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Demand for natural colors increases as 80% of parents cite artificial color safety concerns, survey finds

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Natural color demand increases as parents site safety concerns

Related tags Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder U.s. Jelly belly

While consumer demand for natural colors in the U.S. lags behind that in the U.K., it is nearing “a tipping point” as parents’ concerns increase about the potential impact on children’s health of artificial colors and more natural options become available, according to recent industry research. 

About 80% of U.S. and U.K. parents of 3- to 12-year-olds say they are concerned about the use of synthetic colors in food and beverages for children, according to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. and U.K. parents conducted in January by the color and flavor company Kalsec.

In particular, half of U.S. parents are concerned about red colors, especially red dye 40, in products for their children, Gary Augustine, executive director of market development at Kalsec, told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained parents are most concerned about the potential link between artificial colors and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavior issues.

Given their concern, 83% of parents surveyed by Kalsec said they were more likely to buy food for their children if it contains a naturally-sourced color instead of a synthetic color.

Not only that, but 70% of parents are willing to pay a premium for products containing naturally-sourced colors, according to the survey.

Many manufacturers are making the switch

Several major manufacturers already are making the switch to natural colors from synthetic and artificial ones in their U.S. products.

Kraft announced earlier this year that it will replace the synthetic colors in its iconic Original Macaroni & Cheese​ with natural sources, such as paprika, annatto and turmeric. General Mills also said in June that it will remove artificial colors and flavors​ from its breakfast cereals sold in the U.S. in the next few years. While Nestle will shoot to remove artificial colors and flavors​ from its confections by mid-2015. 

The makers of the carbonated beverage Zevia are going one step farther and removing all colors from its entire product line.

Not all companies though are reformulating with natural colors in response to consumer pressure. Crayon-maker Crayola, for example, said the artificial colors in its Color Your Mouth products for children are FDA approved and safe​. 

Added benefits

Those companies that make the switch could see additional benefits and drive growth in the natural color segment.

Many naturally derived colors also exhibit functional properties, according to research by Future Marketing Insights. “For instances, natural carotenoid colors contain anti-oxidants, which could act as health promoters apart from providing colors to food,”​ it says in a recent report.

Natural colors also can help products be made with clean labels, which consumers increasingly want, FMI says.

Color option

Natural colors have a few drawbacks, though – mainly that they are not as vibrant so that more dye must be used to capture familiar synthetic hues, which can increase the cost.

The range of colors also is limited, an executive from Jelly Belly told FoodNavigator-USA, previously. But it and other companies are exploring their options.

For example, Jelly Belly is experimenting with spirulina to create difficult to capture blues and greens. FMI says the demand for spirulina is projected to “witness tremendous growth”​ through 2020 as more companies follow suit.

Anthocyanin also can create a few blue shades for low pH foods and beverages, but is mainly used for red, purple and pink, FMI says, adding anthocyanin is the second largest segment of the natural color market behind carotenoids, which are used to create yellow, orange, red and pink.

The general move towards natural colors will help the category grow a predicted 6.8% compound annual growth rate through 2020, when the segment is projected to be worth $1.69 billion. This is up from an estimated $1.14 billion in 2014, according to FMI.

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