Natural Colors Make a Splash in Beverage Formulations

Natural Colors in Beverage Formulations
"In this blog post we'll explore what makes them special and how they're used by companies like you. We'll also look at some of the benefits of choosing natural colors over artificial ones."

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“Natural colors have been a hot topic in the beverage industry for quite some time, and it’s no surprise. With consumers demanding more transparency from their food and beverage suppliers, using ingredients that are derived from natural sources has become increasingly important to manufacturers.” 

“In this blog post we’ll explore what makes them special and how they’re used by companies like you. We’ll also look at some of the benefits of choosing natural colors over artificial ones.”

Natural Colors in Beverage Formulations

In Cyndi Lauper’s 1986 chart-topping song “True Colors,” she reminds people to take courage in the world so others can see “your true colours shine through. In a world of new products and a burgeoning clean label revolution, the natural food colour market is “shining” as ingredient suppliers, and consumers alike embrace these solutions.

Emina Goodman, a senior director of commercial colour development at ADM, says that today’s consumers are concerned about the origins of ingredients from natural sources and want to know if those options are more healthy and sustainable.

The Chicago-based company’s research also points to this: 50 per cent of consumers prefer products with natural ingredients they believe are suitable for their health; 62 per cent actively avoid artificial colours when purchasing food and beverages; and 69 per cent say simple, recognizable ingredients influence their purchasing decisions.

“This continued trend toward cleaner labelling has prompted beverage manufacturers to use colours from nature in their formulations,” Goodman said. “…… As more and more consumers seek transparency and simplicity in their beverages, we offer product developers the broadest mix of popular, botanical and close-to-nature ingredients that are well suited for clean and clear labelling.”

A natural food colouring market report from Dublin-based Fact.MR estimates that the global raw food colouring industry will reach $17 billion by 2031, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 7%, above the 4% CAGR of $8.5 billion in natural food colouring sales between 2016 and 2020.


Consumer Buying Behavior

Experts say that when consumers taste with their eyes, the colour and appealing appearance of a beverage is key to driving purchase behaviour.

According to the report, “The increasing trend toward healthy eating observed throughout the coronavirus pandemic crisis has further driven expansion prospects in the past year alone.” Anthocyanins continue to be the best-selling natural food colouring, growing at a CAGR of 6%.

Noting that today’s colour options are “virtually limitless,” Rene Fonteijn, industry business manager for Oterra (formerly Cohançon Natural Colors), said the company supports creativity and innovation in beverage manufacturers’ colour requirements. However, he notes that shades of blue are still challenging to achieve.  

“We can get a full spectrum of colours by mixing different pigments,” he explains. “However, blue is still a difficult shade for the beverage industry to navigate, as there are no blue pigments in nature that can remain stable in high acidity and low viscosity, which is the case for most beverages.”

The Hørsholm, the Denmark-based company, says carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) are the largest coloured segment, while bottled water is the least in demand.

Brian Sethness, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Sethness Roquette in Skokie, Illinois, wholeheartedly endorses it. The most commonly used colourant in the globe is caramel. It’s the preferred hue in the soft drink industry, and it’s also an essential flavouring component that helps deceive people’s tastebuds.

Because most carbonated beverages soft drink supply chain have a low pH, Sethness Roquette Grade IV caramel colours are commonly utilized for their acid stability. “In addition to providing an excellent red to a brown hue, caramel colours enhance the fizzy characteristics, mouthfeel and flavour of soft drinks,” says Sethness. “There are at least 20 caramel colours available for a variety of beverages, including juices, spirits, beers and teas.”


Natural colours with vibrant hues

Improved emulsions and dispersions and more stable fruit and vegetable juice hues provide a broader range of shelf-stable colours for beverages with carbonated drink filling machine factory. Manufacturers of ingredients also use their research and development (R&D) departments to develop more efficient, lower-cost solutions.

Today, plant-based concentrates can be used to colour everything from fizzy soft drinks to smoothies and alcoholic beverages, according to Jeannette O’Brien, vice president of GNT USA in New York.

GNT’s research and development team comprise scientists, professional chefs and other experts who have spent decades refining and optimizing the colours they create for their customers. As a result, O’Brien explains that innovation is at the core of our business. We continue to look for new raw materials, processing methods, and application methods. This allows us to create new bright hues for our clients and fine-tune the GNT colours that already exist.


Organic Hard Kampo Tea

Produced in partnership with Maui Brewing Co., the 7% ABV Coconut Mamaki is an organic hard kombucha that combines an exciting flavour with inspiring art.

For beverage applications, the company offers plant-based EXBERRY concentrated colours derived from plant-based ingredients; bright powder and liquid palettes that can be blended to deliver a range of hues; The ability for customers to expand their colour choices by creating complex and detailed proportional pairings is a significant aspect of the Flair range.

The company’s unique extraction method allows it to create hues listed on product labels as individual plants, fruits, vegetables, seeds and roots.

Fountain said one of Oterra’s latest innovations is its award-winning Hansen Sweet Potato line, which offers more excellent stability than other anthocyanins. The firm also provides its proprietary CapColors, which are encapsulated colours based on carotenoids meant to enhance pigment dispersion and save money by reducing the amount of pigment used in beverages compared to ordinary emulsions.

