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Natural colors our first port of call, says spirulina-experimenting Jelly Belly

By Oliver Nieburg+

24-Feb-2014
Last updated on 24-Feb-2014 at 11:52 GMT

Jelly Belly has reformulated five of its major product lines for a global rollout and is now exploring possibilities with natural blue spirulina.
Jelly Belly has reformulated five of its major product lines for a global rollout and is now exploring possibilities with natural blue spirulina.

Jelly Belly is experimenting with natural color spirulina after a major reformulation project.

The company recently reformulated five of its major lines to comply with EU color regulations. Now it hopes to explore possibilities with natural blue and greens with spirulina.

Natural blue and green

Sharon Duncan, vice president, international business at Jelly Belly told ConfectioneryNews at the recent International Sweets and Biscuits Fair (ISM) in Cologne, Germany, that the company always looked first to natural colors and flavors, which wasn’t always easy.

“It’s been the blues and greens. Those have been the hard ones. We’ve used some natural colors that just really impact the taste.  But now with the spirulina, we’re starting to experiment with that. I think we can get some greens and blues that are acceptable to us.”

Last year, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved spirulina, a natural alternative to artificial FD&C Blue #1 ('brilliant blue') after a petition from Mars. The color has been considered safe to use in the EU for some time.

Jelly Belly’s blueberry, green apple, margarita and lime flavors all use artificial blue and green colors.

Reformulation project

Jelly Belly cut the level of Sunset Yellow in Candy Corn for the product to comply with EU regulations.

“It’s always the colors that give us the issues because there are so many color regulation variations around the world,” said Duncan.

 “This past year we went into a major reformulation project with our R&D department and we have reformulated five of our top confection candies and now we’ve been able to release those globally.”

Licorice Bridge Mix, Candy Corn, Raspberries & Blackberries, Chocolate Dutch Mints and Gummi bears were all reformulated to allow a global rollout, but some still use artificial colors.

“Our first go to is whatever we can do from a natural flavor or color perspective. But Jelly Belly is known for its wild colors and wild flavors, so we have to use artificial colors and flavors to get certain levels that we feel is acceptable quality wise,” said Duncan.

“Sunset yellow in the EU is 35 parts per million – we had to reformulate everything down to that level. For instance, Candy Corn uses a high percentage, so we had to reformulate down with other color alternatives to get the same look. In some cases we didn’t get exactly the same look, but we got something we feel is attractive to the consumer.”

Beanaturals and colors to avoid

Jelly's Belly's artificial-free Beanaturals.

We asked if the natural colors were more expensive and ate into the company’s profit margins.

 “We don’t really look at it that way. We’re not known for our cheap prices – we’re known for our gourmet, high-quality candy, so we do whatever is best for the brands,” said Duncan.

Jelly Belly also manufactures Beanaturals, a complete line of natural Jelly Belly, free from artificial colors and flavors.

Duncan said that the company had no goal to avoid certain artificial colors, like those linked to hyperactivity in children.

“No –we’ve looked at all those studies and there are a lot of holes in many of them. Our goal is to use as many natural colors and flavors as we can and to remain compliant worldwide.”

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