Not all natural colors can be used in organic products.

More than three-quarters of North American food and beverage launched in 2017 used color from natural sources, according to Mintel. However, natural sourcing does not qualify a color for use in organic baked foods.

Bakers producing organic products have several options during color selection. Products labeled “100% organic” must be made with organic-certified colors. Baked foods labeled “made with organic” contain at least 70% organic ingredients, and thus organic-certified colors are not required. These products, much like baked foods labeled “organic,” which may contain up to a maximum of 5% non-organic ingredients produced according to the principles of the National Organic Program (NOP), typically use colors made from natural sources produced and recognized as NOP-compliant ingredients. Such ingredients are made without synthetic solvents, are free from preservatives and are not made with prohibited methods, such as genetic engineering, among other stipulations.

“Not all natural colors are available as organic,” said Zack Henderson, technical service manager, baking, Sensient Colors.

Sensient Color’s current certified organic portfolio includes reds, pinks and browns. It is launching oranges this year, as well as the industry’s first-ever certified organic blue vegetable juice color, which will provide not only a blue component but also a building block for purples and greens.

“Just as organic produce and spices are more expensive, bakers will find that organic food colors are more expensive,” said Carol Locey, director of product management, colors, Kalsec. “However, the relative cost of using coloring in a food is a small portion of the total cost; therefore the use of organic colors is manageable.”

Kalsec currently offers certified organic paprika. The company will be introducing certified organic annatto this year.

Food Ingredient Solutions offers certified organic annatto, red beet, black carrot, caramel and elderberry colors.

“Most customers continue to use organic-compliant colors where possible because they tend to have better availability and a lower cost-in-use,” said Jeff Greaves, founder and manager, Food Ingredient Solutions. “The market for certified organic colors is still relatively small, so the cost of these items is high and availability limited.”