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As creativity in confectionery products boomed over the last few years, the demand for colorants also rose. In parallel, customers asked not only for creative products, but healthy ones as well; these are the factors that offered to companies the opportunity and the challenge to create and to promote natural colors and, especially, fruit colors.

By Ioana Oancea

Asia Pacific Baker & Biscuit approached the topic with Christine Schade – Sensient technical services manager, Gale Meyers – Sensient confectionery technical services manager and Christiane Lippert, head of marketing (food), Lycored.

The experts think that consumer interest in clean label products will continue to develop as well as the demand for vibrant and stable color solutions continuing to increase.

Lippert says that the most important challenge is making the shift to natural colors. As in all other food categories, consumers are sending clear signs that they prefer natural over artificial.

“The confectionery industry is starting to respond to that, but there are still understandable concerns about the resilience of natural colors to processes, such as high temperature, light exposure, and pH. This is an area that our Tomat-O-Red TM red color has significant advantage in the market and adds value for a number of reasons: for example, it is derived from tomato lycopene and remains stable during prolonged high temperature, light exposure, and, very importantly, is pH independent – which means longer shelf life, and better quality visual appearance with time, to enhance the likelihood of consumer purchase,” Lippert explains.

The expert from Lycored also adds that, on top of stability, in the Asia-Pacific market, colors that are non-GMO, allergen free, vegan, kosher and halal also are important in increasing reach to many consumer populations of diverse ethnic origin and beliefs, and for major brands this can open up opportunity in additional markets and regions, compared to colors from other sources, such as carmine.

Important when it comes to kids

On the other hand, Schade (Sensient) mentions that research indicates that 51% of the total population considers natural color “very” important when it comes to “kid-centric” products such as cereal and certain sweet treats like cookies and cakes. “Consumer demand for natural color is having a big impact on product formulations, resulting in many inquiries about natural color conversion from ‘kid-centric’ brands, particularly regarding the replacement of Red #40 in baking and dry groceries. Somewhat surprisingly, Sensient’s consumer research has discovered that Red #40 is the most concerning synthetic colorant for many consumers, particularly younger moms. This conversion has been challenging for developers in the past due to the heat, pH and oil instability of some natural sources of red color,” Schade says.

Purified natural red

Achieving a shade match to Red 40 has always been a challenge. While beet solutions produce nice shades, they typically lack the vibrancy desired. Recently, Sensient launched Pure-S™ Natural Red, which produces shades that are a virtual match for Red 40 in common panning applications. While there are some minor limitations, this is one of the most interesting natural color developments for confectioners.

Red that stays red

Sensient’s technical services manager also offers explanations on the process of shifting from the red color to purple in some cases and how this can be prevented.

“On average, baked goods are between pH 5 and pH 7, and in some cases heating can cause the pH levels to shift even higher. High pH can cause standard anthocyanins to shift from red to purple. Additionally, the high temperatures of the baking or extrusion processes can cause sources such as beet, with a lot of natural sugars, to undergo the Maillard reaction, resulting in browning. Lastly, the inclusion of oil in most baked goods can cause carotenoids like beta carotene and lycopene to shift from red to orange or yellowish orange,” Schade says.

The specialist mentions that pH-modified anthocyanins is one solution where acid is added to standard fruit or vegetable juice colors to bring the pH level down in the overall system. “This will maintain a raspberry shade throughout the extrusion and baking processes for cereals and cake mixes. It is not a perfect Red #40 replacement, but a good solution for the ‘red family’. The addition of acid is not likely to produce off-flavors in cereal. However, custom formulations are recommended for cakes and cereals to ensure the acid added for stabilization does not affect the flavor profile or density. Sensient’s Heat Stable Beet is a proprietary solution that includes the addition of antioxidants to stabilize the pigment, producing a deep velvet red shade. It is an excellent solution for cake mixes; however, the performance in cereal is dependent on the specific extrusion process for each manufacturer. Some processes with extreme heat or pressure can result in browning or color degradation,” Schade added.

The second part of this article, “True blue, the challenge” can be read in the next issue of our magazine Asia Pacific Baker & Biscuits (Summer 2017)! 

Related articles: 

Sensient Introduces New Flavor for Bakery Fillings 

General Mills plans to remove all artificial flavors and colors from its cereals 

Lycored changes its brand identity

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