5 jars of different sauces and colors

A Visual Feast- Part 3: Natural Color Trends in the Food & Beverage Industries

We are what we eat ... and nowadays, consumers are not shy when it comes to demanding healthier choices. A continuing megatrend in the food and beverage industry today is to satisfy the consumer-driven need to shift away from artificial colors and flavors, while also meeting expectations for taste and quality. 

Go Natural or Go Home!

According to a survey conducted by Mintel in April 2020 on US consumers, good taste and good price are the top two characteristics important to purchase decisions (81% and 75% respectively).  Natural ingredients came in just below with nearly half (49% of surveyed consumers). Of that same group, 58% of them indicated they typically purchased natural or organic products.1

It’s A Classification Act

The common term "natural colors” is actually called Colors Exempt from Certification, according to the FDA. As we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, color is often a huge component of a product’s ‘branding’, so a major complication in the natural colors industry is that standards aren’t uniform around the world, even when it comes to the same products. In other words, a US version of a product and a European version of that same product might incorporate different colorings, simply because the European country has different rules about what colorants can be used in products offered for sale within their borders. It’s seldom easy to simply substitute a natural color for an artificial one without affecting a product’s appearance and/or taste.

… so it’s really all about The Label 

Clean label, that is: an ingredient list of words that buyers recognize, that their kids can read aloud to them. As consumers continue to educate themselves to know ‘what’s good for them’ and re-educate themselves to visually recognize it when they see it, the call for natural food colors will continue to rise. Forward-looking food and beverage manufacturers will satisfy this desire sooner rather than later, and thereby build consumer trust and loyalty through the next generation.

"A major prod for the shift to natural colors in the United States is the 2007 Southampton study that linked synthetic color dyes to hyperactivity in children,” 1 says Dr. Kantha Shelke, food scientist and principal at Corvus Blue, and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technology. In an interview, Dr. Shelke also pointed out that using natural sources to color food and beverage products is nothing new. “For millennia, people have been crafting foods with color from hibiscus, turmeric, grapes and grape skins, tomatoes, carrots, etc.”2

And while Dr. Shelke also states, “It is important to point out that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) did not substantiate a causal link between the hyperactivity and six colors, but food companies are being cautious because of consumer concerns."2

… yet those same concerns were enough to prompt major food companies like Kellogg, Nestle, Mars and General Mills to move toward including more and more natural ingredients in some of their products, and they’re only some of the larger companies committed to doing so. 

Read Part 1 and Part 2


1.    Mintel, Natural and Organic Food Shopper: Incl Impact of COVID-19 - US - July 2020
2.    FoodDive, How the shift from synthetic to natural colors revolves around the consumer, accessed online February 2021. https://www.fooddive.com/news/how-the-shift-from-synthetic-to-natural-colors-revolves-around-the-consumer/402576/

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