Why Clean-Label Colours Are Crucial In The ‘Plant-Based 2.0’ Era

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

With plant-based shoppers increasingly searching for clean-label products, manufacturers are now turning to Colouring Foods.

Why Clean-Label Colours Are Crucial In The ‘Plant-Based 2.0’ Era

From non-dairy milk to meat-free burgers, consumers across the Asia Pacific region are increasingly exploring the possibilities for plant-based food and drink. Last year, the value of the APAC plant-based market was almost identical to North America at USD$14.06 billion and USD$14.08 billion respectively. The evidence suggests it is only growing stronger, with sales of plant-based products in the region tipped to grow at a rate of 11.62 percent in the five-year period to 2024.

In many APAC countries, the plant-based trend has now truly hit the mainstream. In India, nearly 56 percent of consumers have eaten plant-based alternatives to animal-based food, while 75 percent of Singaporean shoppers have tried plant-based dairy alternatives such as soy, rice, almond or oat milk.

Demand for plant-based products now appears to be hitting new heights in China and Hong Kong as well, with the coronavirus pandemic prompting many consumers in those countries to rethink their diet choices.

Even in Australia—a nation renowned for its love of meat—shoppers’ habits are changing. A 2019 study revealed that one in three Australians are consciously limiting their meat consumption, while a further 10 percent are entirely meat-free.


Flexitarians Fueling Demand

Why Clean-Label Colours Are Crucial In The ‘Plant-Based 2.0’ Era

Barclays Investment Bank predicted last year that the global market for meat substitutes could reach USD$140 billion by 2029, which would amount to a 10% share of the USD$1.4 trillion world meat market. Its analysis also revealed the plant-based dairy market is already at 13 percent of the overall dairy market.

The figures suggest the appeal of plant-based products goes far beyond vegans and vegetarians, who are estimated to make up around eight percent of consumers worldwide.

Indeed, Nielsen research has indicated that flexitarians are the biggest driving force behind the plant-based boom. There are now thought to be billions of flexitarians worldwide, with Euromonitor International finding last year that nearly half of global consumers are reducing—but not eliminating—their consumption of animal products.

The Euromonitor survey also revealed that flexitarian shoppers’ plant-based purchases are motivated less by ethics than health concerns, which suggests many of the products on the market today may be falling short of expectations.


Plant-Based 2.0

While seen as a healthier option than animal products, plant-based food and drink can be heavily processed, with long ingredient lists. In fact, research carried out by Nielsen in 2019 found that less than half (46 percent) of plant-based products featured both ‘clean’ credentials and short ingredient lists.

Last year’s Barclays report on alternative meat showed that seven out of ten consumers prefer to avoid artificial ingredients, while less than a third would buy a product with artificial ingredients if they had a choice.

As a result, we are now moving toward the ‘plant-based 2.0’ era. Manufacturers are seeking to reformulate their products to deliver plant-based meat, fish, cheese and dairy alternatives with the clean and clear labels that today’s consumers expect.


Why Colour Is Crucial

Removing artificial colours is a hugely important part of that reformulation process, with nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of consumers in the APAC region making an effort to avoid them.

Nonetheless, plant-based products still need to look appealing. Colour plays a major role in the success of any food and drink product, influencing not only sales but also consumer enjoyment.

It is little surprise that, in the early days of plant-based products, uncoloured meat alternatives spent years being overlooked by mainstream shoppers. A plant-based burger that looks just like the real thing, on the other hand, can help tempt even dedicated meat-eaters to give it a try.

Manufacturers are now exploring the visual possibilities for a much wider array of plant-based food and drink, with colourful ‘dairy’ beverages among the products making their mark. From flavoured milks to protein shakes, vibrant colours can be used to create vegan-friendly beverages that stand out as something new and exciting.


Colouring Foods

Whether creating dairy-free milk, vegan-friendly cheese, fishless tuna or vegetable patties, Colouring Foods can provide a future-proof colouring solution. 

Based on the principle of colouring food with food, they are made from fruit, vegetables and edible plants using physical processing methods—and no chemical solvents. 

The range of Colouring Foods covers the full rainbow and, as they are made from raw materials such as carrots, blueberries and paprika, they provide instant reassurance when consumers turn to the product label. 


Formulation Challenges

Colouring Foods ensure the highest possible levels of consumer acceptance, but they are not a plug-and-play solution. To achieve the best results, it is vital to understand the particular challenges relating to each application.

For example, the combination of high pH and heat treatment can affect red Colouring Foods, while carotenoid-containing colours may shift from orange to yellow in the presence of fat, heat and shear.

By understanding the technical process required for each individual case, though, it is possible to find a solution for almost any challenge that may arise. As such, it is essential that manufacturers work with a supplier that has the knowledge and experience to provide answers.

Contributed by Victor Foo, General Manager of GNT Singapore.


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