Clean label baking - macarons
Natural flavors and colors can be muted compared with their artificial counterparts, but the right sources and blends may help bridge the gap.

KANSAS CITY — Natural, clean label, no artificial ingredients — consumers seem to fall head over heels for such buzzwords and phrases these days. This trend is amorphous, with “natural” yet officially undefined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and “clean label” loosely referring to any ingredient average shoppers would recognize. But still it persists, rooted in a perception of health.

“Consumers are more informed about what they eat and want to make healthier choices,” said Devon Edmonson, marketing and advertising coordinator for Mother Murphy’s Laboratories. “There is great emphasis on clean label as consumers demand transparency and want simpler products without artificial ingredients.”

This demand for transparency has most certainly engulfed flavors and colors, maybe some of the first ingredients to be swept up in demand for “natural.” However, moving from artificial to natural flavors and colors comes with some caveats, including less powerful taste and color profiles, issues with sourcing, and processing challenges.

Clean label baking - vanilla
Easy to recognize on an ingredient list, natural flavors and colors such as vanilla beans appeal to consumers.

“Natural flavoring ingredients are sourced from all types of raw materials ranging from fruits, vegetables, spices and more,” said Megan Trent, marketing assistant for Gold Coast Ingredients. “On the other hand, natural colors are sourced from more selective ingredients because food coloring needs to be stable, consistent and rich in color to complement various applications.”

With the right flavor and color blend, however, and a supplier with good market connections, bakers and snack producers can deliver impactful flavors and colors stable enough to endure processing and still have an ingredient list consumers can recognize and pronounce.