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Research by global natural colour supplier Chr. Hansen found three out of four Australians said natural colours were important to them in purchasing decisions. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business September/October 2020.

The majority of Australians saying natural colours were important to them when deciding on their grocery purchases was a key finding in consumer research commissioned by Chr. Hansen.

As a global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of natural colours and colouring foods for all food and beverage applications, Chr. Hansen wanted to better understand the role natural colours play in the decision making process as well as the attitudes of Australian consumers to ingredients in their food.

It commissioned T-Garage to survey 800 Australians through its online SaySo Community in January 2020.

A balanced approach with short cuts

The survey found consumers are seeking a balanced approach and are using short-cuts to help guide them through complexity.

Consumers are driving a strong movement towards fresh and natural as they try to make choices that give them more of a balanced approach to health and nutrition.

But, there is confusion about what some of the new terms mean (e.g. plant-based), and how some of the new health trends and movements make sense to them and their families.

The survey found people want it to be easy for them to make ‘good’ choices. Products that provide ‘shortcuts’ or proxies that helped them make better decisions were looked on more favourably.

Conscious consumers

Consumers are becoming more engaged with their food, its freshness and impact on their health.

There have been a number of changes to influence Australian diets over the past five years. Eating in moderation, watching out for sugar and moving away from overly-processed foods are key overarching themes.

Closely following these movements is eating more natural foods and 69 per cent of consumers saying they are paying more attention to ingredients lists on what they buy.

Natural, local and a desire for ingredients that are easy to understand are key driving influences when purchasing food and beverages.

This research found that the use of natural colours and an absence of artificial ingredients rated highly in the decision making process, with 75 per cent of consumers rating these factors as important.

As people become more educated about ingredients, changes to traditional front of pack callouts are emerging. While the familiar ‘no artificial colours’ callout appealed to 

81 per cent of consumers, the rise of plant-based foods and an increasing trend to vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets meant ‘plant-based colours’ was strongly welcomed.

The research found that once consumers became more educated on the types of colours used by food manufacturers “plant-based colours” soared in appeal compared to other types of colours used.

The importance of colour

The use of natural colours is rated of higher importance in categories associated with health and everyday. This includes pre-prepared meals and sauces where 69 per cent of consumers stated they were concerned about the types of colour being used.

All categories rated above 60 per cent for concern about the types of colour being used. Even when considering take-away food options, 44 per cent of consumers were actively concerned about the colours in what they were eating.

What is evident more than ever, is the growing awareness and engagement by consumers in the foods they buy and the ingredients that make them.

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