- Researchers at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research discovered a new class of pigments called auronidins. This discovery has the ability to lead to the creation of more stable and intensely colored natural pigments for CPG products, Food Navigator reported.
- Anthocyanins have previously been considered to be the key plant pigments that can provide color. However, research indicates that auronidins provide a wider range of fluorescent colors compared to anthocyanins due to their ability to adapt to extreme environments, the food publication reported.
- Scientists have not yet tested auronidins as a food colorant, but preliminary research showed they are water-soluble and provide pigment hues ranging from pale yellow to orange and red and even purple at high pH conditions.
Food manufacturers have been searching for a viable way to replace synthetic food dyes for years. Colorants – particularly Red 40 and Yellow 5 – have fallen out of favor with consumers who have turned toward products that are more natural. Auronidins could be the solution.
Color is especially important in natural foods as people are known to eat with their eyes. According to a study by Emerald Insights, 90% of consumers decide whether or not to buy a product solely based on color and perceived taste. That means that if the color is more appealing, a consumer is more likely to buy it.
But the problem is that natural colors have not always been able to offer the same vibrancy and appeal as their synthetic equivalents. Blue has been a particularly difficult color to reproduce naturally. But it is not the only one. Colors such as blue, green and violet that appeal to consumers both visually and emotionally have proven to be difficult to create with anthocyanins because research shows they are more conducive to use for red or warm-colored hues. Auronidins have the potential to make these colors more accessible.
But manufacturers have had success using the resources they already have. Ingredients Network cited Mintel data showing that in 2011, the use of natural colors outpaced synthetic ones globally in value terms. The pattern has not abated with more than 90% of new European product launches naturally colored since 2012. Other statistics show 68% of all food and beverage products launched in North America from September 2015 to August 2016 used natural colors.
There are a variety of natural colorings already out there. Diana Food North America introduced a line of organic, sustainably sourced colors for foods and beverages and features. It features options for blue, pink, yellow, orange, red and purple.
The Netherlands-based GNT Group also launched a high-intensity blue food coloring under its Exberry brand made from spirulina, a blue-green algae, plus a range of liquid and powder reds, purples and pinks sourced from carrots, blackcurrants, radishes, blueberries and sweet potatoes. And ColorKitchen developed a line of powdered natural colors that claim to maintain their bright hues even after baking.
None of these solutions, however, had access to the vibrancy of auronidin pigments. With more appealing shades available, products with natural colorants may gain even more popularity. Already, natural colors look to have a bright future. Zion Market Research projects the global natural food color market will top $1.77 billion by 2021 — a compound annual growth rate of nearly 5.2% from 2016 to 2021.
If auronidins prove to function as a food colorant, they could provide solutions to companies that in the past have struggled with switching to natural alternatives like General Mills' Trix or Hershey with Jolly Ranchers.