There is a growing demand for natural colors in the global marketplace. This demand is driven by consumers as well as major players in the retail market who want to offer their customers all-natural products. The FDA has established two categories of colors: certified and exempt from certification. Certified colors, such as FD&C Red # 40 and FD&C Yellow #5, are typically deemed “artificial” and are batch-certified by the FDA. Colors exempt from certification often are considered “natural colors” by the industry. These natural colors are manufactured from agricultural/biological materials using various methods and do not require certification. Colors such as annatto and turmeric are manufactured by chemical extraction. Others are made from fruits (such as elderberry or pumpkin) and vegetables (such as cabbage and carrots). These can be manufactured free of solvents by using only water.

It is upon these fruit- and vegetable-based colors that GNT USA focuses, with its line of EXBERRY® natural colors, said Martin Gil, account manager/technical application specialist for GNT USA, during the seminar entitled “Natural Colors in Beverages and Confections,” presented during one of the Application Labs at Prepared Foods’ 2007 R&D Applications Seminar-Chicago. The colors can be derived from single fruits and vegetables or different combinations of them. EXBERRY products provide a wide variety of colors with consistent hues and intensity and are applicable for use in various food processing operations, such as kettle cooking or hot filling. Today’s products provide the stability and visual benefit in a finished product sought by both processor and consumer.

When working with fruit and vegetable natural colors, a product development scientist must understand how pH affects the colors. This is especially true with red colors containing anthocyanins. At pH values of less than 4.5, the colors are acid stable and provide a nice red, purple or pink hue. However, when the pH is greater than 4.5, anthocyanins can shift to more blue-indigo shades. Therefore, it is recommended that the acids be added before the red colorants in bench-top or production processing. 

When selecting the most appropriate color, a processor or product development scientist should consider factors such as the form of color that is required; the specific regulatory issues with regards to colors in the country the product will be sold; the processing conditions under which the color will be added; and the desired shelflife.

It is essential that the product development scientist and vendor have a close relationship and work together to evaluate the colors in the systems in which they will be used and conduct shelflife studies. It is also important to work with suppliers of fruit and vegetable natural colors who have control over the finished product from the field through distribution. This ensures consistency, availability, traceability and integrity of the color. 

Martin concluded, “Natural colors from fruits and vegetables will continue to lead the colorant industry in innovation for years to come. GNT will strive to develop new and innovative products to meet the changing and diverse needs of our customers.”

—Richard F. Stier, Contributing Editor

For more information:

GNT USA,  Redwood City, Calif.
Martin Gil, 650-596-0900