Insights

Say Hello to a New Yellow

Yellow is a happy colour.

For artists, it signifies sunshine, radiance and glow. Psychologists indicate that yellow radiates warmth and energy, while in medical science, it is considered the most noticeable among all colours by the human eye.

No wonder then that yellow has a prominent position in our foods and beverages.

However, while abundant in nature in fruits and flowers, yellow colour in food is mostly imparted by artificial food colours, which in turn, are derivatives of petroleum and coal tar. Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, fondly called by the food technologists as Tartrazine and Sunset Yellow respectively, constitute lion’s share of artificial yellow colours (or dyes) used in foods and beverages. It is estimated that nearly 15% of all new products that were launched in South Asia and the GCC during 2017 and 2018, across sweet food and beverage categories contained artificial yellow food dyes. Food packaging labels denote these as E102, E110, etc. In addition to foods, these dyes are also used in cosmetics and fabrics.

Consumers choosing Natural ingredients over Synthetic

Artificial ingredients in foods, including colours, are increasingly being monitored for their impact on consumer health. Various studies are being conducted around the world to assess the health hazards of synthetic colours used in foods. The most prominent among these was a 2007 study, funded by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and conducted at the University of Southampton. The study reportedly linked six synthetic dyes, collectively called ‘Southampton Six’, to Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD) in children. Although the findings of this study are still being debated in the industry circles, regulatory bodies in several countries around the world, like the USA, Norway, UK, Austria, and mostly recently, UAE, have imposed strict regulations on the use of certain synthetic colours in food. Regulations include prohibition of certain dyes, or use of necessary warnings and cautionary statements on the packages of products containing any of these colours.

Whether research findings favour the use synthetic dyes or not, consumers are increasingly growing wary of artificial ingredients in food, and particularly of artificial food colours.

A New Yellow from Natural Sources

There are several alternatives to synthetic food colours available today that are obtained from natural sources. Some of these are natural functional pigments like curcumin (from turmeric), lutein and lutein esters (from marigold), carthamine (from safflower), beta-carotene (from carrots), and bixine (from Annatto seeds).

Although all of them impart yellow hues in general, the suitability and intensity of each in different applications vary depending on the technical characteristic of these pigments and the end-product recipes. For instance, while curcumin performs well in dairy and beverage applications, bixine works best in cheese. Similarly, beta-carotene is highly versatile and suitable for use across applications while lutein is best suited for feed applications.

In addition to imparting the desired colour, most of these pigments are also known to have several health benefits. Curcumin, which has traditionally been used as a key ingredient in the South Asian cuisine, is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Lutein is known to improve vision and carthamine is known to promote skin health.

Some of the challenges that were conventionally associated with natural yellow pigments were low light stability, solubility and inconsistent heat stability. However, with advanced extraction technologies and compounding techniques, and in-depth understanding of end-product chemistries and formulations, most of these challenges have been addressed, providing the much-needed confidence to the food and beverage developers to shift from artificial colours to the natural alternatives.

Thus, with performance from natural colouring solutions more or less at par with the synthetic food dyes, and the rising pressure from consumers and regulatory bodies to use more of natural ingredients, time is ripe for consumer-centric food and beverage manufacturers to shift to curcumin, lutein and other natural colouring solutions from the conventional tartrazine and sunset yellow dyes.

Designed using the finest raw materials, carefully chosen for their farm level traceability and health benefits, Symega offers an infinite range of natural yellow colour solutions for application in gourmet as well as regular food and beverage applications. To know more about Symega’s range of natural colour solutions, please reach out to us.

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