Plant-based colours for clean-label confectionery

Concentrates from fruit, vegetables and plants can deliver a full rainbow or shades in almost any confectionery application, writes Alison Donaldson, technical sales manager at GNT Group.

Colour is key to creating appetising confectionery – and the choice of colouring ingredient can be every bit as vital.

Six in ten South African shoppers say they associate artificial colours with a negative effect on their health. Even some natural colours can significantly limit products’ appeal. Carmine is a natural red made from the cochineal insect. As a result, it is not only incompatible with vegetarian, halal, and kosher diets but fails to match up to modern expectations on clean ingredient lists.

EXBERRY colouring foods can provide a perfect alternative. Our edible concentrates are created from non-GMO fruits, vegetables, and plants using only physical processing methods and water. Due to the way they are made, they qualify for completely clean and clear label declarations, such as “concentrate of carrot and blueberry.”

A rainbow of plant-based shades

EXBERRY colours are available in a variety of formats and can be used to deliver a full spectrum of shades in confectionery applications including gummies, high-boiled candies, hard- and soft-panned products, pressed tablets, chocolate, and aerated products.

RED: Red colouring foods are created from raw materials including radish, black carrot, and blackcurrant. These anthocyanin-containing reds are not heat-sensitive but can cause a color shift with changing pH values. For marshmallows, which are typically not acidified, anthocyanin-containing red shades are not appropriate, but very good results can be achieved with alternative red or pink Colouring Foods.

ORANGE: EXBERRY can deliver orange shades using concentrates made from pepper and carrot. Occasionally, they can shift yellow in appearance in the presence of high fat, extended heat, or shear. In such cases, alternative orange shades can be achieved by blending yellow and red colouring foods.

YELLOW: Yellow colouring foods can be made from raw materials such as safflower, lemon, and turmeric. Safflower offers good heat and light stability. Turmeric-based concentrates can be used to create vibrant shades but the choice of packaging is important due to light sensitivity.

BLUE: Spirulina concentrates can provide vibrant blues. For best results, it is important to minimise heat exposure as much as possible or slightly increase the dosage. For high-boil candies, the spirulina should ideally be added to the hot mass when the temperature is below 130°C. A premix blend featuring two parts colour to one part syrup will also help insulate the colour. Spirulina-based colours are sensitive to acid, so any acid used in the formulation should be blended in well before adding the spirulina.

GREEN: It is possible to achieve vibrant shades from turquoise to lime green in a wide range of applications by blending blue spirulina concentrates with yellow colouring foods.

PURPLE: Purple colouring foods are made from raw materials including carrots and blueberries, which offer good heat and light stability but can be affected by pH levels. It is also possible to achieve purple and lavender hues by mixing spirulina concentrates with red and pink colouring foods.

PINK: Colouring foods made from sweet potato, carrot, and radish can provide an excellent source of pink hues in low-pH applications and are fairly heat- and light stable. Beetroot concentrates, meanwhile, are not pH-sensitive but heating requirements must be considered, particularly for high-boil candies.

BROWN: EXBERRY can deliver brown shades using purple carrot, safflower, and spirulina. The pH level of the base product is an important consideration, with low levels delivering reddish brown hues and higher levels delivering a darker brown shade.

Support every step of the way

GNT can help you find the perfect solution for your project. We provide full support throughout the entire product development process, from concept innovation and color matching through to stability testing, upscaling, and regulatory support.

With the right choice of fruit, vegetable, and plant concentrates, it’s possible to create vibrant confectionery with the clean and clear labels consumers want to see.

GNT Group

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