‘Our colours are foods in their own right’: GNT showcases its ‘field to finished product’ supply chain

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

‘Our colours are foods in their own right’: GNT showcases its ‘field to finished product’ supply chain

Related tags Colours Ingredients GNT spirulina

The Netherlands and German-based colour supplier discusses why natural source, natural processing and natural application help to produce consumer trust.

With increased demand for more natural colours, the supplier GNT Group creates natural colours via a highly integrated supply chain which supplies it with vegetables, fruits and edible plants. These ingredients create the colours, which can be used in a wide variety of food and drink products.

GNT makes its colouring foodstuffs, sold under the EXBERRY brand, using ‘gentle, physical processes’ such as pressing, filtering and concentrating. In this way, the ingredients retain the characteristic properties of the source material and concentrates are not selectively extracted.

This approach means that under EU regulations, colouring foods are not classified as additives but as foods with colouring properties. This means that they are label friendly and can help manufactures meet consumer demand for clean label products whilst still delivering bright, fresh colours.

“For the first time in the industry I’d say it’s possible to tell the story about colours in a positive and transparent way,”​ said GNT’s managing director, Frederik Hoeck.

Colours, he explained, have in the past been met with mistrust by consumers because they were a little bit artificial. “We would like to turn this around to say colours are a positive; they are good for you; they come from nature and we can tell our story in a positive and transparent way.”

GNT's 400+ colour range can be applied to a host of food and beverage applications

From field to finished product

GNT’s association with natural concepts comes from its ‘field to finished product’ approach. As many as 80% of the vegetables, fruits and edible plants used to make EXBERRY colours are cultivated in an area close to the company’s production plants in the Netherlands and Germany. Crops grown include orange and black carrots, pumpkins and radishes.

GNT’s growers produce crop varieties from seeds developed by GNT’s own agronomists, using non-GMO methods, in order to deliver the exact colour shade required.

The agronomists also manage relationships with GNT’s growers. This vertical approach gives the company full control over its supply chain, so it can deliver colour consistency and security of supply.

After harvesting, the raw ingredients travel the short distance to GNT’s facility in Heinsberg, Germany. Here, vegetables, fruits and plants are processed into semi-finished ingredients using physical methods that include pressing, chopping, filtering and concentrating. Chemical solvents are never used.

The proximity of the fields to the Heinsberg plant ensures raw materials arrive when they are still fresh. At this point they are processed immediately, or put into frozen storage for later use, guaranteeing they will deliver optimised colour quality.

From Heinsberg, the semi-finished concentrates are transported to GNT’s factory in Mierlo, Netherlands, where they are blended and further processed into finished ingredients ready for use in food and beverage products. Mierlo is also home to GNT’s extensive quality control laboratory. Every year, GNT’s two factories produce about 8,500 tons of concentrates – enough to colour 35 billion portions of food.

GNT’s sourcing principles:

• Its agronomists have direct contact

with our contract farmers

• Fixed contract prices prevent price


• Long-term contracts and business

relations ensure the best quality,

quantity and prices

• Raw materials are food themselves

• All products are non GMO

Meanwhile, at GNT’s facility in Aachen, Germany, food and beverage companies can perfect their formulations in GNT’s state-of-the art pilot plant, which is equipped with trial-sized versions of widely used manufacturing and storage equipment.

GNT is a family-owned company. Combined with GNT’s vertical integration of the supply chain, this ensures full traceability, price and stock stability.

harvesting carrots7
GNT is positioning itself as a supplier of natural colours to food manufacturers via its Exberry range of colours.

"Nature has so much to give​,” continued Hoeck. “We make it available to our customers by providing food ingredients trust.”

The fact the colours have a natural source, natural processing and natural application ‘helps to produce consumer trust’, he said. “I always ask myself 'if a consumer would enter our factory or visit our fields would they like what he or she sees?’ In our factory our newest spirulina line​ has a glass wall so anyone entering the factory can see what is happening inside. This is probably not very typical for the food industry where normally the factories are closed and hidden. We would like to open up what we do.”

This is a simply but powerful concept, according to Hoeck. You would never take an artificial colour, put it on a spoon and eat it, for example, but you can with the EXBERRY range. “We always start with edible raw materials​,” he continued. “We don't start with any fruit or vegetable that does not have a key recognition status globally.”

GNT’s colours are available in more than 400 shades. All colours have the same shelf life and stability thanks to freezing. So while colour shades can vary from season to season “our customers always get the same products. Our customers expect a standardised perfect product that's always the same colour shade no matter what happens in nature.“

‘We’re in a sweet spot of mega-trends'

As a colour company, GNT has also found itself a perfect soulmate in the Instagram trend amoung consumers.

"For the first time people can talk about colours,”​ said Hoeck. “Today, colours are super important especially with social media and people taking pictures of their food."

That made GNT’s spirulina range particularly well timed. "There wasn’t previously a solution to natural blue colours - but today there is." 

Consumers today are also more educated. “They want to have a healthy lifestyle and to know where their food is coming from. And that's having a positive social impact. GNT is in the sweet spot of all those mega trends. The EXBERRY range is good for you, it’s good for society, it’s traceable and people know where it's coming from.”

An explosion of colours – EXBERRY key facts:

  • 8.000 metric tonnes of colouring Foods produced colours app. 35 billion servings of food and drink
  • Sustainable production: > 95% of all raw material residues are utilised for feed (GMP+ certified) or biogas production
  • Management system certified according to FSSC 22000 and IFS Food
  • Over 400 different product shades
  • GNT serves customers in around 60 countries
  • Independent family owned company
  • Over 40 years of experience

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