A brighter future: How clean-label colour
enhances the food supplement experience
for today’s consumers
Stephane Vouche, Marketing Manager, Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition
Colour has always been a source of fascination for humans. It is a marker of identity, a differentiator and a way of transmitting emotion. This is true now more than ever, in an always-online world where every moment must be Instagram-worthy, and every brand must be Instagram-fluent. In fact, the colour and brightness of an image posted on Facebook has been shown to have a direct correlation with the number of ‘Likes’ that image may receive, which clearly demonstrates how colour encourages and influences consumer interaction and engagement. Colour has further been proven to enhance consumer experience in a wide variety of robust studies. With 92.6% of shoppers saying that the visual dimension is the main influencing factor in their purchasing decisions, it is evident that colour psychology has a direct impact on ROI, for any brand in every industry.
Creating colour stories
Each culture around the world ascribes its own set of meanings to colour, but there are notable areas of overlap that occur widely, and the impact of the cultural exchange enabled by the internet is increasingly visible. As such, many colours have developed a broadly recognized set of psychological characteristics that has seen them become associated with certain applications, emotions and physiological responses.
A growing body of research has, for instance, substantiated and expanded on the traditional meaning and significance of colours. Crowley (1993), for example, found a correlation between longer wavelength, warmer colours and increased levels of arousal or activation, while shorter wavelength, cooler colours like blue have a more calming effect. Later, Elliot’s 2015 paper provides an overview of colour theory developments since Goethe’s work in the early 1800s, drawing on Elliot and Maier’s colour-in-context theory (2012). This posits that social learning and biological disposition both have a role to play in how humans respond to colour.
Subsequently, colour psychology has often been applied to great effect in advertising spaces. Brands and consumer products, for instance, are usually packaged in a specific color story that tends to be associated with the product’s application, such as blue to indicate health and hydration, pink for femininity, purple for creativity and relaxation, yellow for energy and red for passion or prestige.
It naturally follows that colour plays a vital role in the design and creation of food supplements and has a long history of use in the industry. A colour’s classic associations draw consumers to connect it intuitively with certain health and wellness applications, which brand owners have reinforced over time: take lavender for aiding sleep, or blue for hygiene. A report by Bosch et al. (2012) on colour in healthcare settings further highlights the use of orange to stimulate appetite, red for increasing energy and yellow for aiding digestion.
In fact, the longstanding use of colour in consumer health settings pre-dates much of our understanding of the actual colourants – an understanding which is still growing day-by-day, as food additives once considered safe for human consumption are brought under closer scrutiny. A 2007 study by researchers at The University of Southampton, for example, identified a group of six commonly-used artificial colourants that appeared to be linked to an increase in ADHD-type behaviour in children. Though this research has since been disputed, public backlash was significant enough that a large number of food manufacturers have agreed to a voluntary ban on each of these so-called ‘Southampton Six’.
Eye-catching, emotive appeal
Despite these concerns, colour itself remains a highly desirable attribute for food supplements and offers multiple benefits for both brand owners and consumers. Colour creates visually appealing, distinctive dosage forms which increase brand recognition and differentiation, enabling supplement products to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Colour also has the power to deliver on aspirations by association, so increasingly consumers are flocking to brands whose colour stories reflect their own ideals. It is one reason why, every year, a new influx of goods arrives in Pantone’s Colour of the Year: a colour can bestow ‘coolness’, leveraging current trends to increase visual appeal and desirability.
It is clear that, in both consumer-facing and industry settings, colour enhances the vital work of brand storytelling. Colour can be used to tell positive stories about a food supplement brand and its products – how they are made, how they work and what benefits they offer, both in terms of specific, concrete details and in a broader, more aspirational sense.
Seeking a safer spectrum
It follows, then, that colour has high value for today’s aspirational consumers, a large and growing consumer group defined by the importance they place on health and wellbeing, their love of shopping and their preference for responsible consumption. So-called ‘Aspirationals’ seek naturally sourced food supplements with a robust clean-label positioning: research conducted by Lonza for its 2019 Aspirationals Report indicates that 7 out of 10 Aspirationals in the US are looking for supplements made with no artificial colours. These preferences are a key driving force behind the growth of the clean-label trend, which insists on a planet-first, sustainable and transparent approach to product development at every stage. This has seen clean-label continue its rapid rise within the food supplements space.
