Natural colors
Caramel color may be used to create the marble swirl in upscale bread.

Class is in for caramel

Caramel could be another consideration as it has a friendlier connotation among consumers than F.D.&C. colors, said Brian Sethness, executive vice-president – sales and marketing for Sethness Products Co., Skokie, Ill.

“Caramel colors will not be as brightly colored as these dyes, but some consumers now prefer a more earth-toned look,” he said.

Four classes of caramel range from yellow to red to brown to black.

“There has been an industry shift to incorporating more Class 1 or plain caramel colors, but any class of caramel color should simply be labeled ‘caramel color’ or ‘caramel’ on product labels,” Mr. Sethness said. “Since caramel color is a single color additive, its compositional constituents need not be listed.”

Class 1 caramel has become the fastest growing class as it meets consumer demand for clean labels.

“The drawback to Class 1s is that they can only achieve a certain level of darkness, more of a light brown shade,” he said.

Unlike F.D.&C. dyes, caramel color does not require certification, he said. It is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and in the same category as other naturally sourced colorants such as annatto, beta-carotene and beet juice, Mr. Sethness said.

Organic caramel color has been received well in artisan bread.

“Often times the marble swirl you see in upscale bread is created by using caramel color,” Mr. Sethness said. “The fact that all of our caramel colors are gluten-free, kosher and vegan enhances their appeal.”

Sethness Products Co. also offers 12 caramel colors that are Non-GMO Project verified.

“Consumers are looking for authenticity and transparency in the foods they consume,” Mr. Sethness said. “This extends to the ingredients used in those products. Consumers are looking for flavor and color solutions that are simple to understand. They are also looking for colors that are as minimally processed as possible.”