Nestle announced  last week that it plans to remove all artificial colors and flavors from its candy bars. The company said it was doing so in response to consumer preferences, not because there was anything dangerous about the artificial products it was using.
Nestle isn’t the only company making the switch. Hershey’s is beginning its journey  in this direction as well. Luke J.W. Haffenden, the chief flavorist with Novotaste , a Montreal-based flavor solutions provider, told me he thinks these moves are just the tip of the iceberg.
“In the food industry, in the last couple of years, it has been a hot topic of discussion. You go to any of these huge conventions, and a significant portion of companies are manufacturing, selling and or distributing natural color options,” Haffenden told me. “Some of these companies are making lots of noise, because they think that it will be a marketing advantage. And some are quietly reformulating and hoping nobody notices.”
It’s part of a general trend toward moving to natural ingredients, in terms of colors, flavors and other functional ingredients, such as preservatives, he says. This change is being driven as much by consumer sentiment as it is by the increasing availability of viable natural alternatives. Only in late 2013 has a naturally derived blue coloring come on the market , an extract of the bacteria spirulina. But there are also health considerations percolating, often below the surface, and with health concerns come legal concerns.
“When you have a company like Nestle that has a worldwide initiative to remove all artificial coloring, that says something. And they aren’t just doing this for the marketing value.” Haffenden told me he wonders if there might be some health implications the company is scared of.