Plant-Based Colours Can Bring The Best Out Of Better-For-You Confectionery

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Chemical-sounding colouring ingredients can undermine confectionery’s better-for-you credentials. Plant-based colouring concentrates can be used to deliver powerful shades and maximize your products’ appeal, writes Nattakan Sornritchingchai, Senior Technical Sales Manager at GNT Singapore.

The better-for-you trend has had a major impact on the food and drink industry in recent years and it has only accelerated since the pandemic. 

Confectionery is no exception. To maximize candy’s appeal, manufacturers now need to give consumers permission to indulge by incorporating healthier attributes. Research carried out by FMCG Gurus shows that, across the Asia Pacific region, 51 percent of consumers say they are seeking out healthier confectionery options as a result of COVID-19*. 

From free-from claims to functional ingredients, there are many effective ways for confectionery brands to tap into the trend. For instance, nine in ten consumers say they are at least a little influenced by sugar reduction claims*, while 68 percent say they would be interested in functional confectionery products that are high in protein*.

Nonetheless, creating appetizing products remains vital to success. Taste is still the top priority for consumers worldwide when choosing which food and drink products to buy, ranking ahead of price and natural formulation*. 

Colour can have a surprisingly important influence on taste and product enjoyment. There is now significant evidence to suggest that the experience of taste and flavour is largely determined by the expectations generated before tasting—and colour is the product’s most important sensory cue*. In addition, the use of powerful shades can help products stand out on the shelf and create the “Instagrammable” factor.

The choice of colouring ingredient is also crucial in the modern confectionery market, particularly in the better-for-you category. Today’s shoppers are seeking out natural formulations and recognizable ingredients*, so the use of artificial and even natural colours with chemical-sounding names can limit products’ appeal.

At a time when consumer expectations are evolving rapidly, plant-based colouring concentrates can provide a future-proof solution. They are made from edible fruit, vegetables and plants and have become established as a popular alternative to artificial and natural additive colours in countries throughout the world. Unlike natural colours, the raw materials must not be processed with chemical solvents to extract the natural pigments. Instead, they are created using simple physical processing methods such as chopping, heating and boiling. This means they can be eaten at any stage of the manufacturing process. 

As they are made from well-known ingredients such as carrots, blackberries and hibiscus, they are ideal for clean and clear label declarations. FMCG Gurus’ research shows colours made from the concentrated juice of fruits, vegetables and other plants are the most attractive choice for Asia-Pacific consumers, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) considering them appealing*.

There is no need to compromise on performance either. With a range of hues that spans the whole rainbow, plant-based colours can provide vibrant shades comparable to synthetic colorants in most confectionery applications.

The possibilities are endless. For instance, plant-based red and pinks can provide the ideal choice for sugar-reduced products, with research suggesting these shades can help to boost perceptions of sweetness*. Plant-based colours can deliver spectacular reds and pinks in anything from hard candies to chewing gum and—because they are made from fruit, vegetables and plants—they fit perfectly with the better-for-you trend.

They also fit perfectly with the rise of vegan-friendly confectionery. Innova data shows that confectionery launches featuring a vegan claim saw a 17 percent CAGR between 2016 and 2020, while those with a plant-based claim more than doubled in 2020 alone*. Plant-based reds can be highly effective, providing an excellent alternative to the insect-derived natural colorant carmine in lollipops, jellybeans, pressed tablets and many other applications.

Functional confectionery with immune health benefits is on the rise too, with COVID-19 creating a renewed focus on the body’s natural defences. Across the Asia-Pacific region, 66 percent of consumers say they want to improve their immune system in the year ahead—and 35 percent say they are seeking out confectionery with immune health benefits*. It is possible to achieve a diverse array of shades in vitamin gummies and other functional candy products using colours made from fruit, vegetables and plants. Oranges, yellows and purples, for example, can be used to help to showcase vitamin C-rich flavours such as orange, lemon and acai berry.

Many brands are also finding success with stress-busting confectionery. Research shows the brain often craves confectionery when stressed* so the addition of relaxation-inducing ingredients can create highly appealing products. Plant-based colours can be used to deliver shades that have been shown to have a calming effect such as blues and greens* in products including dragees and pastilles.

No matter what type of better-for-you confectionery you want to create, plant-based colouring concentrates can deliver a powerful visual impact while maintaining completely clean and clear ingredient lists, giving you the best of both worlds.

EXBERRY® Coloring Foods are plant-based concentrates that can deliver hundreds of vibrant shades from across the spectrum. The most recent additions to our range are EXBERRY® Shade Jade Green, which delivers a bright, bluish green, and EXBERRY® Shade Lime Green, which provides a yellowish green. They’re made from the on-trend ingredients turmeric and spirulina—making them ideal for better-for-you products—and can be used in applications including gummies, jellies and hard- and soft-panned confectionery.

With more than four decades of experience colouring food with food, EXBERRY® has the proven solutions you need to help you unleash your products’ full potential.

*References available upon request.

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