Globally, synthetic colours still outsell natural colours due to less concern over artificial dyes in emerging markets. However, Europe is the largest regional market for colours overall, and the fastest growing, with a strong preference for naturally derived colours. The market research organisation claims the European colours market was worth more than USD590m (€467m) last year.
“Rising consumer awareness for natural ingredients is expected to drive natural colorant demand over the next six years,” it said, estimating that the global market could be worth USD2.46bn (€1.95bn) by 2020. “Increased consumer preference towards functional foods and beverages, particularly with natural or organic colourants is a key factor responsible for the regional market growth.”
Bright colours for ‘extreme’ flavours
As for applications, dairy products provide the biggest market for food colourants, while soft drinks are also a major market “to make the product visually more attractive to the younger population”.
“In [carbonated soft drinks] and non-alcoholic beverages bright, vivid and unusual colours are entering these segments for the younger generation looking for fun, excitement, and “extreme” flavour,” the report said. “Strong and unusual colours in alcoholic beverages are most appealing to the consumers.”
Speaking to FoodNavigator, Euromonitor contributing analyst Cathy Boyle said that all categories were seeing a switch to natural colours in Europe, and soft drinks were heavily influenced by natural trends.
“Children’s products initially led the way in terms of product claims regarding natural ingredients as there is a need to balance children’s interest in brightly coloured food and drinks with parental demands for naturalness,” she said. “As a result, most major confectionery companies have already converted their formulations to use only natural colours.
“… However, in general, virtually all areas of the food and drinks market are seeing at least some demand for more natural colours or for the removal of colour compounds entirely.”
Accepting ‘natural’ at face value
There is still some confusion over the precise definition of ‘natural’ in Europe – and elsewhere – and Boyle accepts that this may be an issue for some consumers.
“Levels of consumer understanding are debatable, although it is likely that most will accept the term ‘natural colour’ at face value,” she said.
“Using colouring foodstuffs and being able to specify the extracts that are being used automatically enhances the natural image of a product so it has become an increasingly attractive strategy.”
Colouring foodstuffs are colouring extracts derived from recognised foods, processed in such a way that the extract retains the raw material’s characteristic properties such as colour and flavour.
They are becoming increasingly popular with food manufacturers, since they are considered ingredients rather than additives and, as such, do not require an E number classification.