Processed cheese is a dairy food category with unique coloring challenges.
Flavor's effect on color
Formulators must be aware that flavors may impact natural color stability. This is particularly true with products containing fruit preps.
“Flavors can degrade certain pigments or breakdown emulsions and encapsulations,” Ms. Fyock said. “This is due to certain reactive carriers and solvents. Reactions between color and flavors are unpredictable. Degradation can happen immediately or slowly over time. Therefore, we recommend that the color and flavor be added separately; with the flavor added first and mixed in completely before the color is added.”
Process cheese, in its many forms, including sauces, shreds and slices, is another dairy foods category with unique coloring challenges. Most process cheeses rely on oil-soluble colorings, including beta-carotene, annatto extract and paprika oleoresin to obtain a desirable cheesy orange hue. That hue is jeopardized by numerous processing variables.
“Various factors contribute to the pinking of process cheese,” she said. “This includes high-heat exposure during processing and slow cooling of loaves. Buildup of cheese on the sides of batch cookers or in the piping can also be deleterious to color.”
Most process cheeses rely on oil-soluble colorings, including beta-carotene, annatto extract and paprika oleoresin to obtain a desirable cheesy orange hue.
Additional considerations to prevent pinking include the other ingredients in the formula and the order they are added to the batch. Age and type of cheese, along with emulsifying salts may impact color, too.
“The future of dairy colors is natural,” Ms. Lippert said. “It’s also about safety and traceability. It’s also about allowing for more transparency and trust for the consumer. This includes being able to see a product in clear packaging on a shelf so they can judge the deliciousness of the product.”
The good news is natural colors may be just as stable as synthetic alternatives.
“The main request in the dairy category is color from botanical sources, so one might say the power of nature is trending,” Ms. Longhi said. “With today’s advanced technologies and sourcing capabilities, the performance gap between artificial colors and natural colors is pretty much closed for almost all shades.”