A recent survey revealed that consumers were willing to pay up to 47% more for a product with natural flavourings and colours. There are now greater opportunities than ever to colour products naturally without compromising on stability. In fact, rather than creating limitations, stable natural colours offer a new way to position products as more fresh and with a longer shelf life.

More than three in five consumers globally say that they try to avoid artificial colours in their food and beverages where possible. However, going natural can also be technically challenging for manufacturers as some non-artificial colours are sensitive to pH levels, ultraviolet light and extreme temperatures, meaning that they may not interact well with some recipe matrices, such as high fat systems.

With consumer preference for natural solutions growing, and manufacturers seeking product stability, Lycored – a global leader in natural carotenoids for food, beverage and dietary supplement products – has created a wide range of versatile carotenoid-based colour solutions through proprietary techniques and plant sources. We find out more.

Consumer demands: stable food and beverage solutions

The stable colour solution created from Lycored works for three product categories: flavoured and coloured sparkling waters; UHT-treated, coloured, flavoured milks; and fruit preparations for layered yogurts. The first of the two ranges is called Tomat-O-Red® and is sourced from natural lycopene from tomatoes. Lycopene is well known by consumers and provides authentic, vegan pink to red shades. It is also highly stable under a wide range of pH, light and high-temperature conditions and has greater versatility than other naturally sourced red colour options. The other range is called Lyc-O-Beta® which offers a spectrum of natural, vegan yellow to orange shades and variations and formulations for a wide range of food and beverage applications. The stability of it is also amplified with the addition of Vitamin C.

Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing at Lycored said: “Consumers increasingly demand that their favourite drinks are coloured naturally and we want to help manufacturers meet that need.  There are clear rewards for those who make the switch from artificial to natural.”

With nine out of ten health-conscious consumers willing to pay more for a product with natural flavourings and colours, the market is lucrative for those brands willing to capitalise on it.

Natural colourants: the technology and methodology

To test the stability of the natural colours, the company uses a range of proprietary techniques. “Carotenoids are the perfect natural colourant. We use lycopene and BetaCarotene which are both easy to use and highly stable under a wide range of pH, light and high-temperature conditions” Lippert says.

“One of the most interesting ways we use technology is to test the stability of our natural colours.  For example, we recently set out to test their performance in UHT milk drinks. The drinks were subjected to four different UHT process technologies: steam injection, plate, tubular, and infusion.

Immediately after UHT and homogenization treatment, our researchers measured the samples for any changes in colour using HunterLab’s colour measurement software and the DeltaE method of calculation.  Our Tomat-O-Red colours both performed exceptionally and much better than the artificial alternative” she continues.

Product categories: What works best?

Being used over a wide range of food and beverage categories, the versatile solution offers manufacturers the opportunity to colour products naturally without compromising on stability.

“Tomat-O-Red TM and Lyc-O-Beta TM are ideal for a range of beverage categories, but one of the areas where they work particularly well is coloured flavoured sparkling waters. In a recent trial, we tested the stability of seven of our colorants in flavoured syrup in sparkling water over 12 months, regularly checking them for ringing, sediment and fade at regular intervals” she explains.

With the demand for natural colourants continuing to rise, the industry is catering to consumers by offering valuable solutions. Lippert says: “Our naturally derived colourants offer new ways to position products as more natural and fresh, with longer shelf life. And they can reduce the operational costs involved in packaging, transport and storage of final product.”