are looking to replace synthetic red color such as Red No. 40 with something more natural, said Tammy Geiger, marketing manager, natural colors, North America for Chr. Hansen.

“With growing demand for clean label products, manufacturers have long been seeking alternatives to synthetic colors such as allura red (Red No. 40), but even colors that would once have been considered ‘natural’ are now rejected by consumers,” said Jeannette O’Brien, vice president of GNT USA, Tarrytown, NY, a business of the GNT Group.

She offered the example of carmine, a red dye. Because it is derived from the cochineal insect, carmine is unsuitable for vegan, halal and kosher diets.

“It’s also manufactured using chemical processes and extracts such as aluminum oxide, with up to 40% of the final colorant consisting of other additives or chemicals,” Ms. O’Brien said.

GNT Group Exberry RedsExberry colors from GNT are made from fruits, vegetables and edible plants without any chemical solvents.

“When replacing carmine in soft drinks or vibrant pink sweets, for example, our proprietary technology means we can deliver solutions that have the exact color shade and intensity required for the application,” Ms. O’Brien said.

GNT USA last year launched a range of red Exberry coloring foods that deliver 50% greater color intensity, which means they may be used at lower dosages to reduce cost in use, Ms. O’Brien said. The red colors are sourced from fruits and vegetables, including carrots, blackcurrants, radishes, blueberries and sweet potatoes. The colors come in shades like vivid red, purple plum, vegetable red and brilliant pink. The colors are available in liquid and powder form.

“When it comes to the shade, that depends on the company and the product,” Ms. O’Brien said. “Some might be looking for really vivid reds that can make an impact on Instagram while others might want something more understated.”

Exberry liquid ingredients work in beverages, confectionery items, baked foods and savory applications, she said. The powders are suited for dry applications, mixes or bakery icings. They may be stored at ambient temperatures and shipped at lower cost than the liquids.

Chr. Hansen now offers a FruitMax line of products featuring the Hansen sweet potato that offers a brilliant, ultra-stable red color and may be used to replace carmine and Red No. 40 in many applications, said Nathan Morrison, associate application scientist. The colors have good light and heat stability along with resistance to oxidation and no off-flavor. They are stable at low pH.

“Food companies are looking for the next best red, something that is different from what everyone else is providing and works well in their products,” said Braden Hocking, associate application scientist for Chr. Hansen. “They also want a plant-based red to address the growing plant-based market — in both meat and dairy alternatives.”

The Hansen sweet potato works in most applications like pet food, confectionery, beverages, baked foods, fruit prep, plant-based meat alternatives and extruded cereals, Ms. Bonets said. FruitMax products featuring the Hansen sweet potato are vegan, halal and non-GMO, and they may be labeled as “vegetable juice (color),” said AnnMarie Kraszewski, application scientist.

Kalsec, Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich., offers naturally sourced pink to red hues derived from vegetable juices, yams, radishes, black carrots, cabbage, paprika, tomatoes and beets, as well as blends of the pigments. Durabrite soluble paprika may be used in beverages to replace blends of sunset yellow and ponceau 4R. Vegetone color systems are naturally sourced carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments. The water-soluble systems offer colors such as radiant yellow, bright orange, vivid red and vibrant green.

Red color for meat alternatives

Sales are increasing for plant-based meat alternatives, another opportunity for red colors. Global Market Insights, Inc., Selbyville, Del., forecasts the market valuation of plant-based meat alternatives will exceed $320 million by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate of over 11%.

“Plant-based meat alternatives do not undergo the Maillard reaction when grilled, which gives genuine meat its distinctive color,” said Nathalie Pauleau, global product manager for Natural Colours for Givaudan, Vernier, Switzerland. “Although taste is very important when developing meat substitutes, people also ‘eat with their eyes,’ so it is important that the appearance of a substitute matches that of grilled meat as closely as possible.”

Givaudan has launched Vegebrite Veggie Reds natural color solution for meat substitutes. It is obtained from beetroot and other natural extracts.

“It can be used to achieve an authentic fresh meat-like red color in meat substitutes and particularly in raw and cooked patties,” Ms. Pauleau said. “In meat-free burger patties, the blends undergo a color transformation during the cooking phase, turning a brown color that closely mimics grilled meat. Using different formulations to accommodate a wide range of applications and regulatory requirements, our application team is ready to support customers in achieving the right colors for these very complex food matrices.”

Vegebrite Veggie Reds were created through a joint effort between Givaudan and specialty ingredients supplier Naturex, which Givaudan acquired in 2018.

Chr. Hansen offers FruitMax colors that work in plant-based meat alternatives because of pH stability greater than five and a lack of off-notes, Ms. Kraszewski said.

“The desirable look is to mimic that of actual beef patties with a ‘bloody’ pre-cooked product and a brown post-cook, and the Hansen sweet potato provides the shade that the customer is looking for,” she said.

plant-based burger red colorChr. Hansen has vetted the FruitMax line featuring the Hansen sweet potato for both plant-based meat analogs and dairy alternatives, Ms. Kraszewski said.

The Exberry range from GNT is an option for a range of plant-based alternative products from meat and seafood to milk and cheese, Ms. O’Brien said.

“For example, our Veggie Red and Brown shades are great for meat analogs,” she said. “The combination of high pH and heat treatment does present challenges for clean label reds, but our expertise has enabled us to find the solutions. Our coloring foods are already being used to replace colorants such as iron oxides, anthocyanin and carotene in a wide range of meat substitutes, including plant-based burgers and cold cuts.”

Caramel colors are other ingredient options for meat alternatives.

Sethness Roquette, Skokie, Ill., a business of Roquette, offers Class III and Class IV caramel colors that work in plant-based meat alternatives, said Brian Sethness, executive vice president – sales and marketing.

“Caramel color does not have the ability to create a red color on raw patties, but definitely helps to create and keep a brown color in cooked meat alternatives, offering a real appealing look to those,” he said. “Companies can simply put ‘caramel color’ or ‘color added’ on their ingredient statements.”