As the functional food trend continues to soar, food and beverage manufacturers are increasingly on the hunt for natural colours - fuelling growth in the colouring foodstuffs market and outstripping the base line growth of the European colours market in general valued at €195 million in 2001.
"The European colouring market is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of only 1 per cent for the period 2001-2008. In contrast, the colouring foodstuffs market is currently experiencing growth of an estimated 10 per cent to 15 per cent, driven by consumer interest in natural products," said Frost and Sullivan analyst Lyndsey Greig.
In addition to the influence of the functional food trend, the shift from synthetic colours to natural equivalents is underpinned by consumer suspicions that all E-numbers are unhealthy.
"Colouring foodstuffs include fruit and vegetable juices, concentrates and dried, powdered extracts. They do not contain any carriers or additives, and may be listed as ingredients, rather than as food additives," added Greig.
There are three main classes of colour in foods: natural colours, browning colours, which are produced during cooking and processing, and additives. The principal natural colours, most of which, in refined form, are used as additives, are the green pigment chlorophyll, the carotenoids, which give yellow to red colours, and the flavonoids, with their principal subclass the anthocyanins, which give flowers and fruits their red to blue colours.
Sources of anthocyanins include red grapes, elderberries, red cabbage, blood orange, the less familiar black chokeberry, and the sweet potato. Anthocyanins are highly dependent on acidity and lose their colour in conditions of low acidity.
The development by ingredients firm of anthocyanins which are more stable across a range of acidities is likely. Most of the recent activity in the field of red anthocyanin pigments has concentrated on red grapes, red potatoes, beet and amaranth 3, a relative of the beet family.
Although Overseal Foods - taken over by The Braes Group in 2001 - already has a presence in the US, the new deal with natural ingredients supplier RFI Ingredients will push market share for natural colours.
Under terms of the contract, RFI will represent Overseal's complete product line - that includes a antho-cyanin-based range, red beet, caramelised sugar and lutein as well as fruit top-notes - in North America in the food, functional food and dietary supplement markets.
"The combination of RFI's market knowledge, Overseal's technical capabilities and product innovation and the wider product range now available provides the market with a unique offering that will distinguish us from our competitors and provide opportunities previously not possible," said Andrew Wainwright, managing director of Overseal.
RFI has the chance to broaden its portfolio with the quality products offered by Overseal, a respected name in the natural colors business, added Jeff Wuagneux, RFI CEO.
In the European Union, the safety of food colours and other food additives is evaluated by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), an advisory expert committee of the European Commission. The Colour Directive 94/36/EC on colours for use in foodstuffs was adopted in 1994. The directive includes natural and artificial colours, which are listed according to the European (E-) numbering system.
The E numbers for colour additives range from E 100 (curcumin) to E 180 (lithorubine BK). Within the meaning of the Directive, food additive colours are defined as 'Substances which add or restore colour in a food, and include natural sources which are normally not consumed as a foodstuff as such and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient in food,'.
As a consequence the Colour Directive excludes colouring foodstuffs and food ingredients, which may be used in the preparation of a final food, from the food additive regulation.