Are safflower and gardenia the next big natural colors? At IFT 2019, Diana Food talks about the future of colors and its new USDA-certified organic color portfolio

June 10, 2019

Diana’s new USDA-certified organic color portfolio targets dairy and other food and drinks.

At the Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo in June, Diana Food (Hasbrouck Heights, NJ) highlighted its recently introduced portfolio of USDA-certified organic colors. Out the gate, the company is targeting the dairy market, with plans to expand focus to other categories like beverages.

In March, the company debuted a whole collection of natural colors sourced from the following: red beet, purple carrot, orange carrot, yellow carrot, spirulina, annatto, and turmeric. It took the company two years to bring the portfolio to life, working with its network of global food producers.

“We really wanted to approach the market having a full spectrum of colors available,” said Teresa Kilgore, sweet and beverage category manager, North America, Diana Food, at IFT. “It took us about two years to put this program together, and the reason is because sourcing is such a huge challenge in the organic realm.”

Spirulina, she said, is a good example of where the company overcame challenges. “Spirulina is only sourced from China and now India,” Kilgore explained. “There are quality constrains that come with that. So we really had to go through some extreme testing there to make sure our customers felt safe, and then ensure we would have the volumes we would need to be able to launch. There was a very big focus on quality and supply for us to launch this.” A large portion of the company’s ingredients, such as red beet and purple carrot, are sourced from Europe, where the firm’s parent company is based.

The new colors are targeting dairy products-dairy-based beverages and yogurts-first and foremost, Kilgore said. Purple, red, and orange shades are expected to be most popular in these markets.

Following dairy, the company will target beverages, especially with colors like red beet and purple carrot. “I think beverages will be the largest percentage of organic sales in the future,” she said.

However, she noted, beverages can sometimes be challenging for organic colors and colors in general. “Stability can be a challenge for some beverages because you have to worry about packaging. Some colors are not light stable. So it requires a little bit of us educating our customers to make sure they use their packaging correctly. Maybe you need to have a thicker, longer label, or change your shelf life when you’re using a synthetic or a natural color.” Diana also offers options that can help further, such as a “stabilized” version of red beet that “works better than our standard red beet in terms of heat performance,” Kilgore said.

 

Looking Forward

Despite any challenges, Kilgore said she expects demand for organic colors only to grow. She also points to another driver being the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s next upcoming sunset review of substances allowed and prohibited in organic products. The next upcoming sunset date for this National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances is March 15, 2022. At that time, there could be changes as to which ingredients, including natural and synthetic colors, are per this list.

Suppliers continue to search for new and better-performing natural color sources-and to get those sources approved as legal colors here in the U.S. Looking forward, Kilgore said that two promising sources that could one day be approved for use as colors in the U.S. are gardenia (blue) and safflower (yellow).

Safflower is closer to the finish line, she said. “Safflower is going to be approved. It’s really just a question of when,” she said, noting that industry groups have petitioned FDA for approval. Already, she said, its use is big in Europe. And it would be heavily used in the U.S. because yellow is a heavily demanded color for beverages, and safflower yellow provides great stability. Kilgore said that Diana Food already has a good sourcing network in Europe for when the need arises in the U.S.