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Alternatives to synthetic colours


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Many Clean Label products are made without artificial colourings or colourings according to the Ordinance on Additives (E-numbers) – therefore, natural alternatives are used. Which are they?

They come from sources such as fruits, vegetables and edible plants. Colour, which occurs in some plants, must be carefully extracted or dispersed due to their oil-soluble properties. Many colourings found in fruits and vegetables can be readily extracted by simple techniques because their pigments are water-soluble.

We give you an overview of the most important colouring options of Clean Label food and beverages:

Alternatives to synthetic colours

Natural red colourings


Beet roots contain the water-soluble pigment betanin. It is sensitive to light and heat to a certain extent and the colour depends on the pH, so in the strong acid it is more bluish violet and turns red at pH-4. In relation to protein, it behaves rather neutral, so that it is particularly well suited for dairy products but also, for example, beer mix drinks.


This red occurs in vegetables and fruits containing the pigment group anthocyanins. It is water-soluble and displays a variety of colours, including orange, red and blue, all depending on the pH.

Anthocyanins may be red under acidic conditions, such as a fruity-flavoured jelly gum. However, when the same colouring is used in milk or grain, it becomes bluer. The main food applications for anthocyanins are beverages, fruit preparations, confectionery and water ice.

As they belong to the group of tannins or polyphenols, they tend to reactions with proteins and are only conditionally suitable for foods containing these in larger quantities.

The colour and stability of anthocyanins depends on the plant's origin. For example, fruits such as sour cherry, aronia, elderberry and black currant give a beautiful, reddish colour shade. However, the extracted colour is sensitive to oxygen and may tend to turn brown over time. Vegetables such as black carrots and red radish are more stable. Vegetables such as cabbage, black carrot and sweet potato give a red-violet nuance.

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Natural yellow & orange colourings

Many foods are yellow and orange in colour, whereby the colour may come from different raw materials.


From the safflower, also Carthamus, an extract is obtained which contains the water-soluble, yellow colouring Carthamidin.


Beta-carotene is the pigment that naturally yellow and orange carrots contain, as well as mango and oranges.

A juice concentrate of the yellow and orange carrots can be used as a colouring ingredient, e.g. for confectionery, bakery and beverages.

Natural brown colourings


Like anthocyanins, flavanoids are polyphenols that are found in many plants, but in contrast to these, they are more in the brown to beige spectrum. They are contained in fruit juices from apple, pears or dates, but also in many teas.


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Thomas HoldenriedAuthor

Expert of Regulatory Affairs and Innovation


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