The natural food coloring market has been on the rise with the expectation to be a $14 billion market in 2028. And what’s the driving force behind this industry: conscious consumers. People want products with clean and simple ingredients for themselves and their families. So, they’ll study labels. Is it plant-based? Non-GMO? Made with natural colors?
Natural food colorings have been around for centuries. Our ancestors would use strained beet juice to add vibrant colors to their recipes. Today’s natural colorants are no different. They’re still derived from vegetables, fruits, and spices to mimic artificial colors. But, artificial colors have been linked to harmful health effects turning conscious buyers away.
In this blog, we’ll explain the best ways to use natural food colors.
Science Behind Plant-Derived Food Colorings
If you’ve experimented with baking or cooking before, then you know there is a science behind it. For instance, recipes listing baking soda/powder as an ingredient. If you forget it, your homemade banana bread is flat, dense, and not golden.
When sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) meets an acid like lemon juice, it creates carbon dioxide. This is what makes your sweet loaves fluffy, airy, and golden.
Just like banana bread, there’s a science behind natural food colorants. The hues pink and purple are a type of pigment called anthocyanins (an-thow-sai-a-nuhnz). Anthocyanins are water-soluble and they’re pretty sensitive to increases in pH levels. What does this mean?
Let’s circle back to baking soda in recipes. The production of carbon dioxide increases the pH levels of your mixture. And since anthocyanins have a low pH, it doesn’t react well to an increase. This means your red dough can turn purple, leading conscious bakers dissatisfied. But it’s important to understand your ingredients. And remember: plant-derived colors won’t always perform as well as their artificial counterparts.
But, it’s all about understanding your ingredients and knowing what to expect from plant-derived colors.
At Nature’s Flavors, we offer water-soluble and oil-soluble organic food colorings. When examining your ingredients, you can ask yourself which kind of coloring to use. Does your recipe have a high-fat content, like butter? If it does, then an oil-soluble natural food coloring would be better. If there is a relatively low-fat content, a water-soluble coloring could be your answer.
Let’s talk about the other elements that can potentially alter the color of your final recipe.
Taste and Heat-Stability
Plant-based food colorings sourced from hibiscus and beets can leave some flavor in your recipe. Especially, if you’re adding a lot more natural food coloring to achieve the same artificial bright hue. But, if you know your ingredients and understand their chemical reactions, you won’t need to go heavy on the color to get the results you want. Thereby, avoiding a strong beet taste.
Typically, natural food colorings won’t give you the same bold colors once they undergo a rise in pH levels and heat. Remember, it’s about the quality of ingredients than the brightness of your cupcake frosting.
Best Tips for Using Natural Food Colorings
Here are some tips to get the most out of natural food colorings.
If you’re baking with them, know your ingredients and the base of your dough. Also, once natural colors undergo heat their colors will fade or alter. Instead, try baking at a lower temperature for a longer time. But, there are some colors that can withstand heat like yellow, brown, and orange.
Natural food colorings pop the most in frostings, icings, ice creams, and other non-heat applications. You can even take your frosting game up a notch by adding our natural flavor extracts. Make a strawberry-flavored frosting with a natural tickled pink color!
If you like this post, check out 6 Ways to Use Natural & Organic Snow Cone Syrups