Rethinking colour in the Indian confectionery market

Rethinking colour in the Indian confectionery market

As concerns over artificial and illegal colours grow, Indian confectionery manufacturers face a pivotal moment. Santhosh Thankappan, GNT’s Middle East Director, explains how plant-based EXBERRY® colours can enhance product appeal in a changing market landscape. 

Confectionery manufacturers in India have typically relied on artificial colours to achieve stable, vibrant shades. However, consumer attitudes towards these colours are evolving fast – and their use now threatens to limit product success. 

Over recent years, there have been numerous negative headlines around the health impacts of artificial and illegal colours in confectionery. In 2013, a study attracted widespread attention when it found that 16% of sweets and savouries tested across India contained illegal and toxic dyes.[1] The most common was Rhodamine-B – a fluorescent pink dye designed for use in textiles, cosmetics and ink dying that poses an increased risk of cancer. Earlier this year, the topic made global headlines when several India states banned cotton candy after samples showed Rhodamine-B was still being used.[2] 

Artificial colours have also posed concerns on multiple occasions. In November last year, for example, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) destroyed half a tonne of sweets when the amounts of artificial colourants used were found to exceed the safe limits.[3] 

Research shows consumer concern 

This ongoing media attention means there is now significant concern among many Indian consumers about artificial colours. 

A survey carried out by the research firm FMCG Gurus found that 83% of Indian consumers feel it is important that food and drink does not contain artificial colours. It also showed that 55% would be willing to pay a price premium for natural colours.[4] 

In 2022, GNT and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) worked with research agency NielsenIQ to examine modern consumer attitudes to colour in India’s biggest cities. NielsenIQ surveyed 2,000 urban Indian respondents on their attitude towards food colourings in beverages, dairy, baked goods and confectionery.[5] The results showed that 84% said they would be likely to pay a price premium to purchase products made with natural food colours – rising to 89% of Indian mothers. 

Maximise appeal with plant-based colours

Our portfolio of plant-based EXBERRY® colours is created from non-GMO fruits, vegetables and plants. They are suitable for vegan, halal and kosher diets and can be used to achieve a broad spectrum of vibrant shades in almost any confectionery application – from cotton candy to pulled chews. 

The EXBERRY® portfolio includes natural colours, which can be made from raw materials including vegetables, fruits, spices, algae and minerals, using physical and/or chemical processing methods to selectively extract the pigments. 

In 2020, the FSSAI created a separate standard for Colouring Foods. These concentrates are made from edible raw materials – fruits, vegetables, spices or herbs – using only water and traditional physical processes such as pressing, chopping and boiling. Colours that meet the criteria qualify for simpler label declarations, such as “Concentrate of turmeric and paprika.” 

GNT introduced the concept of colouring food with food to the food and drink industry in 1978 and we offer hundreds of EXBERRY® Colouring Foods in a wide range of product formats. We make it easy to switch to EXBERRY®, too, providing full support every step of the way. With our proprietary technology, we can deliver solutions that have the exact colour shade and intensity required. EXBERRY® colours also offer excellent stability, as demonstrated in extensive heat and light tests. 

Stand out from the crowd 

Despite consumer preferences, the vast majority of confectionery in India still contains artificial colours. EXBERRY® is the perfect choice to set products apart and provide immediate reassurance to the nation’s discerning consumers. Manufacturers can even use front-of-pack logos to show their products are coloured with fruit and vegetables. 

Indian shoppers want to know their confectionery is safe. Our plant-based EXBERRY® colours allow manufacturers to offer natural ingredient lists while delivering a broad rainbow of eye-catching shades.

[1] Dixit, D. et al. 'All India Survey for Analyses of Colors in Sweets and Savories: Exposure Risk in Indian Population' Journal of Food Science (2013)

[2] BBC News 'Cotton candy: Pink sugary sweet sets off alarm bells in India' (February 2024)

[3] The Hindu 'FSSAI destroys half tonne sweets for excessive use of colourants during Deepavali special drive in Coimbatore' (November 2023)

[4] FMCG Gurus 'Flavor, Color & Texture - India' (Q4 2022)

[5] Men and women aged 18-45 years from NCCS A, B & C (margin of error 2% at 95% CI). The research was conducted via an online questionnaire (for NCCS A & B respondents) and computer-aided telephone interviews (for NCCS C respondents) from January to February 2022

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