11 Jan 2023 — The color space has experienced a shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach. Color is being used to represent identity while social media drives innovation as consumers want vibrant, bright and eye-catching F&B. Meanwhile, manufacturers and brands continue to move toward natural colors that are more sustainable and hit the mark on clean label.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to color specialists GNT, Blue California and Givaudan, who dive into the latest market dynamics driving the natural colors arena and the consumer trends pushing innovation as well as what colors are going to be on-trend in 2023.
“Color is something that’s used to express personal identity and beliefs. The ideas that consumers associate with color also depend on context, language and culture. These associations are hugely important to food and beverage brands as color helps consumers build a perception of a product,” Julia Meyer, healthy hedonism trend specialist at GNT Group, tells us.
The Exberry Blue Beverage Solution is GNT’s latest color innovation, a patented formulation technology that allows spirulina extract to remain temperature- and acid-stabilized in beverages. The solution enables manufacturers to create a wide range of blue beverages while maintaining clean and clear labels.
Blue California’s leading color for 2023 is a brilliant white to replace titanium dioxide (E171) in food, beverages, pharma, cosmetic, and personal care applications while Givaudan is sporting its vibrant Pantone color of the year, Viva Magenta which delivers a range of red hues.
Beverages to quench or spark interest
GNT has used the superfood spirulina for almost 30 years to create its blue shades. While spirulina has been used effectively in chilled smoothie and juice drink applications, it hasn’t technically been feasible to use it in shelf-stable, acidified beverages until now.
It’s suitable for various beverage applications, including sports, energy, and carbonated drinks, juice drinks, enhanced waters and alcoholic beverages below 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). It can achieve shades including bright turquoise, navy blue, violet and green.
“We can craft palettes to appeal to a sense of adventure or to strengthen the human connection. It’s also possible to affect appetite and flavor through color, especially when used alongside other sensory cues,” Meyer outlines.
“Blue was once strongly associated with synthetics, but it’s leaving its ‘unhealthy’ image behind and becoming a fully-fledged member of the well-being color collective,” she explains.
In the meantime Givaudan is leveraging the flamboyant magenta: “We can expect to see new food experiences in a range of red to pink from restaurants, new product launches, and home cooking popping up on social media,” says Nathalie Pauleau, global project manager, Sense Colour, Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing.
“This is a great opportunity for the food and beverage industry since there are so many color options available from beet to a wide variety of anthocyanins-based fruit and vegetable juice concentrates, and custom blends.”
Color application after titanium dioxide
A number of whitening alternatives to titanium dioxide have been innovated to comply with the recent European ban on TiO2.
Blue California’s whitening agents have proven successful in chewing gums, tablets, candies, dairy, plant-based meat alternatives, protein F&B, condiments, sauces, bakery, cosmetic and personal care applications.
“With all the headlines of EFSA’s ruling on the use of titanium dioxide, global manufacturers have started to increase their interest in replacing TiO2 in their food, beverage, pharma, cosmetic and personal care applications,” says David Tetzlaf, marketing director at Blue California.
According to the company, about 56% of global consumers say it is important that the food they eat has bright and intense colors, and titanium dioxide is often used to achieve this.
“Titanium dioxide is a difficult pigment to replace given its broad use in a wide range of products that may require it to achieve a more appealing color, whether it is white or some other color needing white in the base product,” explains Tetzlaf.
“White may signify purity, creaminess, and product quality to the end consumer, which is why it is so ubiquitous in a broad range of products.”
Blue California’s whitening agents are non-GMO and made from natural food ingredients. The TiO2 alternatives provide similar UV protection and opacity compared to TiO2, but redisperse much easier in the food systems, and precipitate much less than TiO2. They are also very heat, pressure and pH stable.
Vivacious and vibrant
Givaudan is leveraging colors that are fiery, vibrant and energetic. Its Vegebrite Black Carrot is one of its most popular colors.
“Not only are consumers familiar with this ingredient, but product developers also find it versatile and easy to use in application. It’s also a trending color,” says Pauleau.
“As an anthocyanin, it has great heat and light stability, and we have a variety of different strengths, shades, and blends depending on the need. It can also be used to provide bright reds, pinks, or purples, depending on the application and the pH, so this one source can be the right fit for creating enticing food experiences in everything from confections to beverages and dairy.”
Yellow and orange are also popular coloring foods shades in Givaudan’s portfolio. The company will expand its Vegebrite offerings in 2023, from orange carrot to include a wider range of yellow to orange colors.
“These are critical colors to have in the portfolio because yellow and orange made up almost 20% of soft drink launches, between 2021 and 2022, and consumers are increasingly looking for options with labels that they recognize and understand,” Pauleau outlines.
Givaudan has also expanded its Veggie Browns range. Its spirulina blue options includes a michroma oil dispersible solution and a range of purple to green ready-made blends.
“Healthy hedonism” has been coined by GNT as a key consumer trend driving color innovation. It reflects consumers’ “pursuit for pleasure” and “indulgence,” and is particularly driven by Gen Z consumers.
“Today’s young shoppers want products that are good for people and the planet, so natural and sustainable ingredients are hugely important. At the same time, they’re showing that virtuous food and drink doesn’t need to have an earthy appearance,” Meyer explains.
Due to the influence of social media, aesthetics largely shape the coloring foods segment.
The Healthy Hedonism color palette reflects these aspects of digitalization, such as celebrating super-optimistic next-gen creativity with vibrant color combinations to provide maximum visual impact.
“We’ve identified a number of specific “color directions’’ as part of the broader trend. These include using soft-play pastel shades like pink, blue, green and orange to create a cute, comforting and youthful look,” adds Meyer.
“It’s all about delivering sensorial satisfaction – unexpected color reveals, textural changes, and satisfying squelching sounds can all add to the experience, too. Think biting into a squidgy mochi ball or breaking open fluffy cloud bread.”
Cranking up creativity with color
Color, play, humor and ingenuity are valued in the contemporary color scene, with social media driving these trends by and large. In addition, many of the cutting-edge trends now start outside the food and drink industry.
As a result, companies have to look further afield to gain insights into the use and application of color in food.
Online influencers are considered to be “true innovators” in the current coloring food landscape. “TikTok is a particular hotbed of innovation. We’re seeing visually striking recipes like watermelon mustard at the heart of viral videos that showcase food as experimental expression,” Meyer explains.
“At the same time, though, not every trend is long-lasting. Social media trends can go viral and die in a single day. So while it’s a great source of inspiration, it’s important to approach it with caution.”
Leveraging product labeling
Natural color solutions, such as plant-based colors, are the standard now and sets the tone of the market.
Plant-based colors are being leveraged to deliver vibrant shades that are comparable with their artificial counterparts.
The segment is still growing with continuous interest in natural and clean label color solutions.
Pauleau outlines: “We can see two specific trends. One is the use of bold colors or surprising colors to capture consumers’ attention and create Instagrammable food experiences.”
The color of the year, Viva Magenta, true blue or dark black colors will be used in new food product developments to attract consumers (for example, black ketchup).
“The second trend is addressing demand for natural options at an affordable cost for the food industry, as we can see a lot of pressure on price on the market. Our technical team of experts are supporting customers in providing the options that best suit the market needs, taking performance in application, clean labeling and cost in use into consideration,” Pauleau says.
By Inga de Jong
To contact our editorial team please email us at
If you found this article valuable, you may wish to receive our newsletters.
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.