Natural Color Formulation Strategies for Confectioners

February 2015

In the wake of Nestle announcing the removal of synthetic color and caramel from many of their confection brands, there has been a surge in inquiries about potential natural solutions for chocolate and candy applications.

When these types of requests first surfaced a few years ago, the options available were fairly limited. But things have come a long way since then and the performance gap between synthetic and colors from natural sources has closed significantly for confectioners. The following are a few key technologies and solutions that have proven successful depending on the specific application.

New Blue Solutions
Unfortunately nature does not provide many sources of blue shades so achieving a replacement for Blue 1 is possibly the largest challenge for any confectioner. However, at Sensient we offer three good solutions contingent on shade target, application, and manufacturing process:

  • pH stabilized anthocyanin systems that are heat stable and can be implemented at relatively low usage levels
  • Spirulina, the most recent addition, has excellent shade properties, but, due to heat instability, may not be an option for certain processes
  • Sensient’s Natural Blue vegetable juice produces beautiful blue shades at a pH range of 4-4.5

Natural Brown Solutions
While caramel is considered a natural colorant, many confectioners including Nestle are replacing caramel with botanical or other natural color sources due to negative publicity surrounding 4-MEI. The availability of both Spirulina and Sensient Natural Blue enables us to achieve great brown shades over a wide pH range (2.5-7.0). At Sensient, we typically develop custom shades in the specific delivery system that functions best for each confectioner.

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.

Microfine™ Solutions
Aluminum-free Microfines™ fill any gaps created by a move away from synthetic lakes. For applications such as compressed tablets or dry powder candies, Microfines™ are an excellent option with three notable advantages:

  • Wide range of bright shade options
  • Plating characteristics normally found with synthetic pigments
  • No unwanted flavor impact

Microfines™ are also good solutions for confectioners creating compound coatings.

TiO2-Free Opacity Agent
As is the case with caramel, Titanium Dioxide is an exempt-from-certification ‘natural’ colorant. However, there appears to be at least as much interest in removing TiO2 as there is in conversion from synthetics to naturals. Fortunately there is an excellent option for low water activity applications. Sensient’s Avalanche™ white opacity agent can be used in all pH systems and is ideal for shell sub-coating or hard candy applications.

Each of the five technologies outlined above address a couple of key concerns. Firstly, light stability rivals anything that can be achieved using synthetic options. And secondly, they can all meet kosher and halal requirements.

As natural color continues to grow in importance with confectioners, we will see the pace of innovative solutions increase and the cost-in-use hurdle continue to improve. Never before have we had so many different technologies available to address the need for naturals.

Continue to follow my blog for updates and future innovations.

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