Color plays a major role not only in consumer preference for food and beverages, but also for Supplement and OTC products. In fact, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research concluded that color is a more poweful influencer than taste.
At the same time, consumers increasingly want the color in consumer products to come from natural sources. Our consumer study earlier this year indicated about 66% of respondents want naturally derived color in Food and are asking for this trend to continue in Supplements and OTC.
Given that 2015 has seen a number of companies and brands announce their intention to convert to naturally derived colors, interest is higher than ever before. Many of our customers, even those who have worked with naturally derived colors in the past, have a lot of questions. Following are a few of the misperceptions we hear most:
- You have to sacrifice on shade vibrancy – This isn’t entirely untrue, but it is overestimated. The reality is that for most applications, we can now achieve very bright, vivid shades. The source of this perception is frequent examples of food products in Europe that lack the same vivid colors that are the norm in North and South America. Firstly, keep in mind that European food manufacturers began the transition to colors from natural sources several years ago, before some of the advances in color extraction technology. Secondly, European products are often using ‘coloring foods’, which tend to provide less vibrancy. Sensient research indicates that in North America consumers are more concerned about the source of the naturally derived food color (preferring botanical sources) and not with whether it is a coloring food (EU description). Sensient Pharmaceutical is leading this trend in the Supplement and OTC markets by incorporating the learning from our Food colleagues and bringing the best and brightest colorants to our pharmaceutical customers.
- Shade variability should be expected – There is no reason for food manufacturers to endure variability when utilizing naturally derived colors, nor should our Pharmaceutical customers. Standardization is a part of thiscolor extraction and production process at Sensient and quality control measures ensure consistency.
- Off flavors are a common problem – This is an area where significant progress has been made in recent years. It is accurate that many natural color sources have the potential to impart off-notes in certain applications. However, new filtration and purification technologies can rem
ove unwanted flavors from botanical color sources. Additionally, naturally derived color solutions can be customized to hit shade targets without imparting any flavor. Generally, when working with naturally derived colors, there is more complexity but a solution is almost always available.
- Naturally derived colors are less stable – We find this perception is pretty common, but it isn’t quite accurate. For example, in one of our long-term stability studies in thin film for tablets, two piece hard cap and soft gel material, many of the naturally derived colors actually held up better than their synthetic counterparts. In a light stability challenge in an acidic drug media, Red 40 fared significantly worse than the naturally derived red solution that used an anthocyanin-based color. Of course, there are examples where the naturally derived colors demonstrate poor stability. Turmeric, for example, does not hold up well to light.
- Naturally derived colors are expensive – This is a factual assumption if one is comparing natural to synthetic colors. However, recalling that color is very important in the perception of freshness and potency when it comes to determining consumer preference, and the cost-in-use for color in a tablet or OTC product, naturally derived colors are not necessarily costly. Rather, synthetic color is exceptionally efficient.
Consumers, especially those in North America, are raising their voices through social media and other avenues and asking for naturally derived colors. In response, we are committed to continuously improving the performance and cost-in-use of these colors. It is an exciting time to be working in the industry, with constant change being the norm.