Growth of Natural Food Colors

number of global food and beverages launches“Bold” and “natural” in the same sentence are the new way to describe food colors. Europe has been laying the groundwork for this movement for years, and with consumers’ demand for clean labels and simple ingredients this combination is spreading to other countries and becoming more mainstream. According to Innova Market Insights, there has been a 15.2 percent rise in compound annual growth rate in global food and beverage launches with natural food colors from 2012 to 2016.1 Kalsec® will continue to monitor this trend as more companies realize the importance of clean labels and capabilities of natural colors.

One driver of this natural food color trend is the craft food movement supported by the ease for small businesses to gain awareness through social media. As more artisan businesses enter the spotlight, the more it feeds the trend for craft foods. With the right images full of bold and vibrant colors, these smaller businesses can go viral and gain attraction. They maintain appeal to millennials by using and discussing clean label ingredients.

The Instagram Era of Clean Label

The "Instagram" affect on food trendsAttractive and visually appealing food is something people want to share. This trend is driven more by the attention-grabbing impact of the photos themselves. The challenge for food producers is to provide photo-worthy products with clean label ingredients. In an age of Instagram-worthy food, how do companies keep up with the vivid trends like #rainbowbagel and #unicornfood?

Staying on top of today’s quickly evolving trends requires an awareness of the activity on multiple social media channels. In regards to foods that made a visual impact, photos of freakshakes (over-the-top milkshake creations), rainbow-hued dishes (covering everything from bagels to beverages) and uniquely colored or beautifully designed confectionery or cake products capture attention. Like the unicorn theme, viral trends often begin at a grassroots or blogger level.2

Vibrant Natural Colors

In our 2018 Food Trend Predictions, Kalsec® predicted that 2018 will be year of bold and bright natural food colors. Tapping into this trend will attract consumers while keeping a clean label product that is eye-catching. Natural colors support other industry trends as well; for example, red colors for hot and spicy flavor trends.

Purple Color Trend

Purple food is trending from grocery store shelves to ethnic menus.3 Ube, or purple yam, is one of the top trends for 2018 and has been deemed the “it” ingredient for recipes right now.4 It is often used in Filipino cuisine and supports the purple food craze.

For food processors, natural color sources such as blending natural reds and blues can help achieve stable purple hues for many applications.

purple food trends

Sweet Heat Flavor Trend

Mixing sweetness with a touch of spiciness is a trend that is on the rise. As the official color of “spiciness,” bold red colors can help sell the flavor.

There are many stable and attractive options available in the yellow to red color space. Turmeric provides a nearly neon yellow hue in most applications. Paprika and carrot offer vibrant orange and yellow-orange colors for food products and beet and anthocyanins create beautiful red hues. These also fall into the “natural colors of food” space.
sweet heat flavor trend bold red colors

Global Blue Color Trends

Spirulina and gardenia provide bright blue hues that are popular for use in confectionery, beverages and cereals. This blue food color sourced from nature has gained traction over the past year, although regulatory approval for natural blue colors and sources varies by country. An example of this bold blue color trend is unicorn ramen showing up on the menu at Tokyo’s Kipposhi ramen restaurant, which is ramen with a bright blue broth.5

Naturally sourced colors are part of a larger movement in which consumers desire recognizable ingredients. The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2017 Food and Health Survey asked respondents how they defined a healthy eating style. 40 percent listed limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives among their top three selections.6
natural blue colors from spirulina and gardenia

Plant-Based Ingredient Trend

The move to more natural ingredients is always a factor for food manufacturers. As plant-based and botanical trends grow, replacing synthetic food colors with vibrant naturally-sourced plant extracts is the simplest way to offer a clean label. Since color is one of the first qualities that consumers notice in a food item, it is arguably one of the most important aspects when it comes to improving a label.
plant based ingredient trend

Increase in Demand

Whether it is to keep up with colorful Instagram images or to support other food trends while meeting consumer demands for clean label, natural colors that pop are definitely increasing in demand. Kalsec® continuously monitors these trends to stay up-to-date on opportunities for innovation and works with customers to find the best natural color for their products.

Clean Label Trends

  1. Innova Market Insights (2018, January 2). Food Colors – Bright NPD Future Ahead. Retrieved from
  2. Mermaid Toast Is The New Most Instagrammable Thing On The Internet. (2017, March 8). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from
  3. Purple vegetables predicted to be a hot food trend next year. (2017, December 27). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from
  4. M. K. (2017, December 21). Top 10 flavors to watch in 2018. Retrieved from
  5. C. O. (2017, June 22). Even Ramen Is Getting the Unicorn Treatment. Retrieved from
  6. J. G. (2017, August 21). Spirulina may simplify quest for naturally sourced colors. Retrieved from
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