AAFCO Natural Green Shades Increasingly a Challenge

The Naturalness Trend Continues to Surge in Pet Food

The naturalness trend continues to surge in the pet food category, as:

Major pet retailers redefine acceptable ingredient parameters and publish no-no lists

Consumer demand for botanically derived ingredients rises

Activists and public bloggers continue to scrutinize artificial ingredients

One prominent example is Petco’s decision to no longer carry products on their shelves containing any ingredients that do not meet their new outlined standards, guiding manufacturers away from the use of ingredients like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

While pet owners do want increasingly natural pet food options, they do not want colorless or bland kibble and treats.

In a 2019 survey conducted by Sensient, over 90% of pet owners preferred multicolored over monochrome kibble such as all-brown.

Year over year, we conduct this study, and the results remain the same. Green is a very popular choice to convey flavor and nutrition in pet food, because of its perceived association to vegetables and oral health. However, natural green shades are increasingly becoming a challenge in this category.

Regulation Changes and AAFCO Guidance Creates Natural Green Challenge

Chlorophyll (sodium copper chlorophyllin), a once widely used colorant and excellent provider of green shades, is no longer an AAFCO-compliant green color solution for pet applications in the United States, turning many manufacturers to alternative sources.

Huito is a fruit juice that can shift to blue upon reaction and oxidation, which can then be blended with a yellow component to reach green. Huito is currently used in some pet applications, but several AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) state representatives have deemed the reacted fruit juice color as non-compliant with their definition of color from natural sources. This most likely stems from how the blue color is developed from Huito juice.

Spirulina is a popular new addition to the botanical blue toolkit, but it is not currently permitted in pet applications in the United States according to the FDA. Unfortunately, spirulina wouldn’t be a great option for many pet applications, as it does not survive heat processing, such as extrusion, retort, and baking.

Other Natural Blues Open the Door to Natural Greens

New and current pet products seeking to comply with the various state-by-state AAFCO and FDA regulations may need to find new green colors made from alternative botanical blue sources.

However, blue sources for color are the scarcest options available and prove to be the biggest gap in the natural color industry, not only in pet food but for human food too.

Sensient’s AAFCO-compliant Natural Blue vegetable juice portfolio fills this industry gap.

Natural Blue vegetable juice is AAFCO-compliant and heat-, light-, and pH-stable. This opens the door to extrusion and bake-stable natural greens. Permissible in all pet applications, Sensient’s natural blue provides a clean “vegetable juice” label green for pet manufacturers in combination with a natural yellow. Available in liquid and powder forms, Natural Blue alone produces a beautiful blueberry or superfruit shade, providing an excellent FD&C Blue 2 alternative.

With the use of Natural Blue, our array of yellow options allows us to create a wide range of green shades for pet developers.


The addition of a whitening agent can help color pop even more. Titanium dioxide, often used to provide a uniform canvas for color, is extremely effective but increasingly common on “no-no lists” like Petco’s. For a clean-label whitening solution in kibble, the Avalanche portfolio uses simple ingredients to provide a bright boost, increasing the impact of color.

Additionally, Sensient leverages our flavor expertise to also create some nice green blends using a combination of the natural blue vegetable juice and natural flavor.

Interested in trialing Sensient’s portfolio of AAFCO-compliant green shades for one of your pet applications?

Reach out to schedule a consultation so we can work through your questions together.

Or, if you already know what you’re looking for, you can get straight to innovating by requesting a sample here!

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