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The Power of Color

New Trends: Foods Having
Coloring Properties
by Dr. Elke Stich

Foods having coloring properties are

not considered to be additives and
enjoy a much better reputation with
consumers than their immediate competitors, synthetic colors. Edible fruits,
vegetables and herbs are the basis for
brilliant shades of red, yellow or orange.
Consumers look for foodstuffs with a
fresh and appealing color, but fewer
people want to eat or drink something
which is colored synthetically. The
market for natural food colors has
been steadily growing over recent
years. But not everything called "natural
food color" is in fact of totally natural
origin, and the educated consumer is
well aware of this fact.

example, is an extract from the seeds

of the Bixa orellana L. bush. These
seeds, however, are not edible and the
color is extracted with organic solvents.
Even less appetizing is the raw material
from which carmine is made; carmine
is an extract obtained from the
cochineal insect, precipitated with aluminum salts. Various other food colors
are made from edible raw materials,
but then exposed to chemical manufacturing processes, which render the
term "natural" questionable. Caramel
color, for instance, consists of carbohydrates exposed to extensive chemical treatment at high temperatures.
Figure 1: Relative anthocyanin content of red fruits

Edible raw materials, gentle

manufacturing processes
Because of this situation, there is a
clear tendency towards more genuine,
natural food colors. Manufacturers of
genuine natural food colors use only
edible fruits, vegetables and plants as
basic raw materials, and they try to
utilize manufacturing processes that
are as close to nature as technically
possible. These methods are similar to
those traditionally used in household
kitchens: cutting, extracting with water,
pressing, filtering, concentrating and
These manufacturers:

Questionable raw
materials and
manufacturing methods

process the raw materials
with physical means only,
without using any chemicals;

Some natural food colors are

being manufactured in part
from substances of natural
origin which would not be
normally eaten. Annatto, for

use water or other edible
or drinkable foodstuffs such
as vegetable oil as the only

Figure 2: Influence of harvesting date on anthocyanin

content of red fruits


Figure 3: Fruit and vegetable extracts with anthocyanins

in a model lemonade exposed to light stress


use no preservatives;

do not selectively extract the

color pigments, but leave them
in their natural surroundings.

Products manufactured in the way just

described are, within the EU, legally
not considered to be additives - they
are "foods having coloring properties".
Looking for new raw materials
Traditional raw materials used for producing natural food colors are blue
grapes, elderberries, hibiscus fruits or
red cabbage. These fruits and vegetables owe their red color to the anthocyanins they contain. The anthocyanin
content varies considerably, also within
the same variety, see figure 1) The
anthocyanin content depends on
various factors which include variety,
country of origin and harvesting date.
(Figure 2).
In recent years industrial research
has been very successful in gradually
increasing the coloring content of fruits
and vegetables while, at the same time,
lowering manufacturing costs.
The on-going research for new and
superior plant varieties that could better
meet requirements than those currently
used is a tedious and costly task. This
is particularly true of raw materials
growing on bushes or trees such as
grapes, elderberries, chokeberries and
blackcurrants. Even for annual plants
it can easily take up to six years from
the first labscale samples to market

world. In the daily cuisine,

however, they are less
popular because they
develop an unusual lilac
color when cooked in salty
It is simply the black carrots
ability to adapt to another
shade that makes it so
interesting for manufacturers of natural food colors.
The pH value of the foodstuff to be
colored is responsible for the shade
the Black Carrot extract will take on. At
pH 3.0 - a typical pH of soft drinks - the
extract will be as red as the juice of
fresh raspberries or sour cherries. As
the pH increases, the shade turns to
purple and bluish hues.
The main pigments present in black
carrots are acylated anthocyanins.
They are responsible for the excellent
color stability (Figure 3).
Incidentally, it was the GNT-Group that
pioneered the development of food
colors from black carrots. The coloring
extracts sold under the EXBERRY
brand name are pleasantly fruity in
taste and are free of off flavors. Unlike
the red color obtained from grapes,
color made from black carrots is
kosher, an important fact for the US
Today black carrots are also cultivated
in Europe on a large scale for the production of natural food colors. Typical
fields of application are dairy products,
soft drinks, ice creams and confectionery, to name just a few.

Black carrot
The ultimate success of the continuous
research for better and more cost
effective raw materials is Black Carrot
Daucus carota L.. Black carrots are
known to have been grown in the East
as far back as 3,000 years ago. In the
12th century they began to be cultivated
in some parts of Europe. Around 1750
Dutch breeders cultivated the orange
variety. Black carrots are still cultivated
and consumed in many parts of the

Brilliant yellow obtained from

Natural color from pumpkin is another
fine example for a new natural food
color obtained from well-known edible
fruits. This is the result of extensive
research on the color content of a
number of pumpkin varieties. The
carotenoids found in pumpkin supply
a brilliant yellow as well as excellent
heat and light stability.

Figure 4: Harvesting machine

Photos & tables: GNT

Besides yoghurts, soft drinks and ice

creams, other fields of application are
cheese and fruit gummies. And there
is one more advantage: the mixed
carotenoids found in the pumpkin
extract are said to be very healthy.
With genuine natural food colors food
manufacturers can achieve almost any
desired shade in the color spectrum,
for almost any field of application. The
past several years have seen a dramatic
improvement in stability and priceperformance ratio. Even experts are
surprised at todays favorable prices
for natural food colors, although still
more expensive than synthetic ones.
With regard to the higher value of
product obtained by using these "foods
having coloring properties," the value
added to the product could be
considered explicitly inexpensive.
In view of the favorable development of
prices and the visible trend towards
natural raw materials and processes,
it can be safely assumed that the
market share foods having coloring
properties are presently taking will
increase even further in the coming
Key No. 45431

The Author
Dr. Elke Stich works for GNT Gesellschaft fr
Nahrungsmitteltechnologie mbH in Aachen,