Soft drink makers and confectioners remain someway behind rival industries in finding natural additives for their product formulations, a leading global ingredient supplier has said.
Hans Thorkilgaard executive vice president of Chr. Hansen's colour division said that many soft drinks groups in Europe were having to consider reformulating colouring used in their drinks, amidst growing pressure from regulators.
Speaking to BeverageDaily.com, Thorkilgaard said that while global market research indicated that a big change was already underway in the use of colours by the industry, natural additives were becoming increasingly important for industry.
"Only about 10 per cent of food colours available to beverage makers and confectioners are natural as opposed to synthetic dyes," he said. "In terms of dairy or meat processing, about 70 to 80 per cent of colourings on offer are natural."
The claims follow calls this month's by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) board to push for manufacturers to phase out the use of six artificial colourings linked to hyperactivity in children by last year's Southampton study.
Thorkilgaard said that while many major soft drink makers had been pro-active in reformulating their drinks, there was huge global potential for both its existing and future developments in natural ingredients.
"In the last four quarters we experienced double-digit sales growth," he stated. "Furthermore, we have an exceptionally strong pipeline of both sales- and development projects."
Thorkilgaard said that this increasingly natural focus was apparent in the work of a number of European manufacturers, particularly in Scandinavia, where colourings had - in some cases - been removed from soft drinks.
He added that manufacturers within the UK and France were also showing a growing willingness to look to natural colours.
Just last week, global confectioner Cadbury Schweppes pledged to remove all artificial colourings from its confectionery products by the end of the year in response to concerns over the possible effects of some additives on behaviour.
While this focus was not yet a global concern for the industry, Chr. Hansen says it expects to see similar growth in demand from beverage processors in Asia and South America.
Despite this overall optimism for natural colourings growth, Thorkilgaard claimed that North America as a whole still seemed reluctant to begin addressing the issue of reformulating beverages and confectionery.
The market had instead opted for other trends like organic beverages to sate both consumer demand and regulatory pressures, he stated.
The Southampton findings
The Southampton study, which was published in The Lancet, looked at the effect of mixes of additives on a range of children aged between three and nine and drawn from general population and across a range of hyperactivity and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) severities.
Mix A contained sunset yellow (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E110). Mix B contained sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129) and sodium benzoate (E211).
The effects on the children's behaviour were assessed using a global hyperactivity aggregate (GHA) based on aggregated scores of observed behaviours and ratings by teachers and parents, plus, for those aged eight and nine, a computerised test of attention.
The researchers concluded that artificial food colours and additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviour in children at least up to middle childhood.