Natural colors
A purple corn hybrid has been shown to work as a cost-effective alternative to red No. 40.

Red, blue, yellow options

Ms. Rountree said DDW this year launched a food color powder derived from a purple corn hybrid that potentially can be a cost-effective alternative to red No. 40. The color launched in a liquid version last year.

The non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. powder exhibits a deep purple surface shade, according to DDW. The appearance is vibrant red in an acidic aqueous system. Food and beverage companies may list the ingredient as “purple corn juice color” or “colored with vegetable juice” on ingredient statements.

Healthy Food Ingredients, Fargo, N.D., promotes Suntava purple corn as a replacement for synthetic dyes in food coloring, and Suntava’s anthocyanin levels, which account for the purple color, increasingly have been recognized for their health benefits, too.

Red beets are another option in replacing synthetic red color.

Sensient Colors, St. Louis, last year launched SupraRed, which delivers bright red shades at a neutral pH that stand up to heat, according to the company. Cookies, snacks, tortilla chips and extruded cereal are potential applications.

Red beets may provide a pink to red color, said Pernille Borre Arskog, marketing manager for Chr. Hansen, Milwaukee. Beets do not shift shade when pH is changing, which means they may be used in foods with neutral pH like cakes and crackers.

“However, beet is sensitive to heat, light and oxidation, which limits its use in grain-based foods,” Ms. Arskog said. “It may turn brown if cooked or baked, and the color will fade relatively fast if the food is kept in a transparent packaging under direct light. It can normally be used in cakes if a more bake-stable beet juice is used, but beet does not survive in the extrusion process due to extreme high temperatures and pressure.”

Chr. Hansen offers FruitMax red beet 322 WS, which has been shown to work as a heat-stable, clean label red No. 40 replacer in baked foods.

“It is a minimally processed coloring vegetable concentrate manufactured from red beets with increased pigment stability,” Ms. Arskog said. “FruitMax red beet 322 WS shows improved heat stability toward baking process parameters and improved light stability in sugar icing compared to a standard red beet color.”

Red beets, like purple corn, contain anthocyanins, which may provide various colors, not just red.

“Anthocyanins or polyphenols display a variety of colors from orange, red to blue, but are all dependent on pH and need a low pH to provide a bright red or pink color,” Ms. Arskog said. “In products like cereals it will turn bluer, and because of that anthocyanins have limited use in neutral pH foods like most grain-based foods are, but it would work great in a fruit filling for baked goods.”

The use of anthocyanin as a color is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7% from 2016 to 2025 because of the high substitution rate of the synthetic blue colors, according to Grand View Research.

Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is a natural source of blue color. The F.D.A. in 2014 approved a color additive petition from the GNT Group, Mierlo, The Netherlands, to expand the use of spirulina extract as a blue coloring agent in food and beverage applications.

The original regulation limited the use of spirulina extract to candy and chewing gum. The 2014 approval allows for the use of spirulina extract in such grain-based food applications as ready-to-eat cereal (excluding extruded cereal), dessert coatings and toppings, and frosting as well as in confections (including candy and chewing gum), frostings, ice cream and frozen desserts, beverage mixes and powders, yogurts, custards, puddings, cottage cheese, gelatin and breadcrumbs.

Last year the GNT Group said it produces enough spirulina to cover more than 1 billion portions of food each year. The company in 2016 also announced plans to build an additional spirulina plant at its headquarters in Mierlo that will more than double GNT’s capacities for blue and green coloring.

Several colors from natural sources may be used in replacing yellow No. 5 and yellow No. 6.

Turmeric, a greenish, yellowish color extracted from the root of the curcuma plant, is used to obtain a bright yellow shade in cereal and baked foods, Ms. Arskog said. Natural beta-carotene produced by a fermentation process provides a warm yellow to deep orange color. Orange carrot juice also contains beta-carotene. Annatto provides a yellow-orange color, and paprika provides a deep orange shade, Ms. Arskog added.