The colour of money

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The colour of money
The market continues to shift from synthetics to naturals, but the biggest growth will be in the use of colouring foodstuffs, predicts RTS Resource

The European market for natural, nature-identical and synthetic colours in food and drink (excluding colouring foodstuffs and caramel colouring colours) is worth €361M with volume usage totalling 6,307t, according to RTS (EU refers to the 15 original members of the EU).

The largest markets are the UK, at euro 75M, closely followed by Germany, France, Italy and Spain (see pie chart, right). Europe's slow growing food market together with manufacturers' increasing avoidance of colours have had an effect on total volume growth, which currently stands at around 0.9% per year.

Spain is the fastest growing market in terms of colours usage, followed by Portugal, Belgium, Ireland and Denmark although even these are not particularly high growth rates, given the above factors. Meanwhile, growth in France, Germany and the UK is low or even in decline.

By sector, soft drinks dominate colours usage (euro 75M), followed by confectionery and meat and savoury products. However, usage in soft drinks is in slight decline.

In contrast, the use of colours in cereals and cereal bars has increased. Not only have these markets grown but so too has the proportion of added value and children's breakfast cereals. The bakery segment has also performed relatively well with regards to demand for colours.

The 'Southampton Six'

Colours help to keep foods looking fresh throughout their shelf-life or during processing, but recent events have heightened pressure on companies to choose natural alternatives to synthetic colours. However, synthetics remain in demand in areas where viable alternatives have yet to be developed.

Perhaps the most influential event affecting attitudes to synthetic colours in the last 18 months has been the University of Southampton study, which suggested that certain mixes of food colours (Sunset yellow-E110, Quinoline yellow-E104, Carmoisine-E122, Allura red-E129, Tartrazine-E102, Ponceau 4R-E124) with the preservative sodium benzoate could cause hyperactivity in children.

Despite the European Food Safety Authority's conclusion that changing acceptable daily intakes of these colours was unnecessary, the UK Food Standards Agency pressed for regulatory action and the European Parliament has since agreed that all products using the 'Southampton six' must also state: 'May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.'

While some controversy remains around its findings, the Southampton study has encouraged many retailers and manufacturers to reformulate products containing the above colours. While this is not a new phenomenon in that many companies have been working for years to replace artificial colours, this study was significant in accelerating the process.


RTS forecasts show that growth in the colours market will continue to be low in the future. Usages in some segments will decline and, in others, become static. At the same time, there will be less opportunity to add value, given overall market conditions.

Although there will continue to be some movement from synthetic and nature identical colours (synthetic colours that are chemically identical to natural colours) to naturals, especially as more stable naturals are developed, more manufacturers will choose to use colouring foodstuffs (which are showing significant growth) or use no added colour at all

For details contact Jamie Rice on 01902 422282 See

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