Colors added to baked foods shouldn’t affect taste, although that can depend on the amount used and the source of the color.

“Baked goods that require a very high dosage of colors — greater than 3% to 5% usage rate in the final formula — can potentially impact the final flavor of a product,” said Alice Lee, technical marketing manager for GNT USA. “Red velvet is the classic example of this issue. With its dark chocolate base, the usage rates to achieve its intense red can be quite high. With a product like this, it’s essential to carefully evaluate the formula to avoid impacting the flavor by rebalancing its sugar and flavor levels.”

A color’s influence on a baked product’s taste depends upon the strength of the raw ingredients used in the color itself. For instance, beet may contribute a vegetable note at high dosages. Natural flavors can adversely interact with the product’s formulation.

“Care may need to be taken to adjust the leavening system when using natural colors as they may contribute acidity that may interact with the leavening system,” Susan Frecker, senior application scientist, Oterra Inc.

Deodorizing and masking technologies are used to avoid unwanted flavors and aromas.

“We can derive vibrant pinks, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, blues, greens and more from different botanicals, such as spices, fruits and vegetables, all with clean flavor and minimal off-notes,” said Kelly Newsome, senior marketing manager, colors, ADM. “Our extraction technology not only eliminates these off-notes, but it also removes proteins, sugars and starches to produce a true hue that can withstand even the most sensitive formulation conditions.”

Meghan Skidmore, marketing specialist, Sensient Food Colors, said that working with color experts, bakers and snack makers can achieve vibrant colors without unwanted flavor notes.

“A myth commonly shared by developers is that bright natural colors impart flavor off-notes in baked goods,” she said. “While some natural color sources are flavorful on their own, it is possible to achieve these bright shades without impacting the flavor profile using optimized, often purified, color solutions.”

Bakers and snack makers interested in providing a wow factor in their products have many options these days. By understanding and managing the challenges of certain colors, they can provide a brilliant rainbow of shades to entice consumers.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Colors & Flavors, click here.