Natural Color Trends in the Food & Beverage Industries

by Mona Hollums

Part 3 of a 6-part series

A Visual Feast

We are what we eat ...

… and nowadays, consumers are not shy when it comes to demanding healthier choices. It should come as no surprise that the number one trend in the food and beverage industries today, is to satisfy the consumer-driven need to shift away from artificial colors and flavors, while ALSO meeting expectations for taste and quality, according to FoodDIVE, the online food industry news and analysis site.

Go Natural or Go Home!

According to the International Food Information Council’s survey conducted in 2014:

While taste and price consistently have been the top two factors that impact consumers’ food and beverage purchases (90 percent and 73 percent respectively), healthfulness in 2014 almost entirely closed the gap with price, rising from 61 percent of consumers in 2012 to 71 percent this year, a 10 percentage-point increase. Consumers aged 18-34, who cite healthfulness as a driver of food and beverage purchases, increased from 55 percent in 2013 to 66 percent in 2014, significantly narrowing the gap with other age groups.”

It’s A Classification Act

The common term "natural colors” is actually called Colors Exempt from Certification, according to the FDA. As we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, color is often a huge component of a product’s ‘branding’, so a major complication in the natural colors industry is that standards aren’t uniform around the world, even when it comes to the same products (in other words, a US version of a product and a European version of that same product might incorporate different colorings, simply because the European country has different rules about what colorants can be used in products offered for sale within their borders.) And it’s seldom easy to simply substitute a natural color for an artificial one without affecting a product’s appearance and/or taste.

… so it’s really all about The Label Clean label, that is: an ingredient list of words that buyers recognize, that their kids can read aloud to them. As consumers continue to educate themselves to know ‘what’s good for them’ (and re-educate themselves to visually recognize it when they see it) the call for natural food colors will continue to rise. Forward-looking food and beverage manufacturers will satisfy this desire sooner rather than later, and thereby build consumer trust and loyalty through the next generation.


”Health requires healthy foods.” ~ Roger Williams

"A major prod for the shift to natural colors in the United States is the 2007 Southampton study that linked synthetic color dyes to hyperactivity in children,” 1 says Dr. Kantha Shelke, food scientist and principal at Corvus Blue, and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technology. In an interview, Dr. Shelke also pointed out that using natural sources to color food and beverage products is nothing new. “For millennia, people have been crafting foods with color from hibiscus, turmeric, grapes and grape skins, tomatoes, carrots, etc.”

And while Dr. Shelke also states, “It is important to point out that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) did not substantiate a causal link between the hyperactivity and six colors, but food companies are being cautious because of consumer concerns."

… yet those same concerns were enough to prompt major food companies like Kellogg, Nestle, and General Mills to move toward including more and more natural ingredients in some of their products, and they’re only some of the more recent companies to do so.

Where the big dogs go, the rest of the pack has to follow, if they want to keep up.

Check back soon for our next installment of this 6-part series, where we’ll discuss the growing demand for clean-label and natural food colorings in cereal products:

A Visual Feast: Part 4 - Natural Color Trends in Breakfast Cereals

Read other entries in this series