Ask the expert: a pop of colour

International Confectionery’s Editor, Kiran Grewal, speaks with Plamen Nikolov, Director of Research & Innovation and Alberto Sarti, Sales Manager for VIVAPIGMENTS at Capol who give insight to natural colour solutions

Can you start by giving us a brief insight into your job and what your day-to-day activities include?

Alberto Sarti

I have the pleasure of leading a group of young and enthusiastic group of food scientists, and where we do business, Montreal, Canada office, this is where we have our R&D for colours. We call ourselves the research and innovation team, and what we work on is what the consumer sees first when they look at a product.

That’s quite important, because as you can imagine, most food manufacturers they want to have the consumer to get a good first impression, so how we do that is that we are creating a natural colour-based ingredient solutions, so really, it’s ingredients that are based on natural colours.

It could mean that on some days we are working on the natural red, that survives a bakery process, colour is not lost because of high heat conditions, or we are doing a mint green for a chocolate application. So, we do several different things to achieve those natural based solutions.

That is our objective. The thing that drives me to get up in the morning and do this is the desire for that eureka moment, we want to achieve a breakthrough or product insight into the science behind the natural colour behaviours.

Alberto, what about you?

I joined the company one year ago so I’m very fresh and my role is to be responsible of the safe development of colour pigments in Europe. Ourobjective is progressive growth and increase the revenue in Europe, to make it the same level of what we are achieving in North and South America. I am following the target to make connections, so I play with my network here in Europe, with both direct customers and potential distributors to quickly develop this market.

Plamen Nikolov
Plamen Nikolov

During the lockdown it was hard to talk with the customers and to meet the customers, but we have been helped by these tools, video meetings, conferencing, email, so at times it was difficult, and our growth is in line with the expectation. But now, it’s time to travel again, to meet people at their sites and begin developing further fantastic products.

You sound excited at the prospect of meeting face to face again.

Yes, it’s a part of the job of salespeople. We love to be in front of the customers and to answer their questions, to show how our products are working and what the best ways are to include them. It’s something that you can do by conference call but it’s not always the same. There’s no substitute for being in the same room, I think the outcomes you get from customers and team members – I think people just work better.


Capol is well known for its surface treatments in confectionery, but what developments have there been with natural colouring and why do you feel now is the time to focus strongly in this area?

Plamen: Expanding into natural colours was a natural transition. Since any food stuff, such as confectionery or bakery, would need a surface treatment but also need a natural colour, there is a lot of value in this sector because at the end of the day, it’s the first thing that the consumer sees.

Consumers already have a strong compass in that they demand natural colours. If the colour is going to be natural, and if it’s going to be in a product, it should work well, and it shouldn’t fade. Our focus with my team of scientists is to take our patented technology and provide the encapsulated vegetable and food extracts so they perform well in a variety of applications, whilst at the same time, having that natural status.


“it’s about the consumer and if the consumer trusts in natural foods and natural colours then that is our directive and what we must work on, and develop, it’s as simple as that”


Capol is well known for their ability to offer high quality technical help services for these treatments, and it’s the same premise to take that and to apply it to natural colours so it becomes the same stress-free process for them. On the ingredients side, our pigments are quite unique and because it’s an encapsulation it gives us some properties such as the insolubility of the pigments and the stability, which helps add value to the confectionery market.

Are consumers looking for more clean label options?

Plamen: I look at myself as an example, and I profess myself a food-lover. One of the things that’s important for me is that I can trust my food, trust it is both nutritious and that it is healthy for me, and I think a lot of consumers would agree to that type of sentiment. If we look at natural colours for example, we’ve been eating them for millennium – vegetables and fruit – we have been consuming them for a long time, so we have that trust that they provide the wants and needs we want from our food.

When you look at natural colours, there is a plethora of scientific journals showing that a lot of these, the molecules that generate colour, are antioxidants, or they have other beneficial health impacts. So, on one side what we have is consumers that are demanding trust in things that have been available all this time, and from a scientific point of view we know that these ingredients are better for you and there are benefits to that.

But I will finish off by saying that there is science and regulation on this and that’s important, but ultimately, it’s about the consumer and if the consumer trusts in natural foods and natural colours then that is our directive and what we must work on, and develop, it’s as simple as that.

Alberto, what makes this line so different from the other natural colours and natural extracts already out there?

Effectively, the European market especially, is already focused on natural colours while in US, there are still a lot of synthetics. However, in Europe the synthetic dyes are widely utilised where the natural colours have their limits of brightness in appearance. Our pigments line is closing this gap, because it is offering colours that perform like synthetics, practically, but they are totally aluminium free, and 100% plant based.


“we feel that we have a diamond in the rough”


What application is the VIVAPIGMENTS best suited for? What are the benefits of it as you’ve just mentioned, is there anything else that you can think of?

Alberto: Following the experience that Capol is already specialised in chocolate glazing and finishing, we are starting to test our VIVAPIGMENTS in this application and we have seen that effectively they are performing very well.

Why? Because they are dispersible in fats and oils. They are perfectly dispersible in any kind of powder, in flour and sugar, so for this type of production or product lines they are, first of all, easy to utilise, and they are perfect to create goods with very vibrant colour shades and we had exceptional results in terms of both brightness and colour.

Alberto, about the VIVAPIGMENTS, do you think there is expectation for flexibility and efficiency for manufacturers, are they moving towards something that they want to be able to produce in a way that is easier for them?

Yes. We obtain VIVAPIGMENTS by an encapsulation of a natural dye and it is soluble, and then we make the colour by extrusion, so with this micro encapsulation the pigment becomes very dispersible in fat based or sugar-based products. The idea was to create a rough surface around the pigments, to get more diffused light reflection that gives a level of brightness. So, practically it’s not about having a pigment that is more concentrated, but it’s by the molecule itself that reflects the light in a different way. For the manufacturers, the powder is very easy to dose, it’s something that is always under control.

Could you tell me about the launch for the new brand design, and why that came about and why you felt that it was necessary?

Plamen: We wanted to have a new design because, we feel that we have a diamond in the rough – a technology that is unique, and we wanted to bring it from outside of the shadows and put it in the spotlight. Manufacturers should know that it is out there and that it is a tool that they can use when it comes to colouring products.


“it’s not about having a pigment that is more concentrated, but it’s by the molecule itself that reflects the light in a different way”


That’s why we went further and created this website, and dedicated space, to give the brand an area on the web where people can experience what the brand stands for. Our colours allow them to re-think what a colouring can do for you, it’s the fact that our colours are insoluble, and the fact that they colour in a different way, and it doesn’t bleed. It’s because our colours can do what a synthetic could do in the past, but there’s not many solutions on the market that are natural that can do this.

Therefore, the theme of our website is to rethink what’s possible, what a natural colour is, because a lot of people that work with natural colours, they won’t necessarily have seen anything like these pigments. So, we are inviting customers to have a look and we are trying to inspire them to expect the unexpected.

What do you think the company will be focusing on in the future, is that what you think will be the next step, broadening the food colouring?

Alberto: Yes, because we need to invest the money that we are making in the pigments. The aim of the company since it was born, it was practically a start-up, is to innovate. Innovation is in the DNA, so this means sometimes we are investing more than what we should in different products, or products that are performing well. But I am sure that Capol, and especially the group where we belong, will continue to invest and give the freedom to our crazy scientists to invent something new.


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Media contact
Kiran Grewal
Editor, International Confectionery

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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