In the online poll, researchers asked 506 US consumers whether they would be prepared to spend more on a product if it was made with natural flavorings and colors. In total, 88% said they would.
The group was then told that the average flavored milk beverage costs US$1.50 and they were asked how much they would be willing spend on a product if it was made with natural ingredients. On average, they said they would pay up to $2.20, which is 47% more.
The survey also found respondents preferred the appearance of natural colors even when they were not told they were natural.
Tests on colors
Respondents were asked to express their perceptions of naturalness when presented with two flavored milk drinks formulated with Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red natural colors and another made with Red 3, an artificial colorant. They were not informed which was which, and were asked to rate them on a 10 point scale in which 0 was ‘not at all natural’ and 10 was ‘extremely natural.’
Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red RP performed best, with consumers rating it the most natural looking. It was followed by Tomat-O-Red R, which was developed for products that contain oil and fat. The artificial colorant, Red 3, was ranked third most natural looking.
Christiane Lippert, head of marketing (food) at Lycored, said that the research shows food and beverage manufacturers that using natural ingredients in formulations will resonate with shoppers and enable them to charge more for products.
Studies on UHT
In tandem with its consumer research, Lycored ran a trial to establish the stability of its natural colors following UHT processing, which is commonly used in the manufacturing of flavored milks.
Lycored used two different UHT process technologies to make strawberry flavored milk drinks: direct injection and tubular.
Subsequently, the beverages were subjected to accelerated shelf life tests. In each case, it was observed that the products made with Tomat-O-Red RP and Tomat-O-Red R exhibited color stability, with no variation visible to the naked eye.
Lycored said that, by contrast, the color of the flavored milk made with Red 3 varied from day zero onwards.
No variation after exposure
The company also evaluated the performance of its colors in other tests that replicated possible conditions during transportation, storage and while on sale in-store.
The UHT strawberry milk drinks were exposed for extended periods to 24/7 light (6,000 lux), ambient temperatures of 25°C-40°C (in normal day/night light patterns), and continual incubation at 40°C (in the dark).
In all cases, Lycored says that there was little or no variation in the products using Tomat-O-Red coloring, while the flavored milks made with Red 3 displayed marked variations.
Tammi Higgins, head of colorants at Lycored, said that color stability is a priority for food and beverage manufacturers.
“This eliminates the need for expensive chilled storage and transportation, and reduces wastage. Most importantly, it means brands can be certain that their products will be enjoyed by the end-consumer exactly as they intended,” Higgins said.