The Savoury Market Goes Natural

Monday, October 16th, 2017

With consumers looking for more natural solutions in terms of colours and flavours, having colouring foods for even savoury products would offer huge potential for manufacturers. By Victor Foo, general manager, GNT Singapore

Achieving High-Performing Colour Through Natural Concentrates


Manufacturers can now surmount colouring difficulties with a solution that is already well established in other categories including confectionery, dairy products, beverages and many other foods: fruit and vegetable concentrates. Recently, such solutions have extended to cover the savoury market as well.

Previously, manufacturers of savoury products really had only two options when imparting colour: additive colourants or spices. The strong growth in consumer demand for natural, wholesome products with clean labels has turned the use of additives—especially with unfamiliar names—and E numbers into a real issue.

According to GNT’s market research, easily understandable details on ingredients and additives determine the choice of food and drinks for 67 percent of consumers worldwide. Therefore, two-thirds take a critical look at the label of a product before they put it in their shopping trolley. Ingredient lists with additives, including colourants, do not pass the ever stricter evaluation. A great majority of consumers is also willing to pay more for a clean label.

In the case of spices, manufacturers are left with only limited options for the appearance and appeal of their products, since they offer only a limited colour range. In some cases, their taste impact is not desired for a specific application. When choosing between additives and spices, manufacturers had to pick their lesser evil.


Meat Analogues Trend Further Boosts Demand


A market segment where this dilemma had particular impact is the one of meat analogues. As a healthier diet is increasingly important to many consumers, the market for vegetarian alternatives shows very strong growth.

According to market data from Innova Market Insights, the amount of NPDs in this segment has grown by 400 percent worldwide since 2017 with China among the leaders in launching new products. To achieve the appearance required for a pleasurable and authentic eating experience, meat analogues are highly dependent on precisely tailored colour solutions. In this particularly health-driven category, additive colourants are not really an option.


All Colours For All Applications


With vegetable and plant concentrates for colouring purposes, manufacturers can finally leave additive colourants such as carmine, caramel or iron oxides behind, without having to make compromises on colour range and performance.

The colour concentrates for savoury can not only be used in meat analogues but in all relevant applications including UHT and instant soups, wet and dry mix sauces, dips and dressings, meat as well as pickles and seasonings—a market worth more than 220 billion euros (US$25.9 billion).

The concentrates are made exclusively from vegetables and edible plants such as paprika, carrot, turmeric or spirulina to create shades yellow, orange, red, pink, brown, blue and green. With GNT’s line of colouring foods for the savoury market, up to three raw materials can be combined to achieve the exact hue for the application in question. Through this proprietary mixing procedure, every imaginable nuance can be created for savoury products.


Precise Colour Concepts And Visual Opportunities


What is more, like all colouring foods used for example in beverages, confectionery, dairy or bakery products, concentrates for savoury foods have standardised colouring properties. As such, they can be dosed with high accuracy which gives full control over the appearance of a product.

This does not only allow a masking effect of food processing; manufacturers can also use this advantage to develop new and richer visual concepts as well as innovative recipes for multi-sensory experiences. They can finally catch up with other industry segments which are already taking the growing relevance of colour and visual appeal into account. New possibilities for product differentiation open up.

Green, for example, can support the appealing impression of dips or sauces based on vegetables. Appetising red or purple solutions can set red wine cooking sauces apart from the existing offers, which typically have a brownish appearance. Exotic categories with premium ingredients such as superfoods can also be targeted with a perfectly adjusted colour concept.


Recognisable Ingredients For Clean Labels


The production process of colouring foods is basically derived from common household methods: vegetables and plants are manufactured through gentle physical methods only. They are chopped, pressed, filtered and concentrated. Synthetic additives, chemicals or solvents are strictly excluded. The concentrates can even be eaten at any step of the production process.

Therefore, the solutions are not additives but food with colouring properties. Unlike colourants, which are required to be declared on the ingredient list, they can simply be labelled as food, e.g. concentrate of paprika” or “concentrates (paprika, carrot)”.

An additional benefit is that only recognisable raw materials are selected that fit well with flavour associations of savoury recipes. This creates the perfectly clean and understandable ingredient list health-conscious consumers wish for.


Vertical Integration Ensures Excellent Quality


With colouring foods, the vegetable and plant concentrates meet the same quality expectations as synthetic or natural colourants with regard to variety, brilliance and stability. Their absolute reliable performance, full traceability and sustainability are guaranteed through the complete vertical integration of the supply chain.

For example for GNT, from the selection of seed to the final concentrates, all steps are monitored closely to ensure that only the best raw materials are cultivated, that they harvested at the ideal time of ripening when the colour has developed to its optimum and processed within hours of harvesting to prevent colour deterioration.

In a first step, the raw materials are turned into semi-finished products. Whenever customers request a certain shade, the final concentrate is prepared. This assures year-round availability of every product and best possible price stability at a consistent high quality level—regardless of season and crop yield. 


Universal Application And Easy Handling


The concentrates are available as liquid or powder solutions, all of which are free from allergens, GMO and palm oil. In addition, they have no impact on the taste, texture or mouthfeel of the final product, which sets them apart from spices used for colouring.

The solutions are also suitable for a low pH and convenient for vegetarian, vegan and halal diets, making them suitable to meet any requirement.

Ringing and separation is decreased because the new savoury solutions are water dispersible, making an emulsion unnecessary. Furthermore, there is no staining of process equipment during the handling, which significantly facilitates production processes.


How To Switch From Spices And Additives


In order to successfully reformulate with vegetable and plant concentrates or develop a new recipe including these ingredients, it is important to be familiar with the characteristics of natural colours and with how different ingredients in the recipe can affect their performance.

Even though the solutions are easy and uncomplicated to handle, every application has its own specifics. Therefore, colouring foods are never just delivered in cans and boxes but in a full service package. Colour experts such as GNT support manufacturers with tailor-made support throughout the entire product development process. 

The process starts with a detailed discussion of the recipe: which colour shall be replaced? Which shade achieved? Which active ingredients, such as vitamins or minerals, have to be taken into account? What are the pH value, acidity, density, water and fat content? Where is the product supposed to be sold? How is it packed and what is the desired shelf-life?

After analysing these specifics, the experts propose the ideal concentrate for the desired shade from the portfolio or provide a customised mixture. It will then undergo extensive testing to make sure the best possible solution regarding shade, intensity and stability has been achieved.

Tests include exposing the colours to extreme heat and light to guarantee longevity. Regulatory and handling advice, for example on the ideal processing equipment and right moment for adding the colour, is also provided.


Bringing The Industry Forward


Colouring foods have long arrived in the food market. In many categories, manufacturers have already gone natural. Food and beverage manufacturers worldwide using colouring foods in their products, profit from their clean label benefits, excellent performance and universal application.

With the new savoury range of vegetable and plant concentrates, manufacturers in this segment also have the opportunity to make their portfolio future-proof by leaving additives and spices behind and using a colour solution that combines clean labels with performance and variety. The market is expected to become significantly more natural, with enhanced visual appeal.