Consumer Misgivings Could Derail Caramel Colours12 Nov 2015
John George, Ingredients Analyst See John George Speak at Day 0 ‘Natural Colour and Colouring Foods 2015’ at Fi Europe -http://www.figlobal.com/fieurope/conference/day0
Caramel’s status as the biggest contributor to the 621,000-tonne global natural colours market is undisputed, with the ingredient’s success based on its affordability and stability in a wide variety of conditions. This makes caramel ideal for incorporation into the huge range of products that want to achieve an attractive brown colour. While the ingredient’s ubiquity is not in doubt, its natural status is questionable and concerns over the formation of carcinogenic by-products incaramel production remain. The potential for consumer unrest could force manufacturers to look elsewhere, resulting in the current elevated levels of caramel consumption falling.
Cola carbonates and pet food drive demand
While the addition of caramel is common to many products, it is particularly abundant in cola carbonates, where it provides a desirable brown hue, and in dog and cat food, to colour the meat or gravy. To put into context caramel’s dominance of the natural colours market, it is worth noting that cola carbonates and dog and cat food are the two biggest consumers of natural colours and together accounted for over 70% of global use in 2014, with the majority of this being caramel colours. Going forward, caramel consumption is threatened by the decline of cola carbonates in developed markets; however increased uptake in emerging markets should mean that overall global consumption of caramel continues to grow. This is reflected in the forecast global CAGR of 0.8% for natural colours in cola carbonates from 2014 to 2019.
Natural Colour Use in Selected Product Categories (2009 – 2014)
Source: Euromonitor International
A not-so-natural colour?
With combined global natural colour consumption in cola carbonates and pet food forecast at almost 480,000 tonnes in 2019, suppliers could think the future of caramel is safeguarded. However, this couldbe threatened by questions over caramel’s natural status. The controversy surrounds class II to IV caramels, which are made by heating carbohydrates with sulphite or ammonium compounds. Detractors claim that the chemical processing involved renders these caramels artificial, and oppose manufacturers labelling products containing these caramels as “all natural”. As consumers become increasingly knowledgeable about the ingredients in their foods, acceptance of caramel may fall, pressurising manufacturers into reformulating. The perception of caramel already seems to be shifting, with Subway including caramel colours in a pledge made to remove artificial colours from American products earlier this month. This mirrors a similar move from Panera Bread last month, and is a worry for suppliers, which might reasonably fear that other companies will follow, and unofficially reclassify caramel as an artificial ingredient.
4-MEI tarnishes consumer opinion
The debate over caramel’s naturalness may be less detrimental in indulgent products like cola carbonates. A bigger threat is 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a by-product formed when producing class III and class IV caramels, and a possible carcinogen. In 2011, 4-MEI was added to California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens, meaning products that caused exposure to exceed 29 micrograms per day had to carry a warning label. This led to several soft drinks companies taking steps to reduce the 4-MEI content of their products and so avoid this labelling. However, in 2014 Pepsi came under fire after a study found that products sold in California were exceeding the limit for 4-MEI and not carrying a label. This has brought more unwanted attention upon caramel and raised consumer alarm over inclusion of the ingredient. This may force manufacturers to reconsider using class III and IV caramels, despite both the FDA and the EFSA advising that the current levels of 4-MEI in food and beverage products do not represent a risk.
Manufacturers need to weigh up the benefits of caramel, in terms of cost and stability, against the possibility of a consumer backlash if they continue to use the colour. For some products the best compromise may be to use class I caramel, which does not contain 4-MEI and is not chemically modified like other caramel variants. When use of class I caramel is not possible or in instances where manufacturers want to remove caramel entirely, natural colour suppliers have an opportunity to provide a replacement. Sensient has shown the way by extending its range of vegetable juice-derived natural brown colours, and with potentially huge volumes being needed, other suppliers would be wise to follow suit.
John George, Ingredients Analyst, Euromonitor
Boom or bust: Are consumers ready for the alternative protein revolution?
24 Jun 2022
While excitement over alt-proteins is high among industry and investors, major challenges remain for companies looking to convince consumers to switch to a plant-based ‘meat alternative’.Read more
New EU mineral oil limits an ‘important step for food safety’
23 Jun 2022
The EU’s decision to restrict aromatic mineral oils (MOAH) in food products has been hailed as an important step in food safety and consumer protection but consumer organisation, Foodwatch, is calling for binding regulation to go one step further.Read more
NutriScore logo could help young people make healthier food choices – but more awareness is needed
22 Jun 2022
The European Nutri-Score labelling system can help young people make healthier food choices, according to a Spanish study – but one third still do not know what the label indicates.Read more
Mars launches animal-free chocolate with Perfect Day’s whey protein
21 Jun 2022
Mars has launched a vegan chocolate bar made with biotech unicorn Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein made via precision fermentation.Read more
Unilever in $120m biotech venture to scale palm oil alternative
20 Jun 2022
Unilever has teamed up with US biotech company Genomatica to commercialise its palm oil alternative produced via a biotechnology fermentation process.Read more
Clear and accurate precautionary allergen labelling is vitally important, says regulatory expert
17 Jun 2022
As the UK’s Food Standards Agency looks to standardise allergen label wording, it is “vitally important” that food businesses provide consumers with clear and accurate precautionary information about potential unintended allergens in ...Read more
Monterey Mushrooms gets EU approval for vitamin D-rich mushroom powder
16 Jun 2022
Monterey Mushrooms’ vitamin D-rich mushroom powder, produced using ultraviolet (UV) to boost the nutrient content, can be sold in the EU, following novel food approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).Read more
Soil sequestration: An emerging opportunity for farmers and food producers
15 Jun 2022
Sequestration of carbon into soil has almost the same potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as the use of wind or solar power and provides farmers with an opportunity equal to that of reforestation strategies, according to Berry Marttin of...Read more
Nitrite and nitrate alternatives gain ground for processed meat applications
14 Jun 2022
As France finalises its review into the health risks of nitrite in cured meats, industry research focuses on the potential substitutes for nitrite and nitrate in processed meats to offer consumers healthy alternatives.Read more
Metrics matter: Measuring the true price of food for a healthy and sustainable future
13 Jun 2022
Food value chains must begin to price in the ‘externalities’ of production, including impacts on human and planetary health, if the world is to realistically create a healthy and sustainable food supply to feed a growing population, according to one of...Read more
Are you a supplier?
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation