- Givaudan is launching a line of natural red colors for plant-based proteins. The Swiss flavor company said the new Vegebrite Veggie Reds give raw plant-based patties a meat-like color that turns brown when cooked.
- The natural colors line was developed by Givaudan and Naturex, the specialty ingredients supplier that was acquired by Givaudan in 2018.
- "The consumer experience starts with visual appeal from natural colors," Santiago Vega, director of marketing, nutrition and health for Givaudan North America, said in a release. The ingredients company is now offering "complete plant-based solutions from the ground up," he said.
As the plant-based protein category grows increasingly crowded, ingredient makers are stepping up their R&D in the space to launch products that can enhance alternative meats and make them appear more realistic.
Color in foods is becoming just as important as flavor for consumers — especially plant-based, natural colors. Previous research has found 90% of shoppers make up their minds about buying a product from its color and perceived taste. As visual appeal becomes increasingly important in purchasing decisions and more consumers consider trying out plant-based diets, having the right shade for alternative proteins could help sales.
Creating the perfect hue for plant-based meat has been a challenge for the industry. The ingredients used to make it seem realistic need to also have stability under heat and extremes in pH levels. Many ingredients have struggled to achieve that balance, so if Givaudan can offer a realistic red that withstands different conditions, CPG companies could be interested in using it.
However, many of the big name companies have already created recipes that give them a red shade. Nestlé's Awesome Burger uses natural fruit and vegetable juices to give it a meat-like color, while the Beyond Burger's red shade comes from beet extract. And Impossible Foods uses heme, an iron-containing molecule made by fermenting genetically modified yeast that allows the product to "bleed" and appear pink in the middle.
This could make the segment challenging for Givaudan, but that doesn't mean there isn't still opportunity. Givaudan also offers natural beef, umami and soy masking flavors for plant-based proteins, so it seems like the ingredients company is hoping to be a one-stop shop for CPGs looking to launch alternative meats.
The fact that Givaudan's new product line is natural could help it gain traction. A GNT global consumer survey found 79% of consumers define "natural" as being made without artificial colors, and many shoppers are interested in seeing the word "natural" on labels. Because of this sentiment, manufacturers —including Hershey, General Mills and Campbell Soup — have phased out some artificial colors in various different products and switched to natural ingredients with strong shades.
Givaudan isn't alone in working to develop better natural colors and plant-based ingredients. GNT produces Exberry, a brand of colorings made from fruit, vegetables and edible plants. And scientists have worked to deepen their understanding of how to make the products more like their animal-based alternatives through color, taste and texture.
With the increased competition from other ingredient manufacturers and already developed plant-based products, Givaudan may have an uphill battle ahead. It could be especially challenging to launch it since the company planned to showcase the new product at the annual Natural Products Expo West conference, which was postponed at the last minute because of coronavirus concerns.