More than three in five consumers globally say that they try to avoid artificial colours in their food and beverages where possible. However, going natural can also be technically challenging for manufacturers as some non-artificial colours are sensitive to pH levels, ultraviolet light and extreme temperatures, meaning that they may not interact well with some recipe matrices, such as high fat systems.

A recent survey revealed that consumers were willing to pay up to 47% more for a product with natural flavourings and colours. There are now greater opportunities than ever to colour products naturally without compromising on stability. In fact, rather than creating limitations, the stable colours offer new ways to position products as more natural, fresh and with a longer shelf life.

With consumer preference for natural solutions growing, and manufacturers seeking product stability, Lycored – a global leader in natural carotenoids for food, beverage and dietary supplement products – has created a wide range of versatile carotenoid-based colour solutions through proprietary techniques and plant sources.

The stable colour solution works for three categories: flavoured and coloured sparkling waters; UHT-treated, coloured, flavoured milks; and fruit preparations for layered yogurts. The Tomat-O-Red® range is sourced from natural lycopene from tomatoes. Lycopene is well known by consumers and provides authentic, vegan pink to red shades. It is also highly stable under a wide range of pH, light and high-temperature conditions and has greater versatility than other naturally sourced red colour options. The other range is Lyc-O-Beta® which offers a spectrum of natural, vegan yellow to orange shades and variations and formulations for a wide range of food and beverage applications. The stability of it is also amplified with the addition of Vitamin C.

We spoke to Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing at Lycored to find out more about the solution and the methodology behind it.

Sonia Sharma: Why did you decide to create the natural carotenoid-derived colours?

Christiane Lippert: Consumers increasingly demand that their favourite drinks are coloured naturally and we want to help manufacturers meet that need.  There are clear rewards for those who make the switch from artificial to natural.  When 506 health-conscious consumers were asked “Would you be willing to pay more for a product with natural flavourings and colours?” almost nine in ten said they would. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Carotenoids are the perfect natural colourant. We use lycopene and BetaCarotene which are both easy to use and highly stable under a wide range of pH, light and high-temperature conditions.  They are also kosher and halal, vegetarian-friendly and non-GMO.

SS:  Can you explain the process and methodology behind it? 

CL: We use a range of proprietary techniques and our own plant sources to produce our versatile carotenoid-based colour solutions. At the heart of our colourant family is Tomat-O-Red TM (reds to pinks) which is sourced from natural lycopene from tomatoes, and Lyc-O-Beta TM (yellow to orange hues) which is extracted from our own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus.

SS: What technology do you use?

CL: One of the most interesting ways we use technology is to test the stability of our natural colours.  For example, we recently set out to test their performance in UHT milk drinks. The drinks were subjected to four different UHT process technologies: steam injection, plate, tubular, and infusion.

Immediately after UHT & homogenization treatment, our researchers measured the samples for any changes in colour using HunterLab’s colour measurement software and the DeltaE method of calculation.  Our Tomat-O-Red colours both performed exceptionally, and much better than the artificial alternative.

SS: What products do the colours work best in? What has been the most popular area?

CL: Tomat-O-Red TM  and Lyc-O-Beta TM are ideal for a range of beverage categories, but one of the areas where they work particularly well is coloured flavoured sparkling waters.

In a recent trial, we tested the stability of seven of our colorants in flavoured syrup in sparkling water over 12 months, regularly checking them for ringing, sediment and fade at regular intervals.

They all performed excellently, demonstrating resistance to fading, ringing and lack of sedimentation.  There were particularly good results for our Clear Emulsion colourants, which remained clear, with no sedimentation and little or no fade.

SS: What are the benefits of the colours? How has it been received so far?

CL: Our naturally derived colourants offer manufacturers opportunities to colour products naturally without compromising on stability. They also offer new ways to position products as more natural and fresh, with longer shelf life. And they can reduce the operational costs involved in packaging, transport and storage of final product.