The critical difference between using natural and artificial colours comes down to time. “If there’s one lesson I can teach beverage formulators, it’s this – the choice of artificial colours may happen at the end of the development process, but the choice of natural colours has to happen at the beginning because there are so many questions that need to be answered,” Anaheim, Calif. Stephen J. Lauro, managing director of colorMaker Inc. in Anaheim, California, emphasizes.

The preferred flavour profile for the target product is also a consideration. “Many beverage processors are creating matcha green tea beverages, for example,” Lauro adds. “Caramel colour might be used to give the appearance of tea, or a formulator may choose a combination of spirulina blue and beta-carotene yellow (blue + yellow = green) to provide the visual impression of green tea; If a beverage is to be sold in the European Union, a formulator may choose chlorophyll copper sodium salt as an alternative to green tea for the visual appearance. ” 


It doesn't need to be blue.

Experts point out that colour is closely related to flavour and that the first impression depends heavily on its appearance.

As mentioned earlier, it may be challenging to get some purple and green without the natural blue ingredients provided by Mother Nature, since blue is the primary colour needed to create green and purple with the blend, according to St. Louis marketing specialist Megan Fox based on Sensient food colouring.

She notes that while solutions of spirulina extract provide bright sky blue hues and beautiful lemon greens and purples, spirulina does not perform well in CSD, ready-to-drink (RTD) and heat-treat applications. If these colours were needed, synthetic colours would be the only way to achieve certain shades in these spaces at this time.

However, things are beginning to change. “The FDA has recently approved [Sensient’s] butterfly pea flower extract as a colour additive and added it to the [Code of Federal Regulations] (CFR) for a variety of food and beverage applications,” according to on September. “This exciting heat, light, water, and stable pH additive gives a denim blue hue at higher acidity levels and transforms to a solid purple colour at lower pH levels, especially in CSD/RTD,” Fox says.


ADM Colors from Nature's Product Portfolio

ADM offers a portfolio of natural colours that includes shades derived from plants, including fruits and vegetables.

Neon colour shades can also be challenging to formulate, notes GNT’s O’Brien. The new water-soluble EXBERRY Shade Rubescent Red and EXBERryn Shade Ruby Red, available in powder or liquid form, can help fill that gap.

“Bright Ruby Red and Yellow Ruby Red have unique warm, dynamic tones created from a combination of fruits and veggies,” she adds. “…… They may be combined to produce a variety of vibrant reds, meeting the demands of producers who want dynamic, vivid, and flexible reds. Our stable new hues won’t alter the flavour of your drink, so they’re perfect for it.”

She added that plant-based colours made from popular, nutrient-rich spirulina can be used to create striking shades of blue and green, especially in smoothies.

In addition to the clean label movement, colorMaker’s Lauro points to several other trends that drive beverage colour formulations. The popularity of boba or “bubble tea,” which creates tiny tapioca balls in the dark, green, or oolong tea and non-dairy beverages with soft drink supply chain from soy or almond milk that are designed to mimic dairy shakes or smoothies, is evidence of this.

“Sometimes non-dairy beverages may have fruit juice added, which challenges the formulator to push the pH and heat stability parameters of the natural colour,” explains Lauro.

Sethness of Sethness Roquette adds that chocolate milk can pose a challenge on the dairy side because one must find the correct caramel colour category that will work with the milk protein and remain in suspension. “In carbonated juice drinks, there may be interactions with ingredients that may have an overall effect on precipitation and/or haze over time, temperature or concentration,” he said.

Another common trend in beverage colour applications is CBD and/or THC in both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. While natural colours typically perform well in drinks containing CBD and/or THC, natural dyes are unstable when ABV exceeds 30% because in high ABV beverages, alcohol “competes” with natural colour molecules to obtain free water, ultimately leading to degradation and failure of the natural colour, Lauro explained.

Colour can improve acceptance by overcoming colour loss caused by sunlight, temperature extremes and humidity. Experts point out that the colour of a product is what drives buying behaviour.

“It is often said that we eat with our eyes first, so visually appealing products are key to a shopper’s decision to buy,” says ADM’s Goodman. “COLOR also determines consumer expectations of flavour and quality, as well as consistency in colour and taste. Consistency is crucial to a pleasurable dining experience.” “

“Most importantly, colour and flavour can be used to indicate trending attributes in certain products, such as health and wellness benefits,” she continued. “For example, bright yellow and orange paired with citrus flavours can work together to indicate the presence of vitamin C and corresponding benefits in a product. Purple and red hues paired with berry flavours such as elderberry or cranberry may also indicate potential antioxidant benefits to consumers. …… In addition, industry innovations that replace synthetic colours with naturally sourced colours will continue to be in high demand.”



Beverage formulations that use natural colors are popping up all over the place, and we don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon. The market is growing to accommodate consumers who want sustainable, organic ingredients in their products as well as those looking for a more authentic experience with food and drink. If you’re interested in incorporating these trends into your beverage formulation strategy, contact us today by below form! We will be happy to work with you on finding the right filling machine for your needs or providing consultation services if needed.

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John Lau.

John Lau.

John Lau, a project manager holding an engineering bachelor's degree, became fascinated with optimizing beverage production equipment during his university days. As an overseas project manager, he firmly believes that educating clients on achieving efficient workflows through customized equipment design is one of the most impactful aspects of his job.

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