With synthetic colors, when more is added, the color simply intensifies.
Overcoming formulation challenges
There are many attractions to synthetic colors, most notably stability and price. Based on petroleum, synthetic colors make product development easier as they may withstand the many extreme conditions encountered during manufacturing and distribution. They also may be added to a beverage system at any point during manufacturing, with the end result consistent and predictable. In fact, with synthetic colors, desired pigment may be determined at the end of the product development cycle, as stability is seldom an issue.
When working with naturally sourced colors, inclusion must be a consideration at the beginning of product development. That is because the point when color is added during the production process may alter appearance, as many colors are influenced by heat, shear, pressure and exposure to oxygen.
With synthetic colors, when more is added, the color simply intensifies. That is not the case with most natural colors, which may morph into different hues. With some naturally sourced colors, the intensity plateaus after a certain amount is added. If a darker hue is desired, it might be necessary to blend pigments. Further, naturally sourced colors may interact with other ingredients, everything from vitamins to proteins to sweeteners.
Potentially problematic ingredients, which also may be unknowingly introduced into a food system by being a component of another ingredient, include calcium, metals, oils, certain hydrocolloids and most vitamins. Specifically, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), in high concentrations, destabilizes anthocyanins. It also happens to stabilize carotenoids. In some situations, the hue of pigments does not actually change over time. Rather, changes in the product matrix, such as clouding, precipitation and syneresis, influence hue perception.
“In general, when reformulating a beverage from artificial colors to colors from natural sources, some production supply chain concerns arise,” said Brittany Blanco, quality engineer, San Joaquin Valley Concentrates, Fresno, Calif. “Colors from natural sources are less concentrated and more perishable than artificial colors.
“Liquid products require refrigerated transport and cold storage facilities. This could require a large investment for companies who wish to make the switch.”
Suppliers offer varied options to assist with these challenges. San Joaquin Valley Concentrates offers crystal colors, which are two to five times more concentrated in color than their liquid counterparts. The crystal form is carrier free and provides a clean label. They are low in sugar and acids.
“They can be stored and shipped at ambient temperatures,” Ms. Blanco said. “They provide a solution that eases the reformulation process.”
Ms. Goodman said that ultra-high temperature pasteurized and aseptic beverages may be especially challenging to color red because anthocyanins are not heat stable. In response, in 2016, the company developed a novel technology to create a vegetable juice-based red that is free from any chemical solvents and is stable to heat.
Lycored, too, offers a vegetable-derived red coloring that is an alternative to unstable beet and anthocyanins, as well as carmine, Ms. Lippert said.
“The lycopene-based color is derived from non-G.M.O. tomatoes,” she said. “It is highly stable to pH variations, ascorbic acid and high-temperature conditions. It is particularly well suited for dairy beverages. We also cultivate beta-carotene-rich, allergen-free natural fungus, which provides an extract that contributes natural yellow to orange shades.”
Beta-carotene-based colors are resistant to heat and light, making them a good choice for high-heat processed beverages. One hurdle found in coloring fruit beverages with beta-carotene is staining or ringing.
To overcome this hurdle, gums, such as pectin or gum acacia, may be added to the beverage. BASF is introducing a cold-water dispersible orange color based on beta-carotene. It may replace artificial yellow orange colors in all types of beverages.
“The 10% beta-carotene powder disperses quickly and easily without adversely impacting the product’s sensory characteristics,” Mr. Hayhoe said. “Depending on the application and amount used, marketers may include a vitamin A or antioxidant label claim.
“BASF also offers a beta-carotene-based cold water dispersible orange-red. There’s growing interest in this color because it delivers an appealing orange-red color spectrum that can be difficult to achieve in carbonated and still beverages, as well as strawberry dairy applications.”
Naturally sourced blue and green colors historically have been challenging to achieve in beverages because the traditional source has been spirulina. Such extracts are not stable to heat or low pH.
“If you think about all of the brilliant and vivid colors in fruits and vegetables, a bright blue is a rare shade to see,” Ms. Goodman said. “Even the dark denims of blueberries do not come close to matching the shade of artificial blue. Sensient’s proprietary natural blue fills a significant gap in the industry’s natural color spectrum. It is heat, light and acid stable and can also be used to create additional natural colors such as green and intense purple shades.”
DDW — The Color House, Louisville, Ky., recently introduced a new color derived from a non-G.M.O. purple corn hybrid cultivated in the United States. It delivers a vibrant red to purple hue, depending on pH, with a clean, neutral taste, said Jody Renner-Nantz, applications manager. Applications for the anthocyanin coloring include juice drinks, energy/sports drinks, some enhanced waters and yogurt beverages.
“Clear, fruit-based beverages with added protein, minerals or vitamins are often quite challenging to color,” said Brian Sethness, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, Sethness Products Co., Skokie, Ill. “When caramel color is added to enhance the final color, there is the possibly of a haze forming due to the many interactions. Similar to colas, the type of acid used must be taken into consideration, as there may be a solubility issue with the acid and any class of caramel color. The solution can be as simple as changing the order of addition.”
When it comes to caramel color, Mr. Sethness said a growing number of companies are attempting to use Class I, or plain caramel colors, which do not allow for ammonia and/or sulfites during manufacture, to color various beverages. There’s also growing interest in non-genetically modified caramel colors.
“We now produce 12 Non-G.M.O. Project verified caramel colors,” Mr. Sethness said. “These are more expensive offerings than our typical caramel colors, but appeal to those consumers looking for products void of genetically engineered components.”
Ms. Blanco said, “Consumers are constantly looking for ways to eat healthier, which to them means understanding all of the ingredients listed in a beverage ingredient statement. The demand for clean label products will continue to influence the color market through innovative raw material sources.”