Natural Red Food Color

Seeking a proprietary, clean label, red food color that meets consumer preferences and food industry requirements. Read Overview...

The Problem

When colorants are needed in the formulation of a new or reformulated food or beverage, synthetic colors are now seldom used. Once praised for their cost effectiveness, aesthetic appeal, ease of use and high stability, synthetic colors are now largely being replaced by natural colors. This is due, by and large, to a convergence of two trends.

First, there is a growing belief, disputed by most reputable scientists and FDA that synthetic colors contribute to ADHD in children. This belief was given additional credence in 2007 with the highly publicized “Southampton Study” in which a link was reported between six synthetic colorants and ADHD in children. Second, the general “health and wellness” trend emphasizing natural and wholesome foods. As the food industry worked to capitalize on this trend, the lack of a legal definition of “natural” came to play and redirected the efforts toward “clean labeling.”

“Clean Label” is an ambiguous term describing an approach used by the food industry to avoid making the “natural” claims which have proven to be difficult to legally defend. A clean label approach utilizes a limited number of recognizable ingredients to convey a “natural” message without explicitly stating it. Naturally sourced ingredients are the norm, but not every natural ingredient aligns with consumers’ desires. In the case of colors, carmine (insect-derived), caramel (carcinogen link) and titanium dioxide (mineral-sourced) are a few examples of natural colors that would not be considered appropriate for most “clean label” foods.

In general, naturally-sourced colorants, while gaining market share, exhibit limited stability. Additionally, they can contribute off-tastes and much higher cost-in-use than a synthetic color. Possibly the most important drawback, the palette of available shades is insufficient to meet the needs of the food industry.

Red is the most popular shade for foods and beverages.  Consequently red colorants represent the single largest market segment.  But there is currently no FDA-approved, "clean label", red food color that meets the broad needs of the food industry. Beet juice lacks stability in heat processed foods and in high water activity products. Carmine and the carotenoids are not “clean-label” and anthocyanins (fruit and vegetable juices) work only in low pH systems and fade unacceptably in the presence of ascorbic acid, a common beverage ingredient. 

THERE IS A NEED FOR AN ATTRACTIVE, "CLEAN LABEL", STABLE, COST-EFFECTIVE RED FOOD COLOR, especially for some of the more difficult applications- baked goods, cereals, pet foods and dairy. 

Potential Problem-Solving Pathways (Non-Exhaustive)

  1. Identification of a new source for an existing FDA-approved colorant, most likely a non-commercialized juice from an edible fruit or vegetable, as per 21CFR 73.250 & 73.260.
  2. PHYSICAL modification of an existing FDA-approved colorant, e.g., encapsulation, emulsification, drying, concentration, adsorption, extension, etc. 
    NOTE: changes in the CHEMICAL nature of the colorant would negate any prior toxicity studies and, therefore, almost certainly require FDA approval via the submission of a Color Additive Petition.
  3. Submission of a Color Additive Petition to FDA to gain approval of a colorant not currently approved for use in foods and beverages.
  4. Selective breeding and/or improved agricultural practices of source crops to improve color, reduce cost, increase availability, improve sustainability, etc.

The Challenge Breakthrough

Viveri Food Colors, a division of the Day-Glo Color Group, is committed to identifying and providing both the consumer and the food industry with a significant improvement to the current supply, selection, quality and performance properties of “clean label” red food colorants.

What You Can Do To Cause A Breakthrough

  • Click "Follow the Challenge" above to be notified of any status updates to the challenge.
  • Click "Yes Sign Me Up!" above to register for the challenge. You will be notified of any status updates and be able to create an entry to the challenge when it opens.
  • Click on the "Share" button or social media icons above to share this challenge with your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.

Leave a comment in our Comments Thread to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.


Additional rules

Who can participate:
The Challenge is open to all individuals and teams.  To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the Challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Selection of Winner:

1. Solutions will be tested and measured against FD&C Red No. 40 by Day-Glo Color Group with additional, selected external testing regarding market acceptance.

2. The winning solution will be paid $100,000 upon completion of a successful proof of concept by the Day-Glo Color Group.  If the winning solution requires a Color Additive Petition (CAP), the award will be paid in two installments: Installment One of $50,000 will be paid upon the completion of a successful proof of concept.  Installment Two of $50,000 will be paid upon FDA approval of the CAP.

DETAILS: Many of the judging criteria will be on a relative basis.  No absolute target value can be given other than to say that the goal is to identify a colorant that performs at least as well as FD&C Red #40 in the most possible attributes- safety, appearance, performance, cost, consumer acceptance, etc.  Commercially feasible concepts that do not win the main award may still be eligible for awards of lesser amounts at the sole discretion of the Day-Glo Color Group. 

Judging: submissions will be evaluated based on the combined commercial value of the individual parameters rather than on the accumulated points. Refer to GUIDELINES for specifics. 

Any competitor misrepresenting their results will be automatically disqualified from the challenge.

Registration and Submissions:
Registrations must be completed by Midnight MST, May 1, 2016 to be eligible for the prize. No registrations will be accepted after this date and no changes to Teams may be made after this date.

All submission materials must be submitted online on or before Midnight MST, Sept 1, 2016. No submissions will be accepted after this time. Incomplete submissions will not be accepted. All submissions must be received online, via the Challenge website, and all uploads can be in PDF format only. Submission reporting requirements are detailed in Judging.

Challenge Guidelines are subject to change. Registered competitors will receive notification when changes are made, however, we highly encourage you to visit the Challenge Site often to review updates.


Judging will be based upon the following criteria.  Relative importance of each criteria can be gauged by the assigned "point value" but final results will be determined by total market value of the submission, not strictly by the accumulated point value. 

Submission Evaluation Criteria Point Value
Does the colorant meet any existing FDA monographs for an exempt food color (21CFR Part 73 Subpart A) or is there a resonable expectation that the colorant would gain FDA approval upon submission of a Color Additive Petition (21CFR Part 71)? Mandatory
Will DayGlo be able to secure a proprietary position on the source, production or commercialization of the submission? Mandatory
Does the colorant meet the common definition of a "clean label" color additive, i.e., would the colorant's declaration on a food label be recognized and known to most consumers?  For example, "fruit juice", "vegetable juice" or "paprika" as opposed to "sodium copper chlorophyllin" or "canthaxanthin". 25
Does the colorant produce attractive red shades in a range of foods and beverages?  20
How does the cost-in-use of the colorant compare to that of FD&C Red #40?  15
Relative to FD&C Red #40, how stable is the colorant in the specified screening tests? 10
How secure and consistant is the supply chain? 10
Does the color contibute any off-taste? (see FAQ for guidelines) 5
Does the color meet Kosher and Hallal dietary requirements? 5
Is the colorant permitted for food use in countries other than the US or is there a reasonable expectation that it could gain approval? 5
Any other intangibles? Are there advantages over other FDA-approved red food colors?  Would the inclusion of the colorant in a food or beverage add additional commercial value aside from the coloring effect, i.e., nutritional value, perception of health and wellness, etc 5
Total 100


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