Color, one of the most important sensory aspects of food, provides visual cues about quality and taste. It’s a product feature that brands can leverage to increase consumer appeal, win over new customers and inspire repeat purchase.

Historically, brands looking to introduce new products or reformulate existing ones have faced formulation challenges when working with colors sourced from nature. But today, optimized extraction technologies and the discovery of new color sources — for example, blue from the huito fruit — have expanded the scope of what is possible. 

It has long been said that consumers “eat with their eyes” first, and this statement is more relevant than ever in the age of Instagram. With this in mind, brands have developed myriad dairy products using artificial colors to achieve vivid, attention-grabbing hues.

However, many consumers are shifting away from products with artificial colors on the label in favor of naturally derived colors they perceive to be more aligned with a healthy lifestyle. Brands could win over digital-savvy consumers by being more inventive in how they use colors to differentiate their products, creating aesthetically exciting and “like-worthy” food experiences.


Factors to consider

As food and beverage formulators migrate to naturally derived colors, they must understand some of the inherent characteristics that impact application performance. Aspects such as color strength, solubility and stability are all factors that must be considered when incorporating colors sourced from nature in a formulation.

A challenge historically faced by formulators in the dairy category is achieving vivid blues, purples and greens with the naturally derived color sources available. In response, companies such as ADM are leveraging proprietary techniques to deliver the next generation of naturally derived colors — for example, an acid- and heat-stable blue color from the huito fruit grown in the Amazon region of Peru. Huito blue stands up to high-heat processing such as pasteurization and maintains its color in an acidic environment.

Brands considering naturally derived colors have the best chance of success when approaching formulations holistically. All ingredients in an application must work together to achieve a finished product with the hue, taste, function, nutrition and ingredient label consumers expect. Product developers will be best equipped to create consumer-preferred dairy offerings when they partner with experts that have technical knowledge in ingredient stability, processing optimization and ingredient selection.

The desire for clean and clear labels will continue to shape the way consumers make purchasing decisions in the future. For the dairy industry, label-friendly, eye-catching colors derived from nature are one more tool product developers can wield to win over consumers and keep them coming back for more.