Purple foods get a social media boost

15 Apr 2019

Purple is an unusual colour for food, but social media has led brands to experiment with bold colours – and purple in particular – as they seek to create ‘Instagrammable’ foods and drinks.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), the number of purple foods and drinks launched globally increased 126% from 2012 to 2018. It is a trend that has benefited colour houses, especially those producing natural purple colours, as naturally sourced colours have become the norm for food colouring in Europe; since 2012, more than 90% of new European product launches have been naturally coloured.

Purple foods get a social media boost
Purple foods are eye-catching and associated with good health

GNT Group, for example, has conducted research that suggests unusual and exotic colours may help boost appetite and consumer enjoyment of snack products – and that many people associate bright purple colours with good nutrition. In products like vegetable snacks made from brightly coloured vegetables, for instance, this could be particularly important. Many sources of purple colour, such as beetroot, purple carrots, red cabbage and açaï berries, are already associated with nutritional benefits, giving them additional appeal for consumers – and companies – looking to create eye-catching food images on social media.

Meanwhile, in 2016 Naturex – now a part of Givaudan – signed an exclusive patent license for enhancing anthocyanins, the red and purple pigments in berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants, which are also used for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to Mintel, many purple coloured products are being marketed as superfoods because of their antioxidant content.

The rise of social media also has provided an opportunity for suppliers of natural colours to engage with end consumers, who were previously out of reach for most ingredient companies. This direct communication with consumers can provide important insights into colour preferences in different demographics and regions, and among different food categories.

On a global basis, natural colours overtook synthetic ones in value terms back in 2012, and the natural colour palette has expanded rapidly. Yellows, oranges and reds proved relatively easy to produce naturally, but other colours – including bright purples – took a little longer to develop. Now, companies offer a whole spectrum of vibrant, naturally sourced colours.

According to Food Market Insights, Europe is the world’s largest market for natural colours, but demand is still growing rapidly in other parts of the world, particularly in North America and the Asia Pacific region, meaning there is still a great deal of potential for further growth.

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