Food Business News: Formulating Eye-Appealing Beverages

1/18/19: This is an excerpt from an article published in the 1/8/19 issue of Food Business News, written by Donna Berry, which includes a contribution by Brian Sethness. To read the complete article, “Formulating Eye-Appealing Beverages”, click our link below.

Navigating caramel colors

Brown is a common color in many soft drinks, namely colas and energy beverages, as well as chocolate-flavored protein drinks. Manufacturers typically rely on caramel colors, which are produced through the controlled heat treatment or cooking of carbohydrates, a process known as caramelization. There are four classes of caramel color, based on production method. Some discerning consumers may be concerned with the chemical 4-Methylimidazole (4-Mel), which forms naturally during the production of Class III and Class IV caramel colors. While there has been an industry shift to use Class I caramel color in efforts to eliminate 4-Mel, all classes of caramel color are simply labeled “caramel color” or “caramel” on ingredient statements.

In California, there are additional labeling requirements. California’s Proposition 65 law requires companies to call out specific names of potentially harmful chemicals, such as 4-Mel, and add a warning symbol on the product if they exceed acceptable levels. For 4-Mel, this is 29 micrograms per day. To assist with not exceeding this limit, Food Chemical Codex (F.C.C.), an international food safety organization, recently established a new maximum limit of 125 p.p.m. of detectable 4-MeI in caramel color on a 0.1 color intensity basis. The limit went into effect on Dec. 1, 2018, and did require some caramel colors to be pulled from the U.S. market.

Suppliers such as Sethness Products Co., Skokie, Ill., anticipated the revision. During the past two years the company developed replacement caramel colors for 12 of the products in its portfolio of more than 80 that the company may no longer manufacture due to the F.C.C.’s lower 4-Mel limits. “The goal was to have replacement caramel colors that were virtually identical to — with the exception of the lower 4-MeI value — the colors being discontinued,” said Brian Sethness, executive vice-president of sales and marketing. “We have been very successful in achieving that goal and these caramel colors are readily available.” Another new caramel color addresses consumer concerns with genetically modified ingredients. This is because the most common source of carbohydrate for making caramel colors comes from corn, a crop that has been mostly genetically modified. “We have new liquid and powder Class IV Non-G.M.O. Project Verified caramel colors,” Mr. Sethness said. “These are more expensive offerings than our typical caramel colors, but consumers — especially on the West coast — like to see ‘the butterfly seal’ on product labels.”

As when adding any color to a beverage, formulators may encounter issues with stability. “The most common problem when incorporating caramel colors is the formation of a precipitate, which can range from a haze to settled solids,” Mr. Sethness said. “The precipitate may form immediately or over time, with slowly forming precipitates being the most difficult to deal with.” The four classes of caramel color each have a distinct ionic charge, making them applicable for specific beverages attributes. Dairy drinks require color that does interact with milk proteins and remains in suspension.

You can read the entire article on

← Back

SETHNESS ROQUETTE is always here to help you...