Natural Colors In Food Product Development

Jennifer Guild is Global Food Science and Regulatory Manager for D.D. Williamson. Over the past 13 years, Guild has evaluated the regulations of colors for over 70 countries to clarify labeling, allergens, genetically modified organisms, organic foods and more. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She recently spoke with Food Manufacturing about the challenges of choosing food colorings when developing food products for the global market.

Q: What should food scientists consider with regard to food coloring when developing products for different international markets?

A: Food scientists should consider multiple factors:

  1. Work with an ethical and responsible supplier so you can know you are working with safe, quality colours.
  2. Identify which countries the product is likely to be sold in before you select your colours.  It is currently very challenging to have one colour formulation that would be globally acceptable.
  3. Customer labeling requirements (eg Kosher, Halal, Organic, Natural, Non-GM, Allergen/Gluten restrictions,Vegetarian or Vegan), either the retailer or the end consumer, must be considered at an early stage to lessen the struggle of identifying what natural colour options can be considered for a particular project.
  4. The more requirements on a project can drastically limit the colour options capable of satisfying all the project criteria.

Q: What accounts for different regulatory standards in different countries? How is the science about the safety of certain color additives weighed differently around the world?

A: There are two principles that current colour regulations are based upon:

  1. The additive must not be harmful and
  2. Colour use and labeling must not mislead consumers.

However regulatory bodies across the globe interpret these principles differently.

Q: What regulatory changes might be coming around the bend that could affect food coloring and product development?

A: Considerable energy is expended in the corporate world in attempting to anticipate changes in food colour regulations. The possible delisting or ADI reduction of a colour because of new, or lack, of information relating to its safety, toxicity or allergenicity can induce frustration and anxiety in the workplace. Utilizing the resources of a quality colour supplier will save you time and accelerate achieving your colour need.

Q: What are some new developments in natural coloring? How will these developments impact food product developers?

A: D.D. Williamson has developed DDW 520, an acid-proof Class One caramel colour that is stable below pH 2.5. This innovation is a breakthrough for soft drink concentrates since Class One caramel colour is normally only stable down to pH 3.5. The new colour development recently earned the company a finalist position in the beverage innovation category for the Food Ingredients Excellence Awards 2011.

Q: How much is the desire for natural food coloring driven by consumers? By regulators? By food scientists and the food industry itself?

A: The demand for natural colours has outpaced sales of synthetic colours. While synthetic colours are of lower cost and more stable than natural colours, natural colours are on the rise, fueled by consumer concerns over health as well as improvements in the functional properties of natural colours.

Interview by Krystal Gabert, Editor