Candy Springs Up in Vibrant Colors

Linda Milo Ohr

Confectioners must control ingredient interactions and stability to deliver colorful candies that brighten Easter baskets.

Today more than 60 million chocolate bunnies in all shapes and sizes will be made for the holiday. They will be nestled in baskets alongside more than 15 million jelly beans and more than 600 million marshmallow chicks and rabbits,” says the National Confectioners Association.

From the traditional jellybeans to the infamous marshmallow chicks and bunnies, children look forward to finding an assortment of colors and textures in their Easter baskets.

When it comes to Easter candy, traditional pastel colors maintain their strong relevance for Easter, says Charles Duncan, Vice President, Research and Development, Hershey Foods, Hershey, Pa. “However, the increased popularity of intense and sour flavors lend themselves to more vibrant, bolder colors.” Whatever your color choice, a range of interactions and processing concerns must be addressed, including:

* Stability. UV light, heat, acid and certain other ingredients can adversely affect the color stability of some artificial and natural colors, says Duncan. FD&C Blue 1 and Red 3 are two dyes that are unstable when exposed to light.

* Water availability. If the candy being colored is a low water activity/high solids product, being able to actually get all of the color dissolved can be a problem, says Byron Madkins, manager of applications development, synthetic colors for a color supplier.

* Water purity. Trace metals and ions present in unpurified or tap water can interact with synthetic and natural colors and potentially cause the color to break down chemically. The breakdown occurs with colors like FD&C Red 40, in which the azo bond in the dye molecule becomes the point of attack, explains Gale Myers, manager of applications development, confectionery coatings and inks for the same color supplier.

Jellybeans, sour candies and marshmallow confectioneries all require unique strategies to manage color stability and interactions.


Easter would not be complete without a basket of jellybeans. Jellybean formulas normally include sugar, corn syrup, modified cornstarch, dextrose, confectioner’s glaze, artificial and natural flavors, carnauba wax and colors. Jellybeans must contain a gelatinizing agent, such as starch, gelatin, pectin or gum arabic to provide the chewy texture.

“There are typically no interactions between the gelatinizing agent and coloring agents in the manufacture of jellybeans,” says Myers. “However, if proper solubilization of the gelatinizing agent is not performed, then the colorant could get trapped into the ‘clumps’ of unsolubilized gelatinizing agent and appear to be unevenly dispersed. This is not an issue with the colorant, but rather, a manufacturing issue.”

When using water-soluble colors in jellybeans, one of the more important issues is making sure that the color has the opportunity to completely dissolve, says Madkins. “Because a jellybean has a low water content, there is high competition for the available water, making undissolved color a concern.”

In jellybeans and any other confectionery product, the question of using dyes vs. lakes arises. Lakes are best for panning, suggests Duncan. “They are more stable for coating products such as jellybeans and licorice dragees due to the fact that lakes are insoluble and color by opacifying.”

“Dyes are best for hard candies, jelly candies and chews. This is due to their water solubility,” he explains. However, this same solubility will allow dyes to migrate with the water and can cause mottling or blotching of the color if used for panning. Dyes yield products that are more clear and transparent.

Hard Candies

Hard candies are comprised mainly of sucrose, corn syrup and water, all boiled together under high heat. Flavors and colors are added to the boiled mass, which is cooled and formed into unique shapes and sizes.

In hard candies, colors that need to be dissolved (dyes) must be added to hot liquid (approximately 190[degrees]F) slowly or under high shear/agitation. Otherwise, the color will clump and make it very difficult to allow the color to go into solution, says Duncan. In addition, some natural colors break down or create off-flavors when exposed to high temperatures. In this instance, it is best to add the colorant after the mixture has slightly cooled.

Sour-flavored hard candies are becoming increasingly popular because of the intense flavor impact. Acids provide a tang or tartness that complements and enhances flavors, explains Anne Woo, manager of international market development for an acidulant supplier. In hard candy, malic acid boosts fruit flavors and extends tartness. Fumaric acid is a strong acid that has a stable sourness taste profile. Citric acid can impart characteristic citrus notes to candy. Each organic acid imparts a unique sourness taste, and combining a number of acids into one flavor system can improve the natural taste of confections.

The pH effects from acidulants can affect color stability in candies. “FD&C lakes are most stable in a pH range of 4-8. If a lake pigment is subjected to pH environments outside of this range, the dye can actually be broken away from the lake substrate. In a coating application, this can result in unevenness of color and appearance,” notes Myers.

FD&C dyes have varying stabilities in low pH systems. For example, in low pH systems, FD&C Red 3 will precipitate out and FD&G Blue 2 will completely fade, says Madkins. The “azo dyes” (FD&C Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6) generally have moderate to good stability in acidic media.

Many of the natural colorants are stable at low pH, notes Penny Huck, associate technical director, natural colors, for the same color supplier. For low pH candies, anthocyanins will yield bright red to magenta shades. Furthermore, any of these in combination with FD&G Blue 1 dye will yield very bright, attractive purple shades, she says.

Multicolored Marshmallow Bunnies

Marshmallow Peeps and bunnies are another integral part of an Easter basket. Manufactured by Just Born Inc., Bethlehem, Pa., the marshmallow candies are coated with colored sugar in shades of pink, yellow, white, lavender and blue.

“Coloring sugar for application to any confectionery product can be accomplished in several manners,” explains Madkins. “The easiest method is to use the dry FD&C lake pigment and disperse it into the dry sugar. Because of the small particle size of the lake pigments, the lakes are ideal for dry blending with sugar to impart color with simple mixing.”

“Water soluble colorants, FD&C dyes as well as natural colorants, can also be used for coloring sugar as long as they are properly solubilized,” he notes. Using this form, the color can be introduced into the tumbling sugar by atomizing a liquid color solution into the tumbler. This method allows the manufacturer to utilize any colorant that is water soluble.

With any coated product, light stability and storage conditions must be taken into account. “For instance, FD&C Red 3 has poor light stability. Therefore, one would not want to coat a candy that will be exposed to light with FD&C Red 3,” he notes. However, carmine, for example, is a natural red color that has excellent light stability and would be ideal for a product that will be coated and placed into an environment with high or extended exposure to light. FD&C Red 40 also has good light stability.

A Bright Future

What does the future hold for candy? “Because most candies are marketed with children in mind, we are seeing trends to formulate color systems for products that will allow a child to have fun or interact with it before or as it is eaten. One popular idea is to somehow allow the product to undergo or induce a color change,” observes Madkins.

“Most recently, we are seeing the desire to use colors to make a product ‘novel.’ For instance, we are asked often for bright colors. Many times the best way to achieve these desired shades or “neon” shades is with a combination of natural and synthetic colors,” says Madkins.

Look for an increase in the use of natural colors in candy. “Many of the natural colors are less expensive than a synthetic counterpart when you take into account the cost in use,” states Huck. “Natural colors, in general, offer a larger global regulatory acceptability that often times synthetic colors may not be able to. We feel as manufacturers learn more about natural colors and the benefits they offer that they will be used with increased frequency.”

COPYRIGHT 2000 Cahners Publishing Company

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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