The color of food is often associated with the flavor, safety, and nutritional value of the product. Synthetic food colorants have been used because of their high stability and low cost. However, consumer perception and demand have driven the replacement of synthetic colorants with naturally derived alternatives. Natural pigment applications can be limited by lower stability, weaker tinctorial strength, interactions with food ingredients, and inability to match desired hues. Therefore, no single naturally derived colorant can serve as a universal alternative for a specified synthetic colorant in all applications. This review summarizes major environmental and biological sources for natural colorants as well as nature-identical counterparts. Chemical characteristics of prevalent pigments, including anthocyanins, carotenoids, betalains, and chlorophylls, are described. The possible applications and hues (warm, cool, and achromatic) of currently used natural pigments, such as anthocyanins as red and blue colorants, and possible future alternatives, such as purple violacein and red pyranoanthocyanins, are also discussed.


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