FOOD MAKERS TRY
TO PAINT WITH NATURES PALETTE
Rising consumer concern over artificial ingredients
is prompting changes to packaged food
Food scientists at General Mills Inc. have spent years testing hundreds of combinations of fruits, vegetables and spices to replace the artificial food coloring in Trix. Still, they couldnt find matches for the neon-green or turquoise corn puffs in the multi-hued breakfast cereal. In consumer tests, Some people told us they hadnt seen that color turquoise in any food besides Trix, so we knew even if we could match it, it wouldnt look natural, said Kate Gallager, a cereal developer at General Mills. She decided to leave out both colors in the new cereal with natural colors and flavors launched in January. At the General Mills lab, researchers are responding to Americans' increasingly rejecting artificial flavorings, dyes and preservatives and demanding food with ingredients that they can find in their own pantry.
The phenomenon has roiled the food industry in recent years as reconstructing recipes, especially of packaged-food items, isn't a piece of cake. It requires consumer food companies to find acceptable alternatives and to manage any side effects, from higher costs to unintended changes to taste or texture that could risk alienating loyal consumers. The new environment is frustrating for some in the food industry after decades of technological advances to make packaged food cheaper, longer lasting and more flavorful.
A lot of consumers think they can just swap this for that, but it isnt as easy as it sounds, said David Garfield, head of the consumer products practice at consulting firm AlixPartners. As soon as you tinker with one thing, that affects another, and youre trying to keep everyone happy.
Candy maker Hershey Co. said last February that it would begin swapping out ingredients to create a simpler, shorter list of items that consumers recognize and trust. Some changes were relatively easy, like switching to cane sugar from genetically-modified beet sugar. But removing emulsifiers like polyglycerol polyricinoleate required adding more cocoa butter so that the chocolate would continue to flow into the molds properly. That increased cost and added trace amounts of fat. It is a little more complicated when youre not a corner chocolate shop, said Will Papa, Hersheys chief of research and development.
Colors offer varying levels of difficulty. Blue and green are among the most challenging colors to replicate because of the instability of similar colored fruit juices when exposed to heat or different acidity levels. Ferrara Candy Co. tried 50 different formulations over eight months to find colors from natural sources that worked in its gummy bears before settling on spirulina extract and carrot juice to get green and orange colors, said Jamie Mattikow, Ferraras chief commercial officer. Failed attempts made the gummy bears less gummy.
Kraft Heinz Co. was able to develop new coloring for its iconic macaroni and cheese using turmeric, paprika and annatto extract from seeds of achiote trees. Online reviews indicate consumers dont notice a change in flavor. But eliminating preservatives shortened the products shelf life to 8½ months from 10.
In years past, some efforts to go natural fell flat. John Ruff, former head of research and development at Kraft, recalls the company in the 1990s trying a version of Kool-Aid colored with natural sources. It was pulled because of poor sales.
Mr. Ruff says the fear of artificial dyes and other added ingredients lacks scientific basis. Consumers have been pushing for this, and the food industry hasnt done enough to push back and explain that these ingredients are just as safe, and in some cases safer, said Mr. Ruff, also a former president of the Institute of Food Technologists, a group that promotes food science. Sodium bicarbonate, for instance, may sound alarming, but it is just baking soda, he said.
In the past decade or so, a wave of consumer advocacy groups, food writers, bloggers and other critics have said these ingredientseven when approved by the Food and Drug Administrationare unhealthy or unsafe, fueling demands for simpler food. Sales of many mainstream brands that make products with artificial ingredients have suffered while those of smaller natural-food labels have grown. Large food companies are competing to respond.
General Mills made its pledge in June 2015 to cut artificial colors and flavors from its cereals by the end of 2017. Rival Kellogg Co. announced plans in August to remove synthetic food dyes from cereals such as Froot Loops and its Nutri-Grain bars by 2018, though it still relies on artificial food coloring called Red 40 and Yellow 6 for its Pop-Tarts.
For Trix, General Mills tested each potential new color by putting it in milk and cooking it in pancake batter. For a vibrant red, it tried tomatoes, but the taste was too strong. Beets turned dark purple when heated. Spinach stayed a nice green color in milk, but turned grayish olive when cooked. Other ingredients that passed those testslike strawberriesmade the corn-puff dough too watery. After dropping two colors, the new Trix cereal has purple, orange, yellow and deep-red puffs, and has 10 more calories per serving from the added fruit juices. It is about finding the right balance of getting the color we want without having to completely change the formula, Ms. Gallager said. We ate a ton of cereal.
Gasparro, Annie, http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-big-food-is-using-
natural- flavors-to-win-consumer-favor-1448989427, December 2, 2015
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Dye Easter eggs natural colors by using natural items. Chop fresh or dried materials into tiny pieces. Use non-aluminum containers. Boil each color separately using 1 gallon of water, ½ cup of vinegar (to set the color) and ½ to 1 cup of ingredients. Once boiled, dyes can be stored in the refrigerator for later use. Cook eggs before coloring them, but dont bring them to a rolling boil which can cause cracks in the shells.