When you think of confections, you most likely imagine vibrant, colorful shades. To achieve those vivid hues, confections are typically colored with synthetics, but as consumers lean more toward ‘clean label’ options, demand for switching to natural colors in confections is skyrocketing.

As you start the replacement process, you may hear things like: ‘natural colors aren’t as vibrant as synthetics’ or ‘natural colors aren’t as stable as synthetics’, but don’t fear! Natural colors can successfully replace synthetic colors in confections. We’ll share some tips to ensure success and bust a few common myths in the article below:

Myth #1: Natural Colors Aren't as Vibrant as Synthetics

While natural colors may require higher usage rates or care during manufacturing, they can achieve some beautifully bright shades. One reason synthetic colors appear so vibrant is fluorescence. Fluorescent substances, such as Tartrazine, or Yellow #5, absorb radiation at the UV range and reflect it back, sometimes as visible light. Luckily, some natural colors share this fluorescent characteristic. Curcumin, for example, absorbs UV light and blue light and emits back yellow light which is why it appears like it’s glowing under a black light! Natural colors can provide that dramatic, vibrant glowing look, so the fun doesn’t have to be compromised when switching to a natural label.

natural colors in confections

You may also need to adjust when or how you add a natural color to get the brightest shades. For example, vibrancy can be impacted by the base color of the confection – turmeric will appear bright yellow in translucent confections like gummies and hard candies, but if it’s used on panned candies, you’ll need to add a white base coating to the chocolate first to give a more reflective background and minimize visual darkness. Otherwise, the color will appear darker and muted like in the image below.

turmeric panned on different base colors

Success Tips

  • To achieve the vibrant, ‘fluorescent’ look, try options like curcumin, spirulina, beet, and carmine.
  • Use a white base over daker shades whenever possible

Myth #2: Natural Colors Aren't as Stable as Synthetics

While synthetics are extremely stable (which is often why companies use them), natural colors can compete – especially in confections! Many confections are in wrappers or opaque envelopes which helps to prevent photodegradation and gummies and hard candies have low water activity, which helps limit color fade. Gummies are also acidified which is ideal for natural colors like anthocyanins and carminic acid.

So, the main area of concern is when using natural colors that have lower stability to heat. Some colors are very stable to heat, like those in the image below. But with a slight adjustment in processing colors with lower heat stability, like spirulina and beet, can still be used. In these cases, it is often best to add colors as the sugar mixture is cooling, rather than heating. This will help to prevent any color fade from heat exposure.

Heat Stability of Natural Colors in Confections

It’s also important to use the best natural color for your specific product when switching to natural colors in confections. This ensures the best stability throughout your product’s shelf life. For example, anthocyanins would provide a stable and bright red in acidified gummies but would turn purple or start to fade in confections with a higher pH such as marshmallows.

Success Tips

  • To achieve the best stability, add your color at the optimal step to minimize heat-related degradation.
  • Use the color that is best suited for your specific application

Myth #3: Natural Colors Can't Match Synthetics

If you’ve historically used synthetic colors and don’t want your end consumer to be surprised by color changes, don’t worry! Natural colors can closely match synthetics and we are here to help with the process.

To get a good color match, we start by quantifying the color using a colorimeter, which measures the transmittance or reflectance of light through a sample and provides measurements for different aspects of color such as: hue, saturation, and lightness/darkness. We then make up several natural blends and use visual observations to select the ones that appear to be a close match in the application and measure again using the Colorimeter.

In the photo below, you can see a chocolate confection panned with a synthetic color versus our natural match. The colorimeter measurements tell us the hue (h) values are close which means the candies are perceived as the same color. The lightness and chroma values are also close which indicates that the samples are very similar in terms of brightness and saturation – a close color match!

Color matching panned confections

By looking at these measurements we can understand the breakdown of the color and decide which components may need to be adjusted to get a closer match – i.e. more or less red. Check out our article on color matching for a more in-depth look at the process!

Success Tips

  • To achieve the best match to synthetics, use a combination of visual cues and color measurement tools like a colorimeter or spectrophotometer.

While these are just the basics for switching to natural colors in confections, all applications are different. Check out our webinar for a more in-depth look at how to replace natural colors in confections. Ready to get started? Request a sample kit or contact us if you have questions on your project.

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