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More companies switching away from artificial colors

DELTONA, Fla. – Florida food blogger Katie Moseman, with RecipeForPerfection.com, is also a mom. She avoids anything with artificial coloring, and she's apparently not alone. According to Technavio research, 58% of U.S. consumers prefer food with coloring from natural sources - that's up from 23% in 2005. And Moseman says shopping is getting easier since more foodmakers use things like fruit, vegetables and spices to add color.

"I will often be surprised by the choice that's available," said Moseman.

The food color company Sensient reports natural colors are the fastest growing part of its color portfolio with a lot of top branded and private label companies looking to make the switch. Experts say foodmakers are taking notice of consumers like Moseman.

"The trend of removing artificial colors is just in its infancy. It's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger," said Phil Lempert, editor of SupermarketGuru.com.

Companies making the move include Kraft and Nestle, as well as popular food chains like Panera and Subway. General Mills is removing colors from artificial sources from all of its cereals, including Trix, which is changing from six colors to four.

"We're moving from the colors with numbers that consumers might be used to, like red 40 or yellow 5, and instead using colors sources such as fruit and vegetable juices, as well as spices," said Lauren Pradhan with General Mills Cereals.

Lempert points out that switching to natural sources of pigment can be a challenge for food makers, since fruits, vegetables and spices can add flavor.

"It's not where you can just add a drop of natural color and it's the same. So companies have to take their time, really experiment. They've got a recipe for taste that they want to keep, so it might take them a bit longer to find a natural color that can achieve the same product description," Lempert explained.

So what should you know if you're interested in making the switch? 

"The most important thing for a consumer to look out for is the free from claim," he advised.  

Lempert is talking about claims like "no colors from artificial sources," since the Food and Drug Administration actually considers any form of added color to be artificial, regardless of whether it's made in a lab or extracted from fruit.

Moseman always keeps an eye out, since she's interested in the more natural approach.

"If I'm eating something to enjoy it, I don't want to put anything artificial in my foods," she said.

As for the idea that colors made from fruit, vegetables or spices can add unwanted flavor, companies like General Mills and Sensient say they're sure to remove any additional flavors from the colors they produce. And, General Mills is going to continue to work on developing color alternatives for the two colors they don't have yet for Trix cereal.