Food coloring is in many of the foods and beverages we encounter every day. Though we may not realize it, food colors and additives are responsible for keeping our food looking and tasting the way we expect. Many of the foods we encounter every day would not have the vibrant color we are used to if food coloring wasn’t so typical. In fact, many foods would look completely different and nowhere near as appealing.

Natural food coloring

Natural food coloring is responsible for keeping our foods' appearance matching our expectations. As eating is a full sensory experience, we tend to avoid foods with a color that doesn’t reflect the taste or freshness we are looking for.

As a response to the trend of moving away from processed foods and ingredients, natural food coloring has become increasingly popular. Some of the natural colors we use today are the same as what people have used for centuries including:

  • Carotenoids

    Carotenoids, which are used mainly for their orange, red, and yellow colors, function as antioxidants in your body. They reduce free-radicals and help your eyes and skin, and lower your risk for cancer and other diseases. One of the most popular carotenoids is beta-carotene, which comes from sweet potatoes and pumpkins — it's often added to dairy products like margarine and cheese because it’s soluble in fat.

  • Chlorophyll

    It's in all green plants and algae and is essential for their photosynthetic processes. We owe the oxygen in our atmosphere to chlorophyll. Not only that, but it gives mint and lime-flavored foods like ice cream and candy the color we want.

  • Anthocyane

    Anthocyane sind organische Stoffe, die Früchten wie Blaubeeren, Preiselbeeren und Trauben ihre intensive rote, violette oder blaue Färbung verleihen. Sie sind als natürliche Farbstoffe sehr beliebt. Denn dank ihrer Wasserlöslichkeit sind Anthocyane – im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen natürlichen Farbstoffen – für die Verwendung mit besonders vielen verschiedenen Produkten geeignet. Wasserbasierte Produkte wie Softdrinks, Götterspeise, und sogar auch dunkle Mais-Chips erhalten ihre Färbung durch Anthocyane.

  • Turmeric

    It comes from the root of the turmeric plant that grows most abundantly in Southeast Asia and India, hence its association with some of that region's most popular foods. It's not only a favorite for its excellent flavor but the vibrant yellow color that it naturally imparts.

How food is colored

What defines a good food color? It all comes down to how well the coloring interacts with your product. This is how it works:

Your food coloring must dissolve evenly. Depending on your product, this may mean having a food dye that dissolves well with dairy products or in water. In either case, the color must react with its solute to break down into individual molecules — just like when you stir salt or sugar into a glass of water — it thoroughly mixes to form a homogenous solution.

Another characteristic of a quality food coloring is its ability to maintain its color when dissolved. Food color keeps its color in a solution — unlike other substances like salt or sugar — because its molecules require less energy to give off color. Food coloring absorbs lower-energy light to produce the visible colors we see with the naked eye.


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