Until now, titanium dioxide (E171) has been used as the standard white colour in coated chocolates such as M&Ms, and in hard shell chewing gums. Even when there is a different colour on the outside, layers of white are used beneath to make the top colour stand out.
Titanium dioxide, which is also used in paints, is “very cheap and very white”, said Lionel Schmitt, vice president of commercial development in the colour division at Chr Hansen.
Schmitt told FoodNavigator.com that although there is no food safety issue – it is an approved food colour – confectionery makers have been looking to switch all chemical colours for natural colours, especially since the publication of the notorious Southampton study, which linked certain cocktails of colours to hyperactivity in children.
White had posed a particular problem, and has led to manufacturers requesting a natural solution. Previous efforts using rice starch have not yielded a white that was bright enough for food manufacturers, Schmitt said.
After dedicating about two years to the problem, Chr Hansen is now launching CapColors White 100 WSS-P. The colouring uses calcium carbonate, which is already approved as a food colour in Europe (E170) and classified as a natural colour by Natcol, the Natural Food Colors Association.
But used alone, calcium carbonate gives products a grey colour. This led Chr Hansen to investigate microencapsulation using its encapsulation technology that gives greater resistance to light, pH and oxidation. Schmitt said that the research team had to adapt the encapsulation system to make it suitable for calcium carbonate.
Schmitt said that far and away the biggest potential for the new colouring is from confectionery makers, although it may be used in some other products too, such as coffee whiteners.
And even though titanium dioxide is not one of the ‘Southampton six’ colours, that study has led to a wholesale drive by manufacturers to substitute natural colours for artificial in the last 18 months.
“Companies that are most advanced today still struggle with white colour”.