As companies continue to opt for organic ingredients for their food products, they eventually come a cross a common problem in the organic food industry. Color plays a vital part in the perceived taste and quality of a food product. Recently, food companies such as Nestlé and General Mills have announced their plan to leave behind synthetic food colors and pursue plant based food dyes.

According to Carol Culhane, president of International Food Focus Limited, a Toronto-based firm that helps American and Canadian food manufacturers comply with food regulations, demand for natural food colors began to take off in 2007, after a study in The Lancet linked artificial food dyes to hyperactivity in children.

However, deriving food dyes from natural sources is much more expensive than synthesizing it in a lab. Much of this has to do with the availability of the necessary plant or vegetables.

Culhane explains, “in a factory, companies can make as much of a synthetic color as needed at any given time the exact same way, and keep the price consistent. But pigments in real vegetables can vary from field to field, region to region and year to year.”

So how exactly is color derived from natural sources. According to the Salt, the following companies are pioneering the search for natural food dyes.

California based company colorMaker, uses a wide variety of fruit and vegetable juices to create a spectrum of naturally colored dyes. However, in order to do so, they must import their juices from all over the world, including red cabbage from China and purple carrots from Europe.

Another company, Kalsec, has been deriving colors exclusively from different types of carrots for over 50 years. They’ve discovered a solution to another common problem found in natural food dyes. These dyes are not as stable as their synthetic counterparts and so Kalsec adds their patented Durabrite technology to protect the dyes from light, heat, oxygen and trace metals.

Companies like these will continue to scour the Earth for sources for their food dye, eventually making it possible for other companies to make the switch. As candy companies push towards organic ingredients, it will be interesting to see what methods they will adopt to color their confections.

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