During the last seven or so years consumer demand for “No Artificial Colours or Flavours” has been rising. Most consumers are aware of the negative press artificial additives have attracted about adverse health effects and hyperactivity in children, so why haven’t all food and beverage manufacturers made the change?
Dewi Suryani of the flavour and fragrance company Firmenich, says that the main barriers for some manufactures are:
- cost – natural colours and flavours are typically more expensive and
- limited options – there is a smaller range for natural, although this is growing
From a technical prospective there are also some other factors to consider, most of which are continually improving, such as:
- colour vibrancy – natural colours tend not to be as bright
- heat and light stability – natural colours and flavours tend to be less stable when heated or exposed to light
- pH – some natural colours are only suitable to use in products with certain pH levels.
While there may be some challenges when going ‘natural’, when done well, the change is a positive one. Many products in the supermarket proudly display their ‘No Artificial Colours or Flavours’ statement on the front of their packs. Here are a few stories of those who have gone natural.
In 1992, Binkas ‘The Natural Confectionary Company’ range of products was launched. They contained no artificial colours or flavours and mums felt less guilty about buying lollies for their children. By 2003, they had become the most popular jelly lollies on the Australian market and were bought by Cadbury Schwepps (now Mondelez). (image from Mondelez International)
In December 2008, Nestle Australia agreed to produce their Smarties with natural colours after 2 ½ years of requests from parent activists and anti-food additive lobbyists to follow in the steps of the UK company. A statement from Nestle at the time said that it had taken 12 months of R&D work to get the reformulation right and maintain the taste and appearance of their iconic product. (image from Nestle Australia)
Some products are more difficult or impossible to reformulate. Take Jelly Belly jelly beans for example; these tiny little bursts of flavour are known for their exotic offerings such as buttered popcorn and chocolate pudding. These taste sensations make them unique and is a strong selling point, however, the flavours are synthetic. Jelly Belly knew that they had to win back consumers who were avoiding artificial additives, but wanted to ensure that they didn’t alienate loyal users. They made a clever decision to introduce a new range in 2007 in the UK – BeNatural Jelly Belly’s. (image from Jelly Belly UK)
There is no denying that the demand for natural ingredients is here to stay, and food and beverage manufacturers need to be strategic with how they go about providing this for consumers. If it’s a direct swap from artificial to natural colours and/or flavours then the new formulation must deliver a similar sensory profile to the existing product. The new formulation should be tested with regular users of the product to ensure acceptance and continued sales.