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Flavours and colours.

Flavours and Colours

As health-related controversies continue to commandeer the headlines, significant challenges lie ahead in the nineties for those faced with the task of selecting food ingredients. With the issues of negative declarations and EC legislation superimposing upon UK practices, the colours business in particular has increasingly come under the legislative spotlight.

According to Overseal Foods, the suppliers of natural colours and part of the RHM Group, redoubled Government scrutiny regarding the safety of certain 'natural' colours places even greater onus on today's producers of food colours to ensure that colour systems meet legislative as well as commercial and technical performance criteria.

"Anticipation of relevant legal developments, alongside attention to market requirements, is an essential aspect of natural colours manufacture and one to which we are continually allocating greater resources", says Overseal Foods' managing director John Handley.

"Supplying natural colour formulations which perform well in both process testing and in finished products is only half the solution; the manufacturer requires advice on the legal status of a colour system as part of the package. When providing colours which will survive the legislative changes of the future is the question, responsibility for finding the answer lies as much with ourselves as with our customers."

As one of the earliest entrants into the natural colours field, Overseal Foods' claim to be the most informed adviser to the food industry on the consumer and legislative-driven factors affecting the use of natural colours is well founded. Since the company's inception in 1971, it has built its reputation on acknowledged strengths in technical services, whereby individual colour formulations can be developed confidentially and supplied in a wide range of application forms for customised use.

Based in the famous brewing region of Burton-on-Trent and employing 70 people on three sites, Overseal Foods was initially a yeast processing business but later diversified into food colours. By the early 1980's, the technical team was already working on natural colours to meet the legislative and commercial requirements of Scandinavian manufacturers. Since that time, demand for natural colours has grown markedly and, although it continues to supply dry yeast to the pharmaceutical and food industries and wet yeast to the majority of whisky distillers in Scotland, colours now account for some 80 percent of the company's turnover.

"Overseal's traditional strength has always been its technical service, which ensures reliability and consistency of performance of products," says UK sales manager Graham Jones. "We currently hold the largest share of the UK natural colours market and the fact that we can advise on the behaviourial properties of colours and formulate products to customers' specific processing requirements is now helping to fuel an upsurge in-demand for our products throughout Europe and Scandinavia."

Overseal's colours are derived mainly from fruits, spices and vegetables, including green leaf plants, grapes and beetroot. These can be used to colour a wide range of foodstuffs.

All colour formulations undergo rigorous process testing in the company's purpose-built applications laboratory so that colour stability and performance in customer recipes can be assessed. The laboratory is equipped with microwave and conventional ovens, a panning machine for coating tablets, an ice cream freezer and other processing machinery, a homogeniser and a range of analytical equipment.

Customers are kept informed at all stages by the technical services personnel, all of whom hold technical qualifications. "Our sales effort is structured very much around a strong technical base," says technical services manager Peter Rayner. "People come to us because of the technical information we can provide and our strength in this respect has greatly assisted us in accommodating increasing demand for our products.

"Colours, of course, have always played a key role in creating consumer appeal for food products. Today's consumers expect processed foods not only to be coloured attractively but to be presented in shades typical of their flavour variety, with a preference for 'natural-looking' foodstuffs clearly evident amid current pre-occupation with health-related issues. Nonetheless, the principle of using natural extracts to colour food and drinks possibly dates back as far as prehistoric times.

"References to turmeric, for example - used as a bright yellow colour for centuries - have been found in ancient Indian Vedic texts and it is listed in an Assyrian herbal recipe dating from about 600 BC. It is also mentioned by the Greek physician Dioscorides (AD 40-90) in his celebrated Material Medica and by Marco Polo in his memoirs of AD 1280.

"The Bixa Orellana tree, whence annatto is derived, was named after the conquistador Francisco de Orellana who first explored the Amazon River in 1541, whilst cochineal extract was given as a tribute to Montezuma the Aztec ruler!"

Beetroot red, chlorophylls and anthocyanins are just some of the other colours available from Overseal as natural alternatives to synthetic colours for achieving red, green and purple shades.

Extracted from red table beets (Beta vulgaris), the main colour components of beetroot red are betanin and vulgaxanthin. Colour is extracted by crushing and expressing the juice, which is then further concentrated.

Sensitivity to heat processing and oxygen, together with the water activity of the final product, are the major factors restricting the use of beetroot red in food coloration. The colour may not be held for long periods at high temperatures, although pasteurisation and UHT treatment can normally be applied if long cooling cycles are avoided. During storage, beetroot coloured products of low water activity will retain their colour better than those with higher levels of free water. Stability may also be affected by pH levels, with pH 4 to 6 being the optimum range.

Beetroot red, therefore, is most suitable for use in food products with short shelf life or low water activity products undergoing mild heat processing with limited exposure to air. Typical applications include dairy desserts, ice creams and dry mixes.

