If you take a look at the packaged and frozen foods that are on the shelves of your grocery store or in the checkout line, you see some pretty wild, deep, and frivolous colors of the foods that you may be eating. Everything from snack pastries to chips are loaded with artificial dyes and colorings including Red 40, Blue 1, and Yellow 6. Those colors don’t seem to be natural colors.
Wouldn’t you think that with all of the beautiful, natural colors that we have in the world that we couldn’t have to create dyes and colors in a lab, to use in our foods? The FDA has continually approved these colors as safe for consumption, but I think we all can recognize that the more naturally we can source food coloring, the better.
Now, a growing number of food companies are moving away from synthetic coloring, and putting more money into natural, plant based colorings for their foods. The demand for natural coloring methods started growing around 2007, and more companies are starting to jump on the bandwagon of naturally sourcing their food coloring methods.
It isn’t just small companies that serve up natural, organic, and allergy sensitive foods that are jumping on the health train. Kraft just announced that in 2016 they are releasing a new recipe for their macaroni and cheese that is completely void of synthetic coloring. Panera bread is abandoning artificial dyes and coloring altogether by the end of this calendar year. General Mills is pledging to have all of the artificial coloring and flavoring out of their cereals by the end of 2016. Nestle made a similar announcement to have all of the unnatural coloring and flavorings out of their chocolates and candies by the end of this year too.
It sounds like some major players in the food industry are going to be giving the boot to many of their previous artificial ingredients within the next few months.
Unfortunately, getting real colors from natural food sources like fruits and vegetables is a more expensive and finicky process than creating colors in labs. It is really hard to keep consistent with fruit and vegetable colors because they tend to be different hues in different seasons and vary from region to region. When you create a color in a lab, you can keep the exact colors and pigments consistent and keep the prices low. When you are deriving colors from natural sources that have a lot of room for color variance, it is difficult to keep the prices consistent and the colors uniform.
Now, companies are looking for interesting and innovative new ways to develop bright new colors from foods like carrots, beets, purple sweet potatoes, and grapes. Colormaker out of Anaheim, CA is one of the leading companies that is using a wide variety of distinctly colored fruits and vegetables for natural food coloring. They get their colors, in juice form, from countries all over the world so that they can help other companies find natural ways of coloring their foods.
Kalsec is another natural food company that has been making brilliant colors for over 50 years. They contract farmers and growers in the US, and are one of the largest color extractors from carrots, in the world. In 50 years of experimentation and testing, they have gotten their coloring and extraction down to a fairly fine science so that they know what seed mixture is going to give them the most vibrant, natural colors.
San Jaoquin Valley Concentrates is creating natural shades of red, pink, and purple from locally sourced vegetables and fruits. They are using colors in liquid and crystal form, which are derived from purple sweet potatoes, Rubired grapes, and purple carrots.