Natural Colors: Application Workshop

Color plays a key role in food choice, influencing taste thresholds, sweetness perception and food preferences. So explained Jennifer Brown and Glen Dreher, Ph.D., global application scientists at DD Williamson, in their “Natural Colors: Application Workshop.” 
Naturally derived coloring is defined here by having an agricultural, biological or mineral source; is produced with a simple process; and has had a long history of safe use.  Switching to naturally derived coloring has many considerations. Consumer preference for clean labeling, product differentiation, price premium and brand identity are reasons to switch. Some downsides include increased expense, decreased stability, a difference in color strength, shorter shelflife and greater need for technical experience.  
With naturally derived colors, building blocks provide solutions. Using more than one color ingredient in a formula can provide all of the required attributes. For example, for a pink hue—combinations of red beet, anthocyanin, cochineal extract and/or carmine—may be used to provide the right color for the shelflife needed. 
Caramel colors, with four classes, range from yellow to reddish brown to dark brown. These are used in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gravies, soy sauces, colas and other food applications. Annatto, extracted from the seeds of tropical Bixa orellana trees, range from yellow to orange with good light and heat stability; have a pH of 4 or higher; and are often used in cheese, snacks, potatoes, spice blends, marinades and beverages.  
Brown and Dreher explained that paprika is derived from dried, sweet red peppers; has a red-orange hue; very good heat and light stability; and a wide pH range. Natural beta-carotene is from a plant source and has a yellow-orange hue; good light and heat stability; and a pH range of 2-8. It is typically used in beverages and dairy. 
Lycopene from tomatoes provides a red hue, with very good heat and light stability and a pH range of 3-7. Applications include dairy, beverages, confectionery and meat analogs. Turmeric provides a yellow hue and has very good heat stability, but poor light stability, and a wide pH range. Typical applications include pickles, mustard, cereal, yogurt and snack foods. 
Betalain from beets has a blue-red hue, moderate heat stability, good light stability and a pH range of 4-7. It is often used in dairy, fruit preparations, instant beverages and confections. Anthocyanins are derived from vegetable or fruit juice extracts and are red in acidic systems and blue in basic systems. Carmine and cochineal have hues ranging from pink to dark red, orange or purple. They have very good heat and light stability and a pH range of 3.5-7.5, with a wide variety of applications. 
Finally, copper chlorophyllin, derived from fescue grass in Europe, has a light-to-dark green hue, good heat and light stability, and a pH range of 3.5-7.5 with applications in beverages, confectionery and ice cream. 
In summary, considerations when switching to naturally derived coloring include light exposure, pH, shelflife, heat stability and natural coloring intensity levels. Restrictions, such as kosher considerations, also should be taken into account. 
 “Natural Colors: Application Workshop,” Jennifer Brown, global application scientist; and Glen Dreher, Ph.D., global application scientist; DD Williamson,;,  
—Summary By: Elizabeth Pelofske, Contributing Editor

Color Additives: Understanding Their Usefulness

Addressing the misconceptions regarding food colors was one of the topics covered by Elijah Church, manager–technical support, for ROHA Food Colors, USA, in his presentation given at Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminars in August 2012.
People have applied color additives to food since 1,500 B.C. The art of making colored candy was depicted on the walls of Egyptian tombs. Food colors are used to attract consumers; enhance and improve visual appeal; mask natural color variations; and to offset color losses and restore visual appeal. 
All food colors are food additives and are legally defined and identified in the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 70). No color added to a food is “natural”—an undefined term, as it relates to food color additives. The exception is if the color is natural to the product.
Certified colors are typically derived from coal or petroleum. Each batch must be tested and approved by the FDA before it can be sold by the manufacturer. Once a sample complies to the FDA’s specification, it is issued a lot number and certificate of analysis. It can then be released for sale by the manufacturer. There are seven basic colors—considered primary colors—that are subject to this certification process. These are the colors are designated as FD & C, meaning they have been approved for use in Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics.
These seven certified colors are further classified as dyes and lakes. Dyes are water-soluble and, therefore, color by dissolution.  They are insoluble in oil, are the most potent and work very well in high-moisture systems. Dyes are available in powders, granules, liquids, emulsions, extruded pieces, pastes, cubes, bits, etc. 
Lakes are made by combining dyes with aluminum hydroxide.  They are insoluble in water; color by dispersion or suspension; and are fairly easy to disperse into many different types of carriers.  Lakes are ideal for food systems in which there is not sufficient moisture to activate a dye.  They do not exhibit color bleed, as in the case of dyes, and are considered to be the most stable form of color additive. Lakes are available as powdered or dispersions (in carriers, such as sugar syrup, oil, propylene glycol, glycerin, etc.).
Certified colors are the most highly regulated color and food additive. Much of this degree of regulation results from deaths that were attributed to color additives in foods.  Until the mid-1800s, all colors used in food were considered “natural,” but many were harmful, or even deadly.  
In 1990, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act made it law that certified color additives must be declared on ingredient statements.  All color additives–certified or exempt–require pre-market safety approval by the FDA via a color petition process, the details of which are found in the Toxicological Principles for the Safety Assessment of Food Ingredients—or Redbook. In addition to the Redbook, the Delaney Clause prevents cancer-causing ingredients from being used in food.  
There are many instances when exempt colors make more sense to use, from a formulation perspective.  The stability of exempt colors varies greatly by application and such variables as pH, heat, light, storage and potential ingredient interactions.  It is important to determine the target cost-in-use, as these colors can vary greatly in price, as well as usage rate from color to color.
In conclusion, formulators have a vast array of color additive options from which to choose.  It is very important to consider cost limitations, labeling requirements, product shelflife and storage requirements when choosing color. 
“FD & C Color Additives:  Understanding Their Usefulness,” Elijah Church, manager—technical support, ROHA Food Colors, 
—Summary by Kelley Fitzpatrick, Contributing Editor