By Christiane Lippert, Lycored

Across the world, consumers are sending a powerful message to manufacturers that they want the colors in their food and drink products to be natural. 

According to Nielsen’s August 2016 report on ingredient trends, 61% of consumers internationally say they try to avoid artificial colors. Many dairy products, such as milk drinks, are recognized by consumers as both natural and healthy. It is important not only that they contain natural ingredients, but also – given that color sends powerful visual cues about nutritional value – that they look natural.

Lycored has commissioned both quantitative and qualitative research to measure the extent to which consumers value natural colors in a dairy matrix – specifically flavored milks – and the implications of their preferences for manufacturers.

Consumers would pay more for natural colors

First, an online poll of 506 health-conscious U.S. mothers was carried out. When asked directly “Would you be willing to pay more for a product with natural flavorings and colors?” almost nine in 10 survey respondents (88%) said they would. They were then told that the average flavored milk beverage costs $1.50 and asked how much they would be willing to spend on a product if it was made with natural ingredients. On average they said they would pay up to $2.20 – 47% more.

Natural colors are stable in milk

Lycored’s natural colors are highly resilient. We tested the stability of three samples of strawberry flavor milk – two colored naturally with two reds from Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red range, and one colored artificially with Red 3 (erythrosine) in UHT conditions. Lycored’s natural reds (derived from lycopene from tomatoes) outperformed the artificial color across all tests.

Our research shows that consumers’ preference for naturally colored products is so powerful that they will pay significantly more for them. Given that artificial colors can easily be replaced with natural options without sacrificing the resilience necessary in dairy manufacture, the opportunities for producers of flavored milks and other dairy products are clear. 

A switch to natural will resonate with shoppers, give products a fresher and more positive brand positioning, and enable higher pricing.