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Natural Colors for Chocolate

(This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

Estimates may vary, but the size of the global natural food colors market is growing. Many customers and guests request items that can claim ‘free from artificial colors and ingredients’. For chefs and chocolatiers using natural colors instead of conventional colors in chocolate, these materials must be sourced and handled differently.

Intellectually, it makes sense to use the best quality natural colors in our work. Chefs and chocolatiers spend countless hours locating superior producers and best quality ingredients in every category. Expecting the same results from different materials can lead to complications. Many synthetic and artificial colors can achieve strong color results. These are traditionally used as food colorants. Sourcing natural food colorants that can achieve similar results can be a challenge.

Bastest chocolate truffle. (Photo Vosges Haut Chocolate)

What exactly is a food colorant? In the United States, the FDA refers to them as color additives. A color additive is a dye, pigment, or other substance made by a process of synthesis or similar means or extracted, isolated, or otherwise derived, with or without intermediate or final change of identity, from vegetable, animal, or other sources, that when added to a food imparts color to it.

Food coloring chemicals fall generally into three categories: synthetic organic compounds (which are the FD&C) colors), mineral or synthetic inorganic colors (like iron oxide), and natural coloring from vegetables or animals (vegetable and fruit juices, or color extracts). We are primarily focused on the latter category, and more specifically those colors made from vegetables and fruits. One company leading the natural color charge worldwide is GNT, originating in Mierlo, Netherlands. GNT markets natural foods for coloring under the brand name EXBERRY. Unlike color additives and artificial colors, which are chemically synthesized, coloring foods come from edible raw materials and have not undergone any chemical processes. The company utilizes physical processes such as pressing, chopping, filtering, and concentrating to extract colors from raw fruits and vegetable materials such as spirulina, turmeric, beets and berries. For more information on GNT and EXBERRY colors, visit https://exberry.com/.

Cleopatra blue truffle. (Photo Vosges Haut) Chocolate.

Vosges Haut Chocolat is an innovator in creating a high quality, luxury chocolate experience for its customers. Vosges has been using natural colors, including GNT EXBERRY, for several seasons with superlative results. Their latest collections for Valentines and Spring feature vivid colors combining white chocolate, cocoa butter and natural colorants. The visuals created are stunning and an example of what can be achieved working with clean label colorants. For more examples of superior ingredients and natural colors in chocolate, visit https://www.vosgeschocolate.com/collections.

For chefs and chocolatiers looking for a finished solution in natural colors, Chef Rubber has an impressive array of color options. They offer pre-mixed cocoa butter colors including their iridescent Pearl and ultra-vibrant Zen collections. For more information on Chef Rubber natural colorants, visit https://chefrubber.com/catalogs/.

Yellow and gold chocolate triangle. (Photo Vosges Haut Chocolate.)

It is encouraging to see professional quality natural food colorants from dependable sources. As long as guests and consumers continue to drive the trend towards a cleaner label, it is up to professionals to use natural food colorants in our products. I encourage you to embrace the future of food colorants the next time you create a new chocolate line or dessert item. By continuing to stay ahead of the curve on clean label trends, we should be confident we will grow with our guests and customers.

Jimmy MacMillan
Jimmy MacMillan
Jimmy MacMillan is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer, and award-winning videographer. Working under the label Pastry Virtuosity, his mission is to inspire and nurture pastry chefs and sweet businesses one project at a time. For more information, visit: www.pastryvirtuosity.com.