Dropping artificial coloring


If you read labels and avoid foods with artificial ingredients, experts say grocery shopping should be getting easier. A number of food companies and popular restaurant chains are taking artificial coloring out of their products.

When Katie Moseman became a parent, she started paying more attention to what was in the food she bought for herself and her family.

“I stopped and I would read those ingredient lists when I went to the grocery store,” she said.

Now, the food blogger avoids anything with artificial coloring and experts say she is not alone. According to Technavio Research, 58 percent of U.S. consumers prefer food with coloring from natural sources. That is up from 23 percent in 2005.  Katie says shopping is getting easier since more foodmakers use things like fruit, vegetables and spices to add color.

“I will often be surprised by the choice that’s available,” explained Katie.

the food color company Sensient reports natural colors are the fastest growing part of its color portfolio, with a lot of top branded and private label companies looking to make the switch. Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, says foodmakers are taking notice of consumers like Katie.

“Tthe trend of removing artificial colors is just in its infancy. It’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” Lempert explained.

Companies like Kraft and Nestle, as well as popular food chains like Panera and Subway are all ditching artificial colors. General Mills is removing colors from artificial sources from all its cereals, including Trix, which is changing from six colors to four.

“We’re moving from the colors with numbers that consumers might be used to, like red 40 or yellow 5, and instead using colors sources such as fruit and vegetable juices, as well as spices,”  said Lauren Pradhan with General Mills Cereals

Lempert points out that switching to natural sources of pigment can be a challenge for food makers, since fruits, vegetables and spices can add flavor.

“It’s not where you can just add a drop of natural color and it’s the same. So companies have to take their time, really experiment. They’ve got a recipe for taste that they want to keep, so it might take them a bit longer to find a natural color that can achieve the same product description,” he explained.

So what should you know if you are interested in making the switch?

“The most important thing for a consumer to look out for is the ‘free from’ claim,” Lempert said.

Claims like no colors from artificial sources are key, since the FDA actually considers any form of added color to be artificial, regardless of whether it was made in a lab or extracted from fruit.  Katie said she always keeps an eye out, since she was interested in the more natural approach.

“If I’m eating something to enjoy it, I don’t want to put anything artificial in my foods,” said Katie

As for the idea that colors made from fruit, vegetables or spices can add unwanted flavor, companies like General Mills and Sensient say they are sure to remove any additional flavors from the colors they produce.  General Mills is going to continue to work on developing color alternatives for the two colors they don’t have yet for Trix cereal.

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