Colouring trends march from natural to E-number-free

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tomato, Fruit, Chr hansen

Following the Southampton study that cast safety suspicions over
certain artificial colourings, ingredients firms are redoubling
their development and communication efforts to highlight
alternatives from other sources.

The FSA-funded study conducted at Southampton University and published in The Lancet last month concluded that cocktails of food colourings commonly used in confectionery and beverages, and sodium benzoate, can aggravate hyperactivity in children. The consumer response has been huge, and the food industry has drawn attention to efforts already underway to clean up food labels - that is, wherever possible to replace artificial additives with natural versions. But behind the media statements and campaigning from all quarters, there is a flurry of practical activity taking place across the industry. And ingredients firms are a crucial part of this, stepping up to the plate with food-derived ingredients that by-pass the mistrusted E-number system entirely. The E number classification system - which includes natural as well as artificial additives - is mired in mistrust since negative studies on some have rubbed off on the whole category. To avoid the classification, ingredients companies are marketing solutions that are foods in their own right - but just happen to be able to bestow colour (or flavour) and entire product. For instance, Chr Hansen launched its FruitMax range this year, and it now boasts 20 different shades from edible fruit, vegetables, spices and other plants - ranging from bright yellow, to brown, to green, to red and violet. In developing the range, the company worked with fruits that have a long history of use and approval, with no selective pigment extractions applied to the raw materials. "The Frutamax range contains different natural and original flavourings from the plant, pigments, waxes, fruity acids for fruit concentrates and other carbohydrates​," said international product manager, colours, Charlotte Gylling Olsen. Since the ingredients in the range have to have a naturally high level of pigment, the firm has established relations with farmers for growing plants that have been identified as fulfilling the technical needs. Chr Hansen is bolstering its offering with two new colours with month, as FruitMax Cranberry WS and FruitMax Blueberry WS make their debut at FIE in London. The cranberry and blueberry names, however, refer only to the end colour however - these fruits are not the source. Rather, the former is a high strength concentrate from freshly processed black carrot roots, and the latter is a grape juice concentrate. The range is said to be suitable for use in beverages, fruit preparations, dairy, ice cream, and confectionery. According to speciality ingredients supplier GC Hahn (now owned by Tate & Lyle), the UK is leading the way towards E-number-free ingredients. It says that the trend is mostly driven by retailers, who are upping the pressure on food manufacturers for more clean label products. While other European markets are not so focused on clean labels, the company said following a symposium in April that it expects clean labels to grow into a key topic in the future. Israeli firm Frutarom is also hanging marketing of its tomato-derived lycopene Tomat-O-Red colouring from the findings of the Southampton study. Although lycopene does have an E-number when used as a food colour (E160d) since it is the result of a selective pigment extraction, the company is expecting to see increased demand for the ingredient, which has a close association with tomato. In addition, LycoRed has previously proved adept at bridging regulatory black-holes. While lycopene from tomatoes cannot presently be marketed for its health benefits in Europe, the firm introduced a new lycopene ingredient in the form of a dried cherry tomato that is remarkably high in the antioxidant, enabling foods to be fortified without complex regulatory situations posing a barrier.

Related topics: Market Trends, Flavours and colours

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