Food Business News: Making Brown Beautiful in Beverages

9/27/19: This is an excerpt from an article published on 9/24/19 by Food Business News, written by Donna Berry, to highlight the various contributions by Brian Sethness. To read the complete article, please click our link below.

Color does not have flavor, yet consumers associate certain flavors with colors. A red carbonated water should not taste like lemon, while a yellow one would be thought to have citrus, maybe sour or tart notes. Because we eat and drink with our eyes, color is important. And not just color, but the shade of a color and the type of product. In beverages, brown is a strange color. It is not associated with any fruit or vegetable, except maybe overripe bananas or oxidized greens (coffee is a fruit, technically). Different flavors and types of beverages are associated with brown. The obvious are cola, coffee, tea and chocolate milk, as well as beer and some spirits. And, while such beverages as spicy tomato juice and pumpkin spice latte are not brown, the hue may be added — directly or indirectly through the blending of other colors — to provide an element of richness, maybe even the look of the savory, delicious taste of umami.

Because color is an assessment of quality, inherently brown beverages often benefit from the addition of brown color to offset color loss that may occur during shelf life from exposure to the environment. It also helps provide consistency of color from batch to batch, as in the case of a ready-to-drink coffee latte packaged in a glass bottle.

First there was caramel

Formulators seeking to add brown color to beverages typically have relied on caramel colors, which are produced through the controlled heat treatment or cooking of carbohydrates, a process known as caramelization.

“The carbonated soft drinks industry has been using caramel color since the 19th century, and it is the most widely used colorant in the soft drink industry,” said Brian Sethness, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, Sethness Roquette, Skokie, Ill. “Because of the low pH of most carbonated beverages, Class IV caramel colors are commonly used because of their acid stability. In addition to providing excellent reddish to brown hues, caramel color can enhance the foaming characteristics, mouthfeel and flavor of soft drinks.”

There are four classes of caramel color, based on production method. Some consumers may be concerned with the chemical 4-Methylimidazole (4-Mel), which forms during the production of Class III and Class IV caramel colors. While there has been an industry shift to use Class I caramel color, also known as plain caramel, in efforts to eliminate 4-Mel, all classes of caramel color are labeled “caramel color” or “caramel” on ingredient statements. That is everywhere except in California.

As of Aug. 30, 2018, Proposition 65 in California has been fully implemented. The 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, it is 29 micrograms per day. To assist with not exceeding the limit, Food Chemical Codex (F.C.C.), an international food safety organization, recently established a new maximum limit of 125 parts per million (ppm) of detectable 4-Mel in caramel color. 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 Roquette anticipated the revision. During the past two years the company developed replacement caramel colors for 12 products in its portfolio of more than 80 caramel colors that it can 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-Mel value — the colors being discontinued,” Mr. Sethness said. “We have been very successful in achieving that goal, and these caramel colors are readily available.”

Suppliers now also offer Non-G.M.O. Project verified caramel color options to address 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. Concerns over 4-Mel have some beverage formulators switching to Class I caramels, burnt sugars and fruit- and vegetable-based browns. When adding any color to a beverage, formulators may encounter stability issues.

“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 more or less applicable for specific beverage attributes, as they may interact with other ingredients. Dairy drinks, for example, require color that interacts well with milk proteins and remains in suspension. It is critical to match the ionic charge of the caramel with that of the other ingredients in the dairy product. Beverages containing apple juice, which often is added as a natural source of sweetness, also may experience the formation of precipitates.

“Apple juice concentrates can vary in interactions with caramel colors,” Mr. Sethness said. “A formulation may require a different class of caramel color to avoid sediment on the bottom. Class I caramel colors tend to fade in color. One way to combat the fading is to use ultraviolet-filtering bottles. Class I caramel colors also may not work in any colas containing phosphoric acid but can potentially be utilized in beverages containing citric acid.”

In addition to providing brown hues, caramel colors may offer additional benefits. In soft drink concentrates they exert an emulsifying effect on flavor oils. Their dark hue may provide some light protection to flavoring components, slowing their rate of light oxidation in clear containers

You can read the entire article on Food Business News.

← Back

SETHNESS ROQUETTE is always here to help you...