Speaking to FoodNavigator at Gulfood in Dubai, Sensient Colours Europe managing director Dr Roland Beck said that the company has had to adapt its range in many ways to appeal to Middle Eastern markets – starting with halal certification.
In addition, cultural preferences for certain colours, specifically bright yellow-orange to orange-red colours in soft drinks, have led the company to focus on these hues, and there is a growing interest in natural colours in the region, said Beck.
“It depends on the country and the brand,” he said, explaining that larger brands, particularly those from big multinationals, were likely to be moving toward natural colours in their formulations on a global basis. However, natural colour was still not a permeating trend for medium-sized and smaller players, he said.
Dairy – the natural touch
“It’s like Europe 20 years ago,” said Beck. “Turkey is already well-developed in natural colours. And it depends on the sector; the dairy industry is also very into natural colours. Milk and milk products have this natural touch.”
He said that few in the dairy sector made a conscious decision to colour products naturally, but suggested that it made sense not to spoil the wholesome perception of the main ingredient in milk-based products by using synthetic colours.
Blue and green are rarely seen
While some colours work well in foods and drinks, others are very unpopular with consumers – particularly green and blue.
“I don’t think these colours are very appetizing for consumers,” he said, suggesting that colours that are naturally found in foodstuffs tend to be more appealing.
“Very often blue or green is used as a fun product for kids, or for products linked to special events, but these are very seasonal. They might be hip in one year and then be gone.”
As for beverages, powdered drinks are popular in the Middle East, Beck says, perhaps simply because the format is what consumers are used to – but powdered products also have specific functional advantages for the region, such as easier storage in hot temperatures, longer shelf life, and lighter weight.