A component of the human diet since evolutionary times, chlorophylls are the green pigments present in organisms capable of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll (E140) is derived from grass, alfalfa and nettles. Extracts are supplied as oil and water-soluble natural chlorophyll or can be further processed to obtain the greener copper complexes (E141) and their water-soluble sodium or potassium derivatives.

Stability of the copper chlorophyll complexes is superior to that of the natural magnesium varieties in terms of both heat processing and light fastness. In the case of the water-soluble sodium copper chlorophyll, acid pH will cause precipitation, a problem which can be overcome by using specially prepared acid-resistant application forms.

Anthocyanins are derived from flowers, vegetables and the berries of red and purple fruits, with 20 out of a total of 225 known anthocyanins occurring naturally in black grapes. Available economically and in abundance, the skins of black grapes are the major commercial source of anthocyanins for use in foodstruffs. More expensive sources used commercially are blackcurrant, elderberry, grape juice and red cabbage.

In order to stay ahead of commercial and legislative factors governing natural food colours, Overseal invests heavily in the areas of sourcing and new product development. "Our development effort is geared very much towards current trends in the food and beverage market and to sourcing appropriate raw materials which will make our ingredients work commercially as well as technically in customer products," says technical manager Paul Collins.

"Over the last decade, major strides forward have been made in food ingredients technology and we have consistently remained at the forefront of technical advances with a far-reaching and continuous new product development programme."

Overseal's strategy of continuing to meet the ever-changing requirements of consumer markets is implicit in a major agreement the company has recently concluded with a leading European natural ingredients house.

Aromes de Bretagne is part of Societe de Proteines Industrielles (SPIK), the principal company within DIANA (Division des Ingredients Alimentaires Naturels), the natural food ingredients division of the French food and animal feeds giant Guyomarc'h. Under the agreement, Overseal assumes exclusive rights to market in the UK and Ireland a wide range of Aromes de Bretagne natural vegetable extracts in liquid form, together with a selection of liquid wine flavours for use primarily in soups, sauces and ready meals.

"We are actively seeking to broaden our service to customers and we see vegetable extracts as a natural extension to the range of value-added products we currently offer," says Mr Jones. "Our agreement with Aromes de Bretagne, which results from a thorough analysis of anticipated consumer trends in the 1990's and the needs of food processors in the UK and Ireland, is a logical fit within the aggressive pan-European market expansion programme we embarked upon in the late 1980's with the establishment of our professional marketing unit."

One of the principal benefits of the Aromes de Bretagne range is that their extracts are made of concentrated vegetable substrate, thereby offering substantial savings on handling and transportation costs over the standard vegetable replaced.

"Since the concentrated vegetable extract is aseptically packaged and has a six month storage life, the manufacturer is not subjected to seasonal variations in availability. This guarantees constant natural vegetable extracts all the year round," says Mr Jones.

Available from Overseal Foods initially will be raw, cooked and fried carrot; cooked and fried onion; mushroom; and garlic varieties. However, the range also includes leek, celery, asparagus, aubergine, artichoke, cucumber, cauliflower and green pepper.

Overseal is also introducing red wine, light white wine and white wine liquid extracts that are designed to create an authentic, ethnic European flavour for soups, sauces and ready meals. These, too, come in aseptic packaging and have a storage life of six months.

"Our philosophy has always been to supply manufacturers with what they want, at the time they need it and in a form they can easily handle. We can only achieve this by examining current trends and anticipating future ones," observes Mr Handley. "Although yeast and yeast products still form part of our product range today, particularly for the snacks market, the very reason underlying our move into natural food colorants by the early 1980's was our anticipation of what the food manufacturers of the eighties and nineties would be needing.

"Looking to the future, statistics demonstrate that among the growth areas throughout Europe in the next decade will be the snacks, soft drinks, frozen and chilled and ready meals markets. Particularly in ready meals, Britain has taken an early lead, and rising demand for our products in all those areas, as well as our high turnover on yeast products, notably in the Netherlands, broadly indicates that 'natural' will continue to be the name of the game for flavours and colours alike.

"Our ability to provide both high quality natural extracts and natural colours puts us in a strong position to confront the challenges of Europe in the next decade."

As Overseal looks confidently ahead to the Food Ingredients Europe Exhibition 1990 in Dusseldorf, where they will be exhibiting on stand 2415 alongside their German agents Chemische Fabrik Budenheim GmbH, the company has just achieved another pioneering 'first' - by becoming the first UK food colours manufacturer to gain accreditation to BS 5750 Part I.

PHOTO : Typical creamy pastel shade that can be created when using Overseal colours

PHOTO : Beetroot juice is used to create the red colour in this flavoured ice cream
COPYRIGHT 1990 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:1863
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