Consumer demand for so-called clean labels continues to rise globally. People are paying more heed to the ingredients list than ever before. This has prompted food and drinks manufacturers to seek out natural ingredients. But natural colourings are still considered additives. To help deliver a truly ‘clean’ label, Chr. Hansen is focusing on expanding its range of colouring foodstuffs under the group’s ‘Nature’s no. 1’ strategy.
Colouring foodstuffs – fruit, plant and vegetable concentrates – are minimally processed with no chemical alteration, meaning that they are classified as an ingredient with colouring properties instead of an additive. This means the ingredients list remains transparent and easily understandable, Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, global marketing director for Chr. Hansen Natural Colors, explained.
“Colouring foodstuffs are just as vibrant as natural colours and, for the most part, synthetic colours. There are limitations [on] how they can be produced. The easy explanation is that all production processes are simple procedures that you could do in your own kitchen. It is basically taking a food that has pigment in it already suitable for colouring and then extracting the fruit, vegetable or edible plant into a concentrate. This precludes some production techniques like selective extraction,” he told FoodNavigator.
New oil soluble range
Chr. Hansen is launching a new range of oil-soluble colouring foodstuffs globally. The company’s oil soluble range now includes five new coloring foodstuffs – blue, pink, red, yellow and brown – as well as two new natural colors – a non-Cu Chlorophyl green and a non-caramel brown.
The oil-soluble line is the result of a “few years” of innovation efforts, Rasmussen revealed.
“When working with natural colours, it’s possible to emulsify a naturally water-soluble pigment so that it will perform well in a fat-based application. It is this type of formulation technique that has been applied to develop this colouring foodstuffs range, which has taken us a few years to develop. In addition, our formulation process has ensured that these CFS can be used in fat applications that are pH neutral.”
Oil soluble colours are more effective for products that contain a fatty base because water-soluble colourings are likely to deliver uneven colouration or speckling. The oil soluble range can therefore be used in confectionary, ice cream coating, savory snacks and fat filling for biscuits.
The Chr. Hansen range has a number of additional functional benefits for food and beverage manufacturers, Rasmussen suggested. “We’ve spent many R&D hours to prevent settling or precipitation of the colour material. If the pigment settles to the bottom of the container, then each manufacturing batch can have a slightly different colour, and some the most expensive part of the colour solution – the pigment – can be discarded with the container.
“What’s more, unlike many colours from natural sources, these colours can be stored at ambient temperature, so there is no need of cold storage that is an expensive solution and not cost efficient. Our products only need a gentle upsidedown turn of the container to ensure that all pigment remains suspended.
“And finally, all the new colours in our range are designed to be blendable. That sounds obvious, but in reality, two pigments may well be incompatible and destabilize if you mix them. If they are incompatible, you could experience de-phasing, texture issues, lumping of the colour bulk. This will not be an issue with our solutions.”
A focus of future R&D
The colouring foodstuffs range is being rolled out globally but Rasmussen noted that demand varies from region to region. “Various regions in the world have different requirements as to ‘how natural’ a colouring solution should be. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands with worldwide distribution. Some have a strategy of using the same ingredients worldwide, which means the solution we provide must meet all legislative requirements. Others want to use a solution that is optimised for local requirements.”
In Europe, in particular, colouring foodstuffs are expected to build on food makers’ prior conversion to natural colours. While the colourings can be more expensive than other natural colourings, their position on the label can help build consumer trust in brands.
“Colouring foodstuffs can sometimes be more expensive than natural colours, but using them allows manufacturers – especially in Europe – to make the label more understandable for their customers, and in so doing, build trust. At the end of the day, choosing a natural colour or a colouring foodstuff is a brand choice for each manufacturer,” Rasmussen commented.
Already, Chr. Hansen revealed, colouring foodstuffs are used in nearly 30% of confectionery and ice cream product launches in Europe.
For this reason, colouring foodstuffs will remain an R&D priority for the company moving forward. “Natural solutions are our focus. But more specifically, we will continue to expand our coloring foodstuffs range…. We already have a large range of [colouring foodstuff] solutions in different formats to respond to requirements from our customers, and we are working on new liquid and powder products, both for water based and oil soluble applications.”