When you walk down the aisles of your local grocery store, there’s a good chance you’ll see a parent or two scrupulously reading packaging for buzzwords, like healthy, organic and natural — the list goes on. Maybe you’re one of those parents.
When making food decisions for your family, you might be looking for healthy, delicious options that your children will want to eat. Notorious for being picky eaters, however, kids won’t eat something unless it looks good. So, you must add one more element to your shopping criteria: visual appeal — namely coloring.
Yogurt needs to have a pretty pastel hue. Fruit juices need to have sweet shades. And each cereal flake needs to look as inviting as the box promises — like more than, well, just oats. The big question: How can this happen naturally?
“Natural colors are derived from all the active ingredients responsible for colors found in nature, like plants, fruits and vegetables,” says Tammi Higgins, Natural Colors Commercial Development Manager at FMC. “They’re used in food and beverages as an alternative to artificial colors made from coal tar and petroleum. Nature is able to provide bright and vivid colors in every shade of the rainbow.”
Think of grapes and red beets — likely items in your fridge.
Anthocyanins, derived from grapes and other fruits and vegetables, impart vivid pink to red to purple hues in a wide range of foods, including fruit chews and fruit-based beverages. And the beetroot helps intensify the color of tomato paste or achieve that familiar red in red velvet cake.
Annatto is also one of those beautiful color sources found in nature. It is the seed of the tropical bush Bixa Orellana — known as the lipstick tree — which is a plant native to Central and South America. In addition to being used as a spice in traditional cooking, annatto seeds can deliver a bright yellow to orange color, a hallmark of macaroni and cheese — a perennial family favorite.
Foods with natural coloring offer a cleaner label with recognizable, non-chemical ingredients. Natural colors are derived from sustainable sources and adhere to vegan, Halal and Kosher standards. They can even be certified organic.
So, as you comb the grocery aisles for healthy alternatives for your family — or the occasional candy-coated chocolate treat — look for foods enhanced with colors from nature. Remember, anytime something is added to food, like a natural color to enhance its hue or salt, to preserve it, it’s considered an additive. But when that additive comes from Mother
Nature, you can feel confident that you’re making a smart choice.