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Natural Color Benefits and Alternatives for Replacing RED DYE 3

November 13, 2023

Why is Color So Important?

Color makes up to 90% of our food choices (Impact of color on marketing 2006). Imagine your favorite candy you loved as a child. Now imagine opening the bag and reaching in to pull out a similar looking candy but in a different color. You may be confused and ask yourself “has my candy gone bad? Will it taste the same? WHAT did they change?”. We want the same experience we have come to know and love – we really care about color. So when rules and regulations are put into play banning artificial colors like red dye 3 in California USA which make up to 5% of all food produced in the US this can cause a bit of a stir.

Natural Colors vs. Artificial Colors:

And with the world trending more towards cleaner label and natural ingredients natural colors are gaining popularity. The US may ban a certain artificial color while Europe has warning labels for products including artificial colors. As the market is trending “natural” it is important to know what your options are and how we at IFF can help.

With over thirty years in the color business we use our expertise product portfolio of natural colors and IFF PRODUCT DESIGN™ approach to not only bring you solutions with the perfect shade but options that taste great and can add other functional benefits to your product.

When talking natural colors it is important to note that your starting product can affect the color of the finished product. It is easiest to think of your starting product like milk as the canvas and the natural colors as the paint. If you paint a white or light-colored canvas like milk with green paint the shade of paint will be bright and light. If you paint a dark canvas like a chocolate candy with the same green paint the outcome will be much darker. This can make matching natural colors exactly to artificial dyes a bit difficult but we are here with the solutions and expertise to work through these challenges together. Another challenge with natural colors versus artificial colors is that artificial colors can be tricky to replace as all natural color types have specificities and there is no universal replacer for colors.



About: Carmine groups a family of bright and stable red hues extracted from the cochineal insect that can be used in multiple customized formulations and diverse applications. As one of the top three global leaders we are vertically integrated and have partnerships with farmers to secure volumes and timely availability. Given our participation in the whole value chain we have deep knowledge in this pigment – its’ positives and challenges.

Pros: Carmines provide excellent color match and are great for bakery meat dairy and confectionery use because they are not affected by temperature and light – making them the most stable natural color alternative.

Important to Note: As Carmines are extracted from insects they are not vegan or kosher and cannot be used in foods with vegan or kosher label claims. They are limited in acid base making their use limited in beverages.


About: We use the juice from red beets under multiple forms with excellent color matching capabilities. For example red beet powder is great for snacks seasonings confectionery powder drinks and more – while oil soluble versions are excellent options for frostings fat fillings and white chocolate-based coatings and decorations.

Pros: Red beet has excellent color-matching capabilities and can adapt to different shades of red and pink making it a great choice for plant-based meat products as well as confectionery.

Important to Note: Red beet is not very heat stable in its’ standard form but with our antioxidants and formulation capabilities we can help stabilize in extreme temperatures and harsh lighting.


About: We have anthocyanins which are extracted from fruits and vegetables with a wide range of red pink and purple shades.

Pros: The way we at IFF transform this pigment makes the color brighter for longer causing it to be a great option for confectionery and beverage products.

Important to Note:  Because it needs acid for stability anthocyanins perform best in confectionery and beverages and can be limited in other applications.

Let the Color Experts Help You:

There is not a single alternative to RED 3 or any artificial color but there are many options. The choice should be made case by case based on the recipe processing and packaging of your product. With IFF a dedicated color house as your partner we are here to provide support and guide you to the best choice no matter the restrictions or challenges you face. Contact your account manager or reach out to us here to learn more.

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