Demand for natural colors is growing, with 62% of consumers saying they avoid artificial coloring in foods and beverages, according to ADM Outside Voice℠. Plus, colors derived from fruits, vegetables and other natural sources appeal to shoppers scanning labels for vegan, organic, kosher, halal, non-GMO and other clean and clear attributes. On top of that, consumers intuitively link specific flavors and colors to emotions and memories, developing perceptions of products based on how they look, smell or taste. According to ADM research, consumers strongly associate blue and purple products with rest and relaxation. Blue can also signal fun and energy, especially when linked to cotton candy, fruit punch and blue raspberry flavors.

Colors derived from natural sources like botanicals, vegetables and fruit juices can elevate baked goods with a rainbow of beautiful and appetizing shades. They can also draw in consumers scrutinizing product labels for recognizable and “closer-to-nature” ingredients. However, there are obstacles that bakers may face when incorporating natural colors into their formulations. Starting with high-quality colors derived from natural sources that are also backed by cutting-edge technology and formulation expertise is a first step.

For example, the industry has long been challenged to find an acid-stable blue color from natural sources. This limited possibilities for blue foods and beverages, but also limited other shades that rely on blue as a primary color, including purples, browns and greens. ADM’s patented fruit juice blue solves this issue, delivering vibrant, acid-, light- and heat-stable, blue-based colors derived from the sustainably sourced Amazonian huito fruit. Our blue is easy to use, as it’s water soluble, available in liquid and powder form, and has an odorless, clean taste.

Another challenge within the bakery category is sourcing a brilliant white coloring with clean label appeal. Whites can brighten up batters and doughs made with alternative flours that may cause discoloration. Pure whites are also desired for icings, fillings, fondants, glazes, coatings and decorative candies. Existing color technologies can be less vibrant, stable and consistent than desired. That’s why ADM has introduced PearlEdge™, a new line of products that delivers crisp white hues, leveraging patent-pending technology and proprietary processes.

Blue, white and a full spectrum of ADM’s Colors from Nature® are available to help brands match and replace artificial options or innovate to drive product differentiation. We understand how important color is to the formulation process, and our team of experts can help bakeries maximize visual appeal, quality and labels to deliver on consumer demand.

Consumer preferences

Consumers are hungry for playful and eye-catching baked goods, and brands must take this into consideration while also meeting shoppers’ demands for clean label claims. Unique colors, flavors and presentations often inspire consumers to post photos on social media, including 55% of Gen Z shoppers.

Blue hues are increasingly popular, because consumers may associate them with products formulated to support sleep, relaxation and mood1. Warmer blue tones, like Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year, Very Peri, are infused with excitement and fun, pairing well with kid-friendly bakes and energizing sweets. From cupcakes and macarons to nutrition bars and muffins, blue coloring can signal flavors of berries, bubble gum and botanicals. Picture a lavender lemon cake beautifully decorated with indigo galaxy icing, a violet-tinted doughnut with passionfruit curd, or a mixed berry protein bar drizzled in dark chocolate.

Baked goods deserve a lovely appearance that complements their decadent flavors. However, the impact certain natural colors can have during the formulation process is often overlooked, which can cause last-minute issues. Within the snack and bakery categories, chromophore intensity and stability can be affected by high temperatures during baking. Heat can cause pH levels in baked goods to shift higher, which can affect the appearance of natural colors in the finished product. Certain colors may even bleed or create stains. Additional color-related challenges can include issues with color interactions, solubility needs, processing conditions, shelf life, packaging, taste and cost.

At ADM, our latest proprietary and patented micronization and emulsion technologies help product developers solve for a variety of formulation challenges. For instance, our micronization technology is a perfect fit for seasoning mixes used in baked snack applications, delivering a bright, clean and even top coating.

Our micronized Colors from Nature platform has suburb plating characteristics. Micronization technology also stops colors from streaking so powdered offerings like cake mixes are more uniform. Micronization technology is also available in liquid- or oil-soluble forms, and we cover the full rainbow. Emulsion technology helps improve performance in fat and oil-based applications like frosting, providing stability, ease-of-use and eliminating staining of the packaging and manufacturing equipment while also improving taste and texture.

To ensure the formulation and baking process won’t affect flavor of the final product, we apply our patented extraction technology to create gorgeous colors derived from natural sources that are also neutral in flavor. For example, we can source vibrant pink, red and purple shades from anthocyanins in red radish and red cabbage, as well as oranges from paprika and blue tints from spirulina, all with clean flavor and minimal off notes. Furthermore, our extraction technology can remove specific parts of the color source, such as starches, sugars or proteins, to produce a true hue that stands up to the baking process. We don’t just provide natural colors; we also assure they will work within the application formulation for an optimized finished product.

Having the right formulation and technical partners is critical to enhance visual and taste appeal so baked treats and snacks will capture and hold consumer attention. Beyond our color portfolio, ADM offers the latest tools and technologies, formulation expertise, a vast pantry of ingredients and a cross-functional creative team to help customers bring their ideas to life.