Dark Natural Brown Alternatives to Caramel Colors

Caramel colors have been widely used across many applications for decades. Both the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have affirmed the safety of caramel colors in foods and beverages. Yet, over the last few years, we have been inundated with requests to replace caramel colors.

California’s Prop 65 has placed pressure on brands: they can either replace caramel color in food and beverages with alternatives without incidental chemicals like furfuryl alcohol or 4-MEI, or they can label those products using caramel color with a warning label about carcinogens.

Sensient has a suite of caramel color offerings and a portfolio of alternatives for those reformulating to cater to today’s consumer preferences. Our Sienna™ natural brown fruit juice has many of the advantages of caramel color and provides very appealing brown shades similar to Class I and Class II. It’s stable across an extremely broad pH range and stands up to heat and light. From a usage standpoint, Sienna™ is cost-efficient. One challenge with Sienna™ as a standalone natural brown is if used at higher rates, subtle off-notes can be present, which can be complementary or undesirable depending on the application.

An ongoing challenge has been replacing the darker shades of caramel colors like Class III and Class IV. At Sensient, our R&D team innovates to anticipate industry needs, and this month, I’m excited to announce the launch of our natural brown flavor collection. This new library rounds out our brown shade offerings and provides a number of benefits, including:


Dark brown shades comparable to Caramel Colors Class III and IV


Excellent heat and light stability


Options with cleaner flavor profiles


Cost-in-use advantages compared to industry alternatives


Label-friendly in every state


Minimal impact to a finished good’s texture


My team and I continue to innovate with new ingredients that enable manufacturers to respond quickly to our ever-evolving landscape.

These darker shades are perfect for applications like sauces, breads, crackers, cremes, beverages, dry drink mixes, confections, ice creams, and more. Dark browns can bring to life rich and indulgent flavors like coffee, chocolate, whiskey, barbeque, soy, and fudge, well-suited to ongoing consumer trends.

If you have any questions or projects where you need some assistance, let’s start a conversation here.

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