Naturally Vibrant Color Shades in Powder Applications

Finding the Right Natural Solution

Consumers across the globe consistently increase their focus upon the ingredient lists of the food and beverage products that they purchase. Consequently, globally manufacturers are developing and launching products utilizing coloring solutions that are more natural than their respective predecessors are. Global new product launch data confirms that brands are recognizing the importance of using simpler and cleaner ingredients, including natural colors and coloring foods:

Natural Color Usage in Food and Drink Launches by Region

Powdered beverages is a relevant category in many developing markets and is characterized by its intense and vibrant color shades that consumers have come to expect and love. When formulating with natural colors or coloring foods, product developers have to balance multiple objectives to obtain their ideal natural coloring solution in powder drink mixes:

  • Desired shade of the powder application, as well as the final product
  • Solubility and color appearance of the powder application
  • Solubility and Visibility
  • Global Regulatory Compliance
  • Cost-in-Use

Desired Shade

Achieving the desired shade is clearly the key objective formulating with coloring solutions. Depending on the focus within the other parameters, such as solubility and visibility, regulatory compliance, or cost-in-use, potential coloring alternatives can be discussed, as there are, fortunately, a variety of options for natural sources. Here is a glimpse at some on the market today:


Anthocyanins or Beetroot

Alternative to Allura Red


Blends of natural red and yellow coloring solutions

Alternative to Allura Red combined with Sunset Yellow or Tartrazine


Turmeric or Carthamus

Alternative to Tartrazine

Purples & Blues

Spirulina or blends of natural coloring solutions incl. Spirulina

Alternative to Allura Red combined with Brilliant Blue


Algae-based solutions or natural blends of plant- and algae-based solutions

Alternative to synthetic green blends

Solubility and Color Appearance

In many cases, the appearance of the dry powder in beverage drink mixes is critical, because consumers judge any given product with their eyes first. Beverage powder colors have an effect upon flavor expectation, and are considered more appealing flavors when they are brightly colored in orange, red, or purple, etc. However, standard natural colors do not possess plating characteristics in their powder forms. For example, a coloring solution from standard beetroot would not mix homogenously with the powder application due to its particle size and the colored powder would look like a salt and pepper mix.

A plating-grade natural colou that simulates a synthetic lake is an ideal solution for dry drink mixes, like Sensient’s Microfine™. Plating characteristics are critical if you want an evenly spread color visible in the powder. They also provide quick solubility after the powdered beverage has been hydrated. In contrast to this, if the appearance of the color in the powder mix is not much of a concern, a standard natural color powder would be acceptable to use under those circumstances.

Example of the plating characteristics of Sensient’s Microfine™:

Global Regulatory Compliance

A multitude of different bodies and organizations oversee food regulations today. Different philosophies and regulations are in play depending on the region, and global food manufacturers will need to navigate the diverse regulations on color source compliances that vary by location. It may be a true challenge, if not impossible at times, to have a single global color solution. R&D teams may need to plan for multiple options to address a variety of countries and markets with their powder beverage mix.


As public interest in ingredient declaration for food and beverage products grows, brand marketers are looking to their R&D Directors for colors with clean label implication that keeps their products relevant to consumers at cost-in-use targets that maintain acceptable price levels. There is a direct relationship between color and cost-in-use in powder beverage mixes.

Depending on regional consumer preferences, color visibility may be desired in the dry powder, the finished beverage, or in both. If the powder needs to be naturally colored, then you might need the technology of an excellent plating grade natural solution such as the Microfine™ where cost-in-use would typically be increased. In contrast, if the color is only required in the finished beverage, a natural color powder would suffice and cost would be standard for that of colors from natural sources.

Cost-in-use will also vary depending on desired shade intensity. The more intense the desired color shade is, the higher the color pigment level or the color dosage rate will have to be. This most often goes in line with an increasing cost-in-use.

“Creating naturally vibrant color shades in powder applications via natural coloring solutions can be a challenge, but is possible with Sensient’s Microfine™ range.”

The experts at Sensient love to talk about color formulations, so if you have a project or just want to talk through some strategies and options, feel free to reach out by setting up a consultation.

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