In its new report European Natural and Nature-Identical Food Colours Market, the consultancy put market revenues at US$198.1m in 2006 (c €144m). It predicts revenues of $247.7m (€180m) in 2013, with an ideal compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3 per cent. But even thought consumer interest has been piqued by media attention and research, the industry still has work to do to make sure it takes advantage of the opportunities. One major problem is that many consumers think E-numbers relate only to synthetic additives - whereas in fact natural additives are listed on ingredients panels too. This means that there is a tendency for natural-minded consumers to reject all products with E-numbers indiscriminately. Frost & Sullivan industry manager Sangeetha Srinivasan said that this gives natural colour manufacturers "a narrow space to operate". "For the sustained growth of the natural colours market, it is imperative to conduct awareness campaigns to inform consumers that the objective of E-numbers is to ascertain the safety of additives," said Srinivasan. The European Commission is presently redrawing legislation on additives to bring together and update as many as a dozen regulations governing the industry dating back several decades. Although this will take several years to come into effect, in the meantime the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is assessing the latest science on additives that have been allowed in foods over the last 30 years. It issued its first verdict, on the colour Red 2G, last month, deeming that it should be considered a carcinogen. Such negative assessment seems likely to encourage more manufacturers to opt for natural alternatives in place of synthetics with a suspect safety record. The Frost report also notes, however, that the food colourings market is price-sensitive, so natural colours need to be priced so as to be affordable alternatives to synthetic additives. If the cost is so high as to deter the use of naturals, even though they are better perceived, manufacturers may not see the need to switch. The report's authors note that technological advances have been made in recent years, such as ways to make them more stable when faced with extreme temperatures, light, and pH conditions. This was not the case with the earlier generation of colours. Product development going forward, they say, should be "aimed at providing a range of colours that can replace synthetic colours in all application sectors, including soft drinks, dairy and confectionery." Another area that is driving the market is that of functional and healthy foods. Certain natural ingredients derived from plants, herbs, and spices have amassed scientific data on their health benefits, and may be used to give a food product a healthy profile - just as much as to give them an appealing colour and/or flavour. Examples of such ingredients include curcumin, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene. Other ways in which ingredients firms may be able to stimulate more growth in natural colours include collaboration with industry bodies, vertical integration, investment in R&D and strategic alliances. In particular, Frost & Sullivan considers alliances with Asian ingredients firms to be a good way of combating price pressure. This is not a strategy that the consultancy thinks holds true only for colours. In the past, it has recommended Asian alliances for manufacturers of other categories of food ingredients, such as enzymes.