Soy sauce represents a huge customer sector for caramel color – in Asia, the demand for caramel color for use in soy sauce exceeds that for beverages. The primary purpose of adding caramel to soy sauce is to enhance the color shade. However, it offers additional benefits to soy sauce: it can reduce batch-to-batch variation, improve color adhesion to meat and noodles, and contribute to viscosity and mouthfeel. There are a variety of caramels, each with different hues and viscosities, to suit the needs of each manufacturer.
The two main reasons for adding color to soy sauce are to improve the hue and to create batch-to-batch consistency. Because red-brown hues are typically preferred for soy sauce, choose a red-toned caramel over one that has a yellow-brown tone.
When adding color to improve batch-to-batch consistency rather than improve color tone, go with a caramel that is as close to your target color as possible so you have flexibility with dosage levels depending on the color of the batch. This ensures that consumers always receive a consistent, high quality product
Color adhesion to protein and noodles is extremely important as it allows consumers cooking at home to achieve a bright red-brown savory color in their meals. While class III caramel colors are the most commonly used to color soy sauce due to their red–brown color and salt stability, they are not the best options if the goal is to improve the staining for meat or noodles.
Red-toned class I and IV caramel colors developed specifically for salt stability are generally better options as they can help soy sauce adhere better to protein and noodles.
Viscosity & Mouthfeel
Depending on the region of use, caramel color can also be used to increase the viscosity and improve the mouthfeel of the final product. Some manufacturers add up to 20-30% caramel color to get the right consistency. If this is the main goal, be sure to select a high-viscosity class III caramel color for the best results.
While color, viscosity, and mouthfeel are all important reasons for coloring soy sauce, they main requirement of a caramel color for soy sauce is that it must be stable in 20% salt solution to even be considered. Caramel colors that are not salt-stable will form a haze in in the sauce and precipitate out. If a soy sauce is highly concentrated (above 20% salt solution), it is best to add the caramel color after the sauce is diluted in order to prevent the color from falling out of suspension.
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