Appearance is an incredibly powerful sensory attribute. Nonetheless, the food industry has often tended to downplay the visual aspect of food in favour of flavour.
“The focus on flavour is of course as valid as it has ever been,” says Collins. “But in the age of ‘Instagramification’ and online shopping, the appearance of food has become ever more critical.”
Transparency and expertise
From the beginning, GNT has focused on the principle of colouring food with food.
“This in essence is what we are all about. All colourings are made from fruits, vegetables, and edible plants. There is nothing unexpected. In fact, as per the principle, EXBERRY® colours are foods in their own right, which can be consumed at any point during our manufacturing process."
Examples of raw materials that the company processes include carrots (orange and black), pumpkins, sweet potatoes, red radish, safflower through to spirulina, a very healthy edible algae.
Food and beverage manufacturers keen to use natural colours can tap into GNT’s global supply chain and in-house expertise.
“We can help customers in their transition to natural colours,” explains Collins. “We have dedicated teams that can support different aspects, from application support, shelf life assessment and even through to calculating the carbon footprint of any colour.”
Regulatory compliance is another significant issue, in part because regulations are not globally harmonised. Customers in one part of the world might wish to export to another part of the world with a completely different set of rules.
“There are also other compliance issues that need to be addressed not to mention the important point of appropriate label declaration. We also have expertise in these areas.”
Controlling the supply chain from the farm to the customer means that GNT can offer transparency. While this has always been important for manufacturers, supply chain transparency has in recent years become a crucially important factor for consumers.
“There is a new generation that wants to know exactly where their food comes from,” says Collins. “The only way of achieving this is to be directly involved all the way down to the farm. Having strong supply chain capabilities - and having invested in stock - also ensured that we were able to continue servicing the market during this time of crisis.”
Tapping key trends
GNT can also help manufacturers identify how natural colours fit with key trends, such as plant-based and sustainability.
“Colours can also be associated with specific cuisines - Thai and Mexican for example – and so we can advise customers on how they can make their products really resonate with consumers.”
“In any case, it is clear that plant-based, which might once have been considered niche, is now a mainstream trend. For consumers, this is increasingly a question of balance and common sense, of varying their diets and cutting down on meat-based products.”
GNT has built on the growing importance of colour as a sensory attribute with its annual announcement of its ‘Colour of the Year, under its ‘Love Colour’ campaign.
“This year, our Shades of Aqua campaign demonstrates our ability to connect colour with consumer mood” says Collins. “We were excited to see lots of blue and green products coming onto market embracing this colour trend.”
The next Colour of the Year will be announced at FIE Connect.
Another key trend Collins highlights is sustainability.
“This has become a powerful word, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. We are increasingly mindful of the fact that young emerging consumers are bringing with them different expectations and values in this respect.”
For young people, sustainability has become a critical issue in their purchasing choices. They are passionate and digitally engaged.
“Manufacturers should bear in mind that controlling the supply chain is the only way to transparently take care of the ethical and environmental issues related to sustainability. We are confident that we are in the right place to meet this need.”
Looking to the future, Collins sees GNT placing greater emphasis on market-driven innovation.
“We aim to identify unmet needs with our customers. Innovation will play an even bigger role in how we position ourselves in the market.”
Beyond that, Collins predicts continued growth from the key established European and North American markets. The company is also focused on developing and emerging markets, most notably Asia Pacific.
“Because our EXBERRY® brand name is difficult to pronounce in the important Chinese market, we translated the word into phonetic Chinese characters. I think this is a good example of market adaptation.”
“In this ever-changing world we are very focused on dealing with all challenges, for example the changing regulatory environment and keeping manufacturers well informed. We pioneered this colouring food with food concept, so we take great pride and responsibility in ensuring that the concept is supported for the future.”