The New England Confectionery Company (Necco), the oldest multi-line confectionery company in the US, said that growing demand for all-natural ingredients prompted the reformulation with beet juice, cabbage, and cocoa powder now being used to flavour the confectionery line, which started in 1847.
According to Necco, consumers will notice little difference in the taste or texture of the new, more natural wafers, which will be on retail shelves by the end of the month.
The company was not able to reproduce the colour green consistently, so it has been discarded but the seven original wafer colours remain, said the company.
However, the natural colours lend the wafers a more muted, pastel appearance, added the confectioner.
Campbell Barnum, global vice president of branding and market development for natural colour supplier DD Williamson, maintains that changing consumer preferences is driving more and more food and beverage processors to formulate with natural alternatives to synthetic (certified) food colour additives.
"Both food product labelling regulations and today's mass media have increased consumer awareness of food ingredients."
In fact, one third of all food products launched in the US in 2008 made an ‘all-natural’ claim on the packaging, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, an increase of 16 per cent on 2007.
The search for natural colourings swelled after the results of a study from the University of Southampton were published in the British journal The Lancet in 2007. The researchers concluded that artificial food colours and additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviour in children.
Even though the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) saw no reason to alter intake advice for the six colours in the study (sunset yellow E110, tartrazine E102, carmoisine E122, ponceau 4R E124, quinoline yellow E104 and allura red E129), a last minute addition was made to the new food additives package that will require companies using them to flag up their presence on packaging.
The wording – “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” – will be mandatory from next summer and has been called a de facto ban since it would have a strong effect on sales. Already there is a strong movement away from using the Southampton colours amongst manufacturers and retailers.
The new EU legislation on food additives, which replaces 12 old regulations on additives including colours, flavours, and enzymes, is due to come into force in January 2010 but companies that stick with the Southampton colours have until next July to comply with the colouring labelling requirements.