Natural colours sales overtake artificial colours for the first time

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th March 2013

Global sales of natural colours overtook sales of artificial or synthetic colours for the first time in 2011, according to new research from global market researcher Mintel and global food researcher Leatherhead Food Research.

In 2011, global sales of natural colours were almost US$600 million, up by almost 29 per cent on 2007, demonstrating an annual growth of more than 7 percent. The increase in sales means the overall food colours market share held by natural colours is up from 34 per cent in 2007 to nearly 39 per cent in 2011.

In contrast, growth in the artificial and synthetic colours market has slowed, with a sales increase of less than 4 per cent between 2007 and 2011. The share of the overall market held by artificial and synthetic colours was 37 per cent in 2011, down from 40 per cent in 2007.

“The results of the Southampton Six study has really accelerated the move toward natural colours in Europe, but other regions are also following suit as the consumer demand for more natural formulations builds and as key producers and retailers look to phase out artificial ingredients,” said Chris Brockman, Senior Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel.

The food industry alone accounts for a 70% share of the natural food colours market compared to 27% for soft drinks and just 3% for alcoholic beverages according to the Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research report.

The research also found that the use of natural colours in new launches of food and drinks outweighs the use of artificial and synthetic colours on a global basis by 2 to 1. Europe in particular has shown a strong migration towards use of more natural colours, overall using them in 85 per cent of new products between 2009 and 2011.


Food colours market overall

Overall, the global market for food colours was worth an estimated US$1.55 billion in 2011, which is a growth of 13 per cent from 2007. However, average annual growth levels are slowing overall. They are currently between 2 and 3 per cent, down from between 4 and 5 per cent average annual growth for most of the previous decade.

“Much of this slowdown in growth can be attributed to the global economic recession, and its subsequent effect on consumer expenditure on many sectors of the global food and drinks industry, as well as the continued decline in demand for artificial and synthetic food colourings,” said Brockman.

The report predicts that the trend toward greater use of natural colours will continue, especially within premium food and drink segments and in products positioned for children.

“The drive for natural food formulations will endure in the global food and drink industry as consumers continue to seek simplicity and purity in food and drink ingredients lists,” said Rachel Wilson, Principal Technical Advisor at Leatherhead Food Research.

The trend towards natural colours is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, she said.


Australian perspective

In Australia, food colouring has been an important issue for several years. Concerns about the levels of additives, in particular in food consumed by children, and their affect on human health have been regularly addressed by Food Standards Australian New Zealand (FSANZ) – most recently in June 2012, when the FSANZ released a report that reassured Australians parents that their children consume only low levels of food colouring.

Australia has been moving towards natural food colouring for several years. Australian Food News reported in 2009 that there was an increasing demand for natural food colouring in Australia.