Viable natural colours for dairy products

Food and colour go hand in hand

Consuming food involves more than just taste. It is a full sensorial experience. The visual appearance is one of the most powerful ways to capture a consumer’s attention and interest.

Colour has an important impact on the minds of people as far as food is concerned. Adding colour to food is what makes it attractive and appetizing, which enhances its overall appeal.

Despite the fact that humans see colour differently, colour is the first element perceived by the human brain and hence plays a vital role in the perception of food and other consumer products. The colour of food and beverages is a prelude to nutrition and good taste. In addition, a product’s “visual palatability” plays a fundamental role in first time purchase intent irrespective of synthetic or natural colour used.

Over the past decade, manufacturers have started to switch from synthetic dyes such as FD&C’s to natural alternatives when consumer demand and product costs are aligned. Natural dyes have in fact been used for centuries to colour food, beverages, textiles, medicine etc. Some of the most common colours include beta-carotene from carrots, chlorophyll from various plant-based sources, anthocyanins from fruits and vegetables, turmeric, annatto and paprika from spices as well as carmine to name a few.

Today, clean label trends are driving significant demand for natural ingredients and especially natural colours. Consumers are demanding shorter ingredient lists but more importantly, ingredients they are familiar with. As a result, this trend is driving manufacturers to respond by creating/ reformulating and ultimately promoting the “simplicity” of their products. Examples can be seen with branded and private label foods and beverages. Natural colours, or colours exempt from certification (FDA definition – CFR, Title 21 Part 73), are widely used today in foods, beverages, dietary supplements, pet food and select cosmetics. The natural colour market continues to grow at 10-12% per annum as consumer product manufacturing companies see the benefits of ingredient transparency. According to a survey conducted by Mintel, 20% of US consumers would like to see more “free-from” artificial colour (Mintel Food & Drink: Ingredient Report September, 2016). This paradigm shift in buying behaviour is a result of core consumers wanting cleaner, more natural and “friendly” labels.

Mane Kancor and Mane offers a wide range of natural colours for various product platforms and systems. C-Capture includes colours such as turmeric (yellow), a host of carotenoids including annatto, paprika and beta-carotene (yellow, orange and reddish orange), beet juice concentrate (pink), fruit and vegetable juices (red to purple) to name a few. In addition, the company offers spirulina (blue), several sodium copper chlorophyllin (green) options, caramel and other customized blends depending on, application, market location and desired hue. Mane Kancor is a significant player in the extraction of natural raw materials. The company has been extracting and manufacturing natural coluors since long.

Natural Colour wheel
Advantages of using natural colour in food

There are several advantages to using colour additives:

1) Colour is used to offset any changes in hue as a result of harsh processing conditions.
2) Brings uniformity to the finished product.
3) Plays an integral role in taste perception. In the end, colour is used to make finished product more appealing to the eyes of the consumer.

Colour Challenges with Dairy Application

In most finished applications, technical challenges always exist when using natural colours. These challenges can include cost, processing conditions, interaction with other ingredients, heat, light, pH and oxygen. Specifically for dairy applications, similar challenges exist. Most dairy products are typically stored refrigerated or frozen. Therefore light exposure may not be a factor depending on packaging and shelf life of the finished product. However, other factors such as pH and temperature could be problematic for a product developer. For example, in yogurt, one must be concerned with pH differences between fruit prep and white mass. For some colours, specifically those that are fruit and vegetable based, a hue shift might occur causing the colour to move from red to purple (bluer) over time. For other colours, this may not be an issue.

In addition to pH, exposure to heat could also impact the performance of a natural colour. For example, certain colours such as beet juice concentrate might turn brown when applied to dairy-based beverages that are thermally processed (pasteurization). Time and temperature can significantly impact results. Other colours such as carmine and paprika will be minimally impacted.

Ice cream for example, has a pH of about 6.5, is not exposed to light, and does not undergo heat or pH changes. This makes it an ideal application for the use of red beet as a strawberry colour. C-Capture’s annatto, beet, turmeric, carmine and beta-carotene are ideal for such an application. The C-Capture line of products offers various natural colour options to suit various dairy applications.

While natural colours for dairy applications do come with challenges (no different than other food products) Mane Kancor and Mane can work to find the right solution. Based on the results of stability studies (such as the one below), Mane Kancor and Mane has been able to uncover a variety of solutions to naturally colour dairy-based products.


Yogurt is one of the most popular dairy products consumed around the world. Yogurt comes in numerous flavours, varieties and offerings such as low-fat, non-fat, low carb, frozen, Greek, drinkable, etc.


The overall objective is to evaluate the stability of C-Capture colour series in Dairy application “Behaviour to light in application media [yogurt]”. The application media represents a pH range of neutral to acidic (yogurt) – approximately 4.6

  • Samples: Ochre Series AT201 (contains annatto and turmeric) and Sunlight Series TT205 (contains curcumin)
  • In non-fat plain yogurt, Ochre AT201 was applied at a usage rate of 0.10% and Sunlight TT205 was applied at 0.20%. The test samples were placed in an accelerated weathering instrument and analysed every 3-4 days. These test samples were compared to a control that was stored refrigerated and not exposed to light. The temperature was regulated at 250 C and utilized a daylight filter.
  • Instrument Specifications
    • Atlas Suntest XLS+
    • Filter: Daylight
    • 900-1900 W
    • Illuminance: 45-130 klx
    • 300-400 nm: 40-65 W/m2
    • 340 nm: 0.34-0.62 W/nm2
    • 420 nm: 0.75-1.45 W/nm2
    • 300-800 nm: 250-765 W/m2
    • Chamber Air Temperature (CHT): 25 ºC, regulated by Black Standard Temperature (BST)
    • Phase Length: 72-96 hours

The study is an accelerated study of extreme conditions which is approximately equivalent to more than 3 months in normal refrigerated conditions on the shelf *
* Based on standard European procedures: 4 hours in Suntest instrument at 750 W/m2, BST at 45°C equivalent to 192 hours solar light. The actual correlation between the accelerated conditions and real time will differ by region due to climates, sunlight exposure, and weather conditions.


At the end of each phase, the test samples were removed from the instrument and compared alongside the control samples. Visual inspection and colourimetry results were recorded.


Colours in yogurt experienced minor colouration and fading over 14 days under accelerated conditions.


Based on the results above, it can be concluded that the Ochre and Sunlight Series can provide solutions that address challenges faced when working with dairy and other yogurt applications. When exposed to sunlight and room temperature conditions, minimal fading and colouration was observed. As a result, the C-Capture Ochre and Sunlight Series can produce a stable solution for yogurt and other dairy applications. Additional colour series will be evaluated in a similar fashion in the near future.