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Food Additives > Natural Food Colors > Caramel

Blended Food Colors

Industry Overview

Food Colors


Color Golden brown to dark brown
Source Burnt sugar and other carbohydrates
Solubility water
Stability ¾ of the caramel contains negative charge Acts as an emulsifier
Application baked goods, poultry, milk, canned meats, syrups and soups

Caramel Color Classification
  • Class I is Plain Caramel Color
  • Class II is Caustic Sulfite Process Caramel Color
  • Class III is Ammonia Process Caramel Color
  • Class IV is Sulfite Ammonia Process Caramel Color
Caramel color is one of the most widely used colorants in foods. It is also called the color of burnt sugar. It is made by heating food grade carbohydrates, generally a high dextrose-containing starch hydrolysate or corn syrup. Acids such as acetic acid, citric acid, lactic acid, or phosphoric acid may be used to break the bonds between sugars before the sugars are raised to a higher temperature for caramelization. Heat is carefully controlled during the process.

It can produce color ranging from light brown to almost black and this color strength is called its tinctorial power (the absorbency at 560 nanometers measured by spectrophotometer). The color tone, as per the hue index, measures the red characteristics of the color. The higher the strength, the lower the hue index. Some caramel colors are termed "double strength." This varies with the color range.

Caramel colour is a colloid . The specific gravity indicates the solids content and the strength of the color. Being colloid, most of the caramel color carry a positive or negative ionic charge. Negatively charged product uses sulfite in its manufacture. The ionic charge of the caramel color determines what caramel color should be used in what product.

This allows manufacturers to use negative colloidal caramel in acidic soft drinks, and positive in beers and soy sauces. Caramel color is an emulsifying agent as well. In soft drinks, it helps keep the flavor oils suspended in the solution.

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