Gen Z embracing ‘healthy hedonism’ and bold food colors, research finds


Dive Brief:

  • The importance Gen Z consumers place on issues such as wellness and sustainability, coupled with the growing influence of social media on how people view a product, should change how manufacturers use natural colors, according to a report from GNT Group. It described this consumer behavior as “healthy hedonism.” 
  • The Netherlands-based food coloring maker said there is already a shift underway about how natural colors are used. Soft-play pastel shades are being used to redefine what “healthy and sustainable” looks like, while psychedelic color schemes now work with “mind-boosting” ingredients to tap into well-being.
  • With natural colors serving as a way for food manufacturers to appeal to consumers who increasingly value sustainability and health, color manufacturers are making this a more prominent part of their business to meet the growing demand.

Dive Insight:

As consumer tastes shift, GNT says manufacturers of natural colors will need to continue evolving.

“Healthy Hedonism resonates with the new generation of conscious consumers who are determined to rewrite the rules,” Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager at GNT, said in a statement. “To tap into the trend, brands need to celebrate disruption and adopt a new visual language for products that are both healthy and environmentally sound.”

GNT’s Exberry natural food coloring portfolio contains a wide array of hues, from dark blues to bright reds and soft pastels. The company’s goal is to increase the use of natural colors in foods while lowering its own carbon footprint. GNT announced earlier this year that by 2030 it intends to reduce the carbon footprint of its Exberry line by 25%.

Consumers are increasingly demanding clean labels and paying more attention to ingredient lists, something GNT’s findings back up.

But while health-conscious consumers want natural colors, it can be a challenge for some CPGs. General Mills altered the formulation of Trix cereal to include natural colors in 2016, but changed it back to artificial colors a year later after sales dropped. Hershey also has struggled to find ways to change the colors of its Jolly Ranchers hard candies to include natural replacements.

Colors are a valuable tool for food manufacturers. Food formulators can use color to transmit moods or sensory experiences for specific products, according to GNT’s research. The company said psychedelic and graphic colors such as cyan, orange and purple can be used for products including ingredients like CBD or nootropics. Combinations of bright pastels also can communicate calmness and happiness.

Part of GNT’s goal with natural colors is to improve their vibrancy and make them healthier. In 2021, for example, the company added two shades of bright green to its line of colors made of green spirulina algae and yellow turmeric.

GNT is not the only company expanding its presence in natural colors. Denmark-based Oterra — formerly known as Chr. Hansen Natural Colors — purchased synthetic colors producer Food Ingredient Solutions earlier this year in a bid to gain a broader U.S. presence for its natural colors.


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