Natural colours on the rise, but synthetics not dead yet

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Natural colours Developed country United states

The market for colours is shifting to favour natural colours, but there is still a big need for certain synthetic colours, according to market experts at RTS resources.

Market growth

The colours market is estimated by RTS to be worth USD $1.7billion, with natural colours said to make up USD $0.65 billion.

Speaking at the HiE conference, Steve Rice of RTS said the colours market was an “important but changing market”, ​noting the recent shift towards more natural colours has meant the market for synthetics has decreased, with demand for natural colours growing at a much faster rate.

“Total colour usage has been growing by about 4 per cent year on year, but naturals are growing by 6.5 per cent year on year, so inevitably we can see that it’s synthetic colours that are being squeezed out,”​ said Rice.

“Our forecasts now show very little growth for synthetics, with all of the growth coming from naturals.”

Emerging markets

Jamie Rice, also of RTS, said that the largest value markets for natural colours remained Western Europe and North America, accounting for 32 and 29 per cent of the market share respectively, but emerging markets offer growth.

“A lot of the high growth is in actually in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, Central and South America, and Asia pacific …These regions are offering growth rates in excess of 8 per cent,”​ he said.

“It’s very important to understand that there is good value is in developed markets, but there is very big growth coming from the emerging markets,”​ he added.


Jamie Rice noted the split between natural and synthetic is very different in different product categories. For soft drinks, he said that in the last ten years natural colours have taken an increasing share of the market, and the same applies to confectionery: “We forecast over the next five years that the confectionery market will see almost a 50:50 split between naturals and synthetics,”​ said Mr Rice.

In meat and savoury products there has always been a high use of natural colours, however yogurts and deserts have been increasing the use of natural colours, and currently use just over half use natural colours at the moment – which, according to Jamie Rice “looks set to increase even more looking to the future.”


According to RTS, one key point is that manufacturers are looking ever more intensely at the stability of natural colours, and at potential new natural extracts. Jamie Rice added that the area “is going to become much more competitive over the coming years.”

However, he warned that for now at least, industry should not get “too carried away”​ with natural colours, because not all ingredients can be natural and synthetics are still important in the production of certain products.

“Yes there is a shift towards naturals, but it’s not the end of synthetics … yet! There are still cases where synthetics are necessary, whether that’s because of the production processes or because of the final colour presentation needed,” ​he said.

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