Caramel-Free Natural Brown for Beverage

Creating brown in beverages naturally has typically been done through the use of caramel color. According to a 2013 report from market research firms Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research, caramel color is the single most used food coloring in the world. As a result of controversy around 4-MeI and California Proposition 65, many developers are looking to replace caramel with other natural solutions.

4-MeI-free and caramel-free natural brown color shades require the combination of blue, red and yellow natural sources. The challenge for developers in the past was the absence of a beverage-stable, natural source of blue. Sensient employs the use of our proprietary Natural Blue to create the combination necessary to achieve Natural Brown. This produces a nice ‘Root Beer’ shade at pH3.


The vegetable juice (i.e. red and blue) components within Natural Brown are sensitive to ascorbic acid, whereas the Beta Carotene (i.e. yellow) component thrives with its presence.

  • Too much ascorbic acid (800–1000ppm) will cause the vegetable juice to degrade, leaving the Beta Carotene and causing the shade to shift to yellow.
  • Too little ascorbic acid (0–100ppm) will cause the opposite, and the Beta Carotene will degrade, and the remaining vegetable juices shift to purple.

While Sensient Natural Brown is a great alternative to caramel, formulators should consider the above while working to obtain the right balance of ascorbic acid within their product base in order to protect all three natural components. This is especially true for beverage brands making the claim of ‘Vitamin C Added.’

Even with the success of our Natural Brown color, Sensient continues to create solutions utilizing novel botanical sources of natural brown that will help brands and developers replace caramel. One of the main objectives, in addition to providing more flexibility, is to lower cost-in-use for botanical caramel replacements. Stay tuned to learn about future developments.

To learn more about the Natural Blue component in Sensient’s Natural Brown, review my earlier blog, Natural Orange and Blue for Beverage.

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