Sauce Material: The Rise Of Clean-Label Colours

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

How can Colouring Foods help Asia’s food manufacturers deliver great-looking sauces and seasonings while tapping into the clean-label trend?

Consumers in the Asia Pacific region are increasingly turning toward clean-label products, and sauces and seasonings are no exception.

The Mintel Global New Products Database shows that 60 percent of all new food and beverage launches in Asia feature a minimum of one clean-label claim, while a study by MMR Research has indicated that 70 percent of Asia Pacific-based consumers feel it is important to see ‘no additives’ or ‘no artificial ingredients’ listed when purchasing products.

Innova Market Insights has also found that 73.2 percent of Chinese consumers agree that they specifically want to avoid artificial colours, representing a higher proportion of respondents than in either the United States (55.6 percent) or the United Kingdom (51.6 percent). Across Asia Pacific, these attitudes have been reflected in consumer demand—the natural food colours market in the region grew by 7.7 percent over the course of 2017, outstripping the global average of 6.6 percent.

When it comes to sauces and seasonings, food colouring is a core element and an obvious area of concern. And, with shoppers in Asia making it clear that they prefer products made with familiar ingredients, it has never been more important for Asia’s manufacturers to leave additives behind and adopt more consumer-friendly alternatives.

It’s certainly the case that, over recent years, a large number of manufacturers have removed artificial additives and replaced them with so-called ‘natural’ ingredients. However, the reality is that many of these ‘natural’ ingredients are extracted and produced using chemical solvents. That means that, while they are frequently claimed to be natural, this doesn’t match the consumer perception of what is truly natural.

There can be other issues too. Some sauces also feature carmine, for example, which is derived from the cochineal insect and risks alienating vegetarian and vegan consumers, and they are chemically processed. Given that India, Indonesia, China and Pakistan make up four of the top five vegetarian markets around the globe, that can pose a real issue for manufacturers focused on the Asian market.

However, this does not mean manufacturers are forced to decide between using artificial and so-called natural additives if they want to produce a sauce or seasoning that looks the way they intended. Colouring Foods offer a genuine clean-label alternative. Obtained from fruit, vegetables and edible plants using gentle physical processing methods, they are considered to be foods in their own right—to the extent that they can be consumed safely at any point during the production process.

By making use of Colouring Foods, manufacturers can list recognisable and reassuring ingredients on their labels. A Thai green curry sauce, for example, could be coloured using safflower, carrot and spirulina and listed as such.

Manufacturers have also often traditionally turned to certain spices to provide natural colouring for their sauces and seasonings, but this can come at the cost of having an impact on the original flavour. By using Colouring Foods, it is possible to create the same effect without having any noticeable influence on the taste. Additionally, spices are often not colour stable as opposed to Colouring Foods.

Colours need to perform well from a technical perspective and using Colouring Foods does not mean having to cope with limitations in functionality. They offer good stability under different light and temperature conditions, which is essential for a sauce or seasoning to retain its colour throughout its shelf life, while they also deliver a masking effect for colour changes in other ingredients during processing.

Crucially, Colouring Foods also deliver outstanding colours and performance, and it is possible to achieve remarkable variety. Even as significant numbers of shoppers start to turn their backs on synthetic colourings, manufacturers should not underestimate the importance of creating an appetising appearance. While consumers may be reluctant to buy a sauce that has been coloured with additives, they could be even less keen on buying a sauce in which the colour doesn’t match up to expectations.

A GNT global study found that, when it comes to judging how natural a product is, the most important factor is colour. And that can have a major impact on desirability. According to research carried out by Emerald Insights, 90 percent of shoppers make their decision on whether to buy a product based solely on its colour and perceived taste. In the Instagram age, this is more important than ever – there is a substantial demand for food that stands out visually, and sauces and seasonings are clearly a huge part of that.

By combining a clean label with strong and effective colouring, therefore, it allows manufacturers to create an instinctively appetising appearance for their sauces and seasonings without giving consumers cause for concern once they turn to the ingredients list.

This is clearly a matter of growing importance across Asia, which may have been driven in part by food scares. In China in 2005, for example, it emerged that Sudan I, a carcinogenic food colouring, was being used in a variety of sauces despite having been banned almost a decade earlier.

The Chinese are now some of the world’s most passionate advocates of clean and clear labelling, but they are far from alone in the region—countries including Thailand and Indonesia have similarly strict restrictions on the amounts and types of artificial colour that can be used.

GNT’s EXBERRY Colouring Foods fit perfectly with Asia’s clean-label focus and are also compliant with strict regulatory requirements. Our ingredients are obtained from fruits, vegetables and edible plants using gentle, physical processes such as pressing, chopping, filtering and concentrating. And, having spent more than 40 years perfecting our methods, we’re able to offer a truly extensive range of vibrant colouring foods.

The Asian market is hugely important to GNT Group, and that was reflected in our decision to launch the Chinese name for our clean-label EXBERRY Colouring Foods earlier this year—爱百瑞 (pronounced ‘Iberry’).

To be successful in the modern marketplace, it’s clear that sauces and seasonings must look great without giving consumers any cause for concern. By taking advantage of EXBERRY Colouring Foods, it’s possible for Asia’s manufacturers to cut out the chemicals and give savvy customers everything they’re looking for.


Contributed by GNT Singapore’s General Manager, Victor Foo.


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