• GNT Group's Maartje Hendrickx
    GNT Group's Maartje Hendrickx
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EXBERRY specialises in plant-based colouring. Kim Berry asks GNT Group market developer manager Maartje Hendrickx how they do it and the current trends. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business September/October 2020.

Q Tell us about EXBERRY

GNT was founded in 1978 by engineer Dr Horst Hoeck. He had noticed that home cooks were using foods such as beetroot to colour other foods and set out to make that household process achievable on an industrial scale.

The result was EXBERRY Colouring Foods, and we’re still following that principle of colouring food with food today.

All our EXBERRY products are made from fruit, vegetables and plants using physical processing methods such as chopping and boiling. We use water as the processing medium and never any chemical solvents, providing the ultimate clean-label colouring solution.

Our full range of Colouring Foods now comprises hundreds of shades, which can be used for practically any food and beverage application.

Q What are the main trends you are seeing at the moment?

Plant-based and clean label are two of the biggest trends of recent times, and it’s becoming more important than ever for manufacturers to tick both boxes.

For example, research has shown that one in three Australians now consciously limit meat consumption, with health cited as the number one reason. The same survey also found that six in 10 Australian consumers have either tried or were interested in trying the new generation of plant-based meat alternatives.

However, many of today’s plant-based products are heavily processed and feature long ingredient lists. Nielsen research last year found that less than half of the plant-based alternative products it assessed featured both ‘clean’ credentials and short ingredient lists.

As a result, we’re now approaching the ‘plant-based 2.0’ era, with manufacturers all over the world reformulating their products to match modern consumer expectations on clean labelling.

Colour is a crucial part of that reformulation process – and Colouring Foods are ideal because they allow manufacturers to use plant-based colours for plant-based products. The ingredient listing could be something like “Colouring Food (concentrate from paprika and carrot)” that’s simple to understand and instantly reassuring for health-conscious shoppers.

Q What are the challenges in developing colours with these trends and/or in general?

Colouring Foods can deliver colours comparable to synthetics, but they’re not a plug-and-play solution. There are various factors that can affect performance, including the pH, acidity, density, fat content and colour of the base product as well as the way it will be processed and stored.

With the right knowledge, though, it’s possible to overcome almost any challenge. GNT has more than four decades’ experience, and can provide customers with the support they need to ensure the right result for almost any project.

Q What is the process of developing new colours?

Our range of EXBERRY Colouring Foods already covers the full rainbow, but we continue to introduce new products that can make life easier for our customers.

When developing new products, we first work to establish that there is market demand. Once we know there’s a need for the product, we’ll carry out extensive research in our R&D facility and then thoroughly test the products in our application centre to ensure they meet our high standards.

Earlier this year, we launched two new formats for our Brilliant Orange shade. Our consumer research had shown there was strong interest in Brilliant Orange, which can be used for everything from summery drinks to Halloween treats to plant-based products. As a result, we decided to launch powder and oil-dispersible options in addition to the existing liquid.

The powder is ideal for non-aerated confectionery, bakery and savoury products, and the oil-dispersible option is designed for compound coatings, spray-coated oil seasonings and other fat-based applications.

Q What is the next big thing/trend you are seeing heading our way?

As well as the rise of the plant-based and clean label trends, we’re seeing greater interest in organic.

Organic claims are a great way to boost products’ health and environmental credentials, and their popularity seems to be rising all the time.

Last year’s Australian Organic Market Report, for example, showed awareness surrounding organics is at an all-time high and that the country’s organic industry is now worth $2.6 billion.

We offer a range of EXBERRY Organics that are made from fully organic fruits, vegetables and plants. They make it easy to create food and drink products that are visually impactful while maintaining full organic status. 

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