Colours in nature

Had some very nice aged Gouda that I picked up at Schiphol last week when visiting the colouring foods fields of the Netherlands and Germany. This is not my first carrot field, to paraphrase a saying, but it does go to show that the trend towards natural food colourings and flavours continues to accelerate, as more crops are grown to serve this market, which covers food, beverages and confectionery.

What I find fascinating, and what I’ve had to explain to more than one person who wonders why a dairy editor is wandering around inspecting black carrots and pumpkin chunks, is how natural doesn’t always mean exactly what it is. Not in a bad way, of course. The issue with green plants is that they turn brown almost immediately after cutting, and certain foods leak or turn off colours when introduced into dairy yogurts, say. Your deep red raspberry turns grey and unappealing. So, colouring foods. Making the most of nature and making the products look as the consumer expects, and very attractive in this Instagram-focused world.

In fact, I was consuming some squiggly jelly worms last night, and was amused to see the list of safflower, carrot, spirulina and pumpkin on the label. I’m a big fan of jelly-type sweets and these were vegetarian friendly. It’s a win-win on the marketing front.

I think that is part of the key issue for colouring foods. They are foods, and ones that we recognise. We all know what a carrot is, and to have it on the label is reassurance that the lovely purple colour comes from natural sources. It may not be the one you expect, but I think it will be the one that delights with its appearance. I also turned the quinces I collected from the company’s tree into membrillo. Just in time for the holidays.

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