Meanwhile, in the UK, those using supplements most frequently are the most likely to buy a supplement if it contains sustainable or eco-friendly ingredients, though a positive response is indicated across a broad range of demographics. To achieve the truly holistic credentials these consumers expect, brand owners must look for solutions that can meet the demand for colour without compromising on a clean-label positioning.
Brighter by nature
In the wider food industry, these consumer preferences have already driven the emergence and growing popularity of ‘colouring foods,’ an EU-designated category of edible plants which can be used to derive natural colours. These pigments are gently extracted using a water-based method, without the use of organic solvents, artificial emulsifiers or preservatives.
Now, colouring foods have even more to offer as Lonza has innovated to find new applications in its next generation capsule technologies. The natural, variegated colour that colouring foods create in a finished supplement product acts as a visual marker of the clean-label thinking behind the product and enhances its clean-label story, while offering ingredient masking capabilities for improved aesthetic appeal. Indeed, the use of colouring foods has been shown to create an emotive connection between the natural colour source and the finished supplement product, even if the colouring food isn’t present in sufficient quantities to deliver health benefits in the supplement itself.
Clean-label gets colourful
With such clear and growing demand for clean-label colour, Lonza has expanded its range of Capsugel® Vcaps® Plus capsules to offer a convenient, quality solution. These vegetarian capsules, now available in Blue Spirulina, Purple Carrot, Red Radish and Spicy Yellow options, are made with just two ingredients alongside water: FSc-certified Hypromellose (HPMC) and a naturally-derived, EU-certified colouring food that has not been assigned an E-number and supports a plant-based positioning. Thanks to Lonza’s market-leading capabilities and continuous innovation, Vcaps® Plus food coloured capsules meet customer needs on several levels: not only do they provide the visual appeal consumers are looking for, but they also offer high performance.
Vcaps® Plus capsules enable brand owners to bring their brightest clean-label visions to life. Many of Lonza’s partner brands are already crafting on-trend supplement products which leverage the meaning and significance of colour to tell stories regarding function and health benefits. Inspiring examples include a Vcaps® Plus Purple Carrot capsule, paired with a lavender-based ingredient fill that supports healthy sleep. A Vcaps® Plus Spicy Yellow capsule, meanwhile, could be used to enhance the visual appeal of a curcumin-based joint health solution.
Derived from algae, the Vcaps® Plus Blue Spirulina capsule is a delivery format that could expand the story around a marine specialty ingredient, while a Vcaps® Plus Red Radish capsule can leverage the colour red’s association with nutricosmetics for an eye-catching, plant-based nutraceutical solution.
Future-proof food colour
In an industry where colour can cause skepticism, even concern, Lonza’s Capsugel® Vcaps® Plus capsules rewrite the food supplement narrative. They provide a premium choice for brand owners by offering all the same advantages that colour has historically brought to product marketing, without compromising on a full-spectrum clean-label positioning. Alongside choice comes quality support: Lonza’s integrated capabilities ensure its brand partners are equipped with the products, resources and guidance to bring their brightest clean-label ideas from source to shelf, faster. As such, the food supplement consumer experience is getting cleaner, clearer and more colourful every day.
1 S. Banerjee, A. Pal, “Likely to be liked? A study of Facebook images,” 2018, https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8392808?reload=true
2 J. Morton, “Why Color Matters,” https://colorcom.com/research/why-color-matters
3 A. E. Crowley, “The Two-Dimensional Impact of Color on Shopping,” 1993, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00994188
4 A. J. Elliot, “Color and psychological functioning: a review of theoretical and empirical work,” Frontiers in Psychology, 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4383146/
5 J. Bosch et al, “The Application of Color in Healthcare Settings,” 2012 https://www.ads.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/The Application-of-Colour-in-Healthcare-Settings.pdf
6 “Food additives and behaviour in children,”2007 https://www.southampton.ac.uk/psychology/research/impact/food_additives.page
7 K.V. Allam & G.P. Kumar, “Colorants – the cosmetics for the pharmaceutical dosage forms”, 2011 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288468020
8 L. Labrecque & G. Milner, “Exciting red and competent blue: The importance of color in marketing,” 2011, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/
9 NMI SORD US study – 2013-2017
10 NMI SORD UK Study 2018
11 C. Spence, “On the psychological impact of food color,” 2015 https://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13411-015-0031-3
Caption: Vcaps® Plus Food Coloured and Titanium dioxide free White Opal™ capsules