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Nielsen poll indicates global preference for natural food colours

By Jane Byrne , 06-Oct-2011

Consumers globally prefer natural over artificial colours, claims a survey of 5,000 respondents in 10 countries worldwide that Chr. Hansen commissioned from consumer research group Nielsen.

The poll found that 86% or participants said that they pay attention to news stories regarding the use of artificial over natural colours in foods; 92% answer that they are concerned about artificial colours; 88% state that natural colours add value to food and beverages; and 78% are willing to pay a premium price for foods with natural colours.

The survey was conducted among consumers in USA, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France, Poland, Russia, India, China and Australia in May and June 2011. A total of 5,000 consumers were involved in the research via online omnibus; 500 consumers from each market and among them, 50 from each target group defined by age and gender, said Chr. Hansen.

'Statistically sound' results

“We asked Nielsen to poll a representative sample of each country’s population. The researchers confirmed that the results are statistically sound,” said Peter Thorninger, VP, commercial development, natural colours at Chr. Hansen.

He told FoodNavigator.com that the key learnings of the survey for the firm and for our brand owner customer base is that it is not only about finding the right technical solution when using natural colours but also realising that there is great value in effective communication around a brand’s switch to natural with consumers.

“There is a risk involved in using alternatives to synthetics - primarily there is the extra cost - so, in that sense, these results are very encouraging,” commented Thorninger.

Drilling down in the survey results, 60% of Chinese consumers said that they are “very concerned” about synthetic colors in food and beverages. This finding was not that surprising, said the Chr. Hansen spokesperson, given the level of awareness over safety and food and drink manufacturer in that country, on the back of numerous scares.

He notes considerable demand for natural colours in Asia overall, as well as in South American markets, with the switch led, in the main, by the multinationals active in those regions.

Red, orange and yellow dominate

But Thorninger estimates that only 20% of global food and beverage colour usage is natural so he claims there is plenty of room for further market penetration. He added that a lot of innovation focus is on the red, yellow and orange hues, with those particular colours, added Thorninger, constituting two-thirds of the natural market.

The trend towards increased usage of natural food colours at the expense of synthetic types has been most pronounced in industries such as soft drinks and confectionery, where children represent a sizeable target audience and parental concern over artificial additives and their alleged effects is therefore high.

Natural growth

The world market for natural colours has increased by more than 29% in value terms since 2006, with annual growth levels having hovered around the double-digit mark until very recently, reports Leatherhead Food International (LFI).

During this time, the share of the global food colours market taken by natural varieties increased from around 33% in 2006 to 37.2% in 2010, according to LFI data.

“The natural colours market remains one of the best performing sectors within the world market for additives and ingredients, due to the strong interest in natural colours, and the well-publicised concerns over the use of some synthetic colours,” claimed Leatherhead in a report last month.

This year alone has seen Chr. Hansen upgrade its manufacturing facilities in Denmark and Peru, in response to the growing world demand for natural colours.

In recent years, the company has been focusing upon developing natural colours for yoghurts, confectionery and soft drinks. Some of its more recent launches have included a new hibiscus extract with a bright red shade, as well as CapColors, a range a range of food colours available in White, Yellow, Black and Green varieties.

Speaking about the lastest natural colour innovation to come out of Chr. Hansen, Thorninger revealed that the Danish group will be releasing more stable anthocyanins for use in beverages at the FiE trade show next month.

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