Synthetically produced colors have a known structure and impart intense, uniform color. Synthetic colors