The rise of social media influencers has given everyday Americans a chance to learn makeup tricks that once were reserved for Hollywood celebrities. Although full glam makeup might be the most dramatic, cosmetic brands and YouTube stars have seen the popularity of natural glam tutorials, where influencers show how to enhance features in a more subtle fashion.
Much like how natural glam has found favor with more Americans, the beverage market continues to see the expansive reach of natural colors solutions.
“New product development in the beverage space is pushing toward a strong majority of new launches with natural color use,” says Meghan Fox, marketing specialist at Sensient Food Colors, St. Louis. “Mintel data shows that in the past 10 years, product launches with natural colors in the beverage space have increased their share by almost 50%.
“Consumers are looking for natural and organic claims as they move toward more holistic views of wellness, seeking better-for-you ingredients across the board without sacrificing premium, delicious flavors and eye-catching colors,” she continues. “This places a demand on brands to offer those high-quality beverages with natural ingredients and clean-label claims like ‘no artificial ingredients’ or ‘plant-based.’”
Kelly Newsome, senior marketing manager of colors for ADM, Chicago, also highlights how clean-label trends has played a role in the colors market.
“In fact, more than 60% of consumers avoid artificial coloring in foods and beverages,” she says citing “ADM Outside Voice.” “Our research also shows that simple, recognizable ingredients often influence consumers’ purchasing decisions, and 75% of consumers say they would pay extra for a clean label beverage. On top of that, some regional regulations are targeting artificial or mineral ingredients, such as the EU’s recent ban of titanium dioxide (TiO2). In the U.S., the State of California has discussed adding TiO2 to its Proposition 65 rules.”
With the combination of consumer preference and regulations, suppliers anticipate natural colors longevity with beverage development. For instance, Alice Lee, technical marketing manager at GNT USA LLC, Dallas, N.C., notes that the use of plant-based, natural colors offers brand owners a chance to “future-proof their business.”
“The demand for natural, plant-based colors has grown exponentially in the beverage sector,” she says. “This is a trend that will continue to strengthen in the years to come because shoppers are more concerned than ever with their own health and well-being as well as the well-being of the planet.”
Braden Hocking, technical account representative at Milwaukee-based Oterra, also highlights the connection among natural colors and health and wellness for people and the planet as part its increased demand.
“The increase in natural and organic trends has led to an increase in the use of natural colors in both existing products and new product development. Consumers want healthier beverages so they are looking for clean labels,” Hocking says. “This impacts all ingredients in a product and colors are part of that list. Manufacturers who want a more natural or organic product are looking for natural colors versus synthetic to ensure their product meets consumers demand. Natural colors are also better for the planet so they provide a good selling story as well.”
A range of colors
As an increasing sect of consumers demand natural colors in their food and beverage products today, suppliers note the benefits that can be realized when using these concepts.
Roland Beck, head of BU colours at Doehler, Darmstadt, Germany, explains the importance of selecting the right color for product success. Brand owners are considering color, stability, tone and availability. With natural beverages, these formulators also are considering additional health benefits.
“Using natural colors in beverages enhance the natural appeal of beverages,” Beck says. “Once natural colors were limited in their application areas but, with the development and research in the careful use of naturally sourced ingredients, the ability to bring vibrant colors to the beverage industry is now a reality.”
Beck adds that as consumers associate colors with varying emotions, the range that natural colors offer can suite beverage-makers’ needs.
“Consumers are also looking for exciting new taste experiences that offer unique multi-sensory experiences and evoke positive emotions,” he explains. “Color has played an important part with increased demands for bright natural colors such as red and orange reflecting their warm and positive associations for consumers. Doehler’s range of warm natural orange hues are sourced from paprika and carotene and offer the application flexibility needed.”
Sensient’s Fox also highlights how today’s natural colors palates offer beverage-makers a vast number of choices.
“Consumer demand for natural ingredients is rising, and brands that use natural colors in their lineup are quick to fill that need,” she says. “Natural colors also offer a wider shade range than is available with synthetic colors, particularly in the beverage space. The most notable example is in the purple range, where FDA-approved Butterfly Pea Flower Extract offers bold, clean blue and purple shades without any muddy gray tones. Purples achieved with blends of synthetic colors carry gray notes and cannot achieve the same clean, bright hue of Butterfly Pea Flower Extract.”
Also proliferating throughout the beverage market has been the growing demand for function-based beverages. A trend that many note can align with natural color options.
“The exciting developments with functional and new age beverages are being matched with extensions of natural color shades, enabling the possibility of creating more innovative end products,” Doehler’s Beck says. “Meeting consumer demand for variety has driven natural color creativity to offer bright new solutions. The particular growth in the popularity of rich reds, for example, has been met by a range of natural colors based on anthocyanins from black carrot offering a broad spectrum of red hues across a wide range of applications.”
Although natural colors and functional beverages on the surface level align, suppliers highlight the importance of consulting suppliers when amalgamating these concepts.
“Functional, new age beverages that are coming to the market are not only focusing on the functional benefits for consumers, but also looking at the ingredient deck, and simplifying it with ingredients from natural sources,” Oterra’s Hocking says. “However, many of these beverages can pose some stability obstacles when using natural colors due to the additional fortification of functional ingredients. Because of this, it is important to work closely with your color supplier to make sure the proper pigment and technology is used.”
Beyond formulation considerations, suppliers note that functional beverages often can have a color association based on that function in the minds of consumers.
“As more people take a proactive approach to their holistic well-being, functional beverages are decidedly on trend,” ADM’s Newsome says. “In many instances, consumers link colors to products formulated with specific wellness attributes, such as bright orange and yellow with citrus fruits that may be rich in vitamin C, or a soothing violet hue with a relaxing cup of lavender and lemongrass herbal tea. Likewise, energy drinks tend to come in a rainbow of shades that stand out in the aisles, while the neutral tones of cocoa, cinnamon and ginger spices are perfect in cozy seasonal favorites like café mochas and mulled wine.”
Sensient’s Fox echoes similar sentiments regarding the color-function connection.
“Colors that add a visual element to a functional claim can enhance the value of that claim in consumer perception in the same way that color can enhance consumer flavor perception,” she says. “A cloudy yellow or orange beverage has an immediate visual tie to immunity claims due to consumer association with vitamin C and other health-boosting ingredients, while a soothing lavender hue enhances the calming experience of a beverage from the moment a shopper sees it.”
A cue from consumers
Given consumers strong associations with colors, experts note the importance of understanding what colors convey to them as well as what new trends will drive color concepts.
GNT USA’s Lee adds that although health and wellness trends are not new to the beverage market, the pandemic amplified consumers’ demands. Given this deeper connection, GNT USA has taken a proactive approach to understand the perception of color concepts.
“GNT has launched a research project called Power of Color to provide brands with a deeper understanding of how color can connect with consumers to drive product success,” she explains. “Based on hands-on workshops, it not only offers insights into the latest market trends but also explores consumer motivations and psychology.
“Through a comprehensive investigation of semiotics, which is the way linguistic and visual signs and symbols create and communicate spoken and unspoken meaning, we’ve identified four ‘consumer worlds’ and corresponding color concepts that deliver impactful beverage innovation in the functional, new age space,” Lee continues.
Those four “consumer worlds” are as follows:
- State change: Consumers seeking control, pleasure and unique experiences.
- Joyful release: Those desire connection, playfulness, optimism and authenticity.
- Comforting and hearty: Consumers who desire control, security and nourishment.
- Clean treats: Those who embrace naturalness, transparency with a hint of indulgence, but featuring a clean, conscious twist.
To support these worlds, GNT USA has identified ingredients and colors that align to create a successful formulation.
“Tapping into the power of the semiotic worlds empowers brands to resonate with the deep psychological motivations that fuel consumer buying habits,” Lee notes.
However, domestic trends are not the only outlet impacting the colors market.
“International flavor trends are impacting the U.S. beverage market and, in turn, the natural color industry,” says Stephen J. Lauro, president of colorMaker Inc., Anaheim, Calif. “colorMaker has numerous customers selling Ube flavored beverages, frozen yogurts, cake mixes and ice creams. Ube is a purple yam with a deep lavender color. Ube is popular in Southeast Asia (countries such as Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore). The deep purple color of Ube can be difficult to achieve depending upon the pH and processing parameters of the beverage.”
Lauro notes that the popularity of matcha green tea as well as bubble tea, commonly referred to as boba, also are having an impact on the colors market.
“Natural colors can supplement the color of matcha green tea, delivering green notes and overcoming some of the brown color notes,” he says. “Natural colors can also be used in the tapioca balls used in boba.”
As international beverage trends migrate to the United States, Lauro notes the importance of supplying natural color solutions that can support these trends.
“These international or ethnic flavor trends will likely accelerate over the next few years, directly impacting the U.S. beverage market,” he says. “Suppliers of natural colors will have to keep up by delivering visually appealing colors stable in these new ‘international’ beverages.”
Oterra’s Hocking, meanwhile, sees the plant-based market having a greater impact on colors.
“Some other beverage trends that are impacting color solutions are plant based and vegan beverages,” Hocking says. “These beverages can have varying macronutrient and micronutrient concentrations potentially impacting color intensity and stability.”
As beverage-makers tackle the future need states of consumers, the suppliers from the colors market are primed to connect the visuals with those concepts.
“Beverage applications come in a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors, and we’re excited for the possibilities that will gain momentum in the year ahead,” ADM’s Newsome says. “For instance, abstract and conceptual flavors like ‘stargazing around a campfire’ or ‘dragon’s breath’ present fantastical opportunities to create something visually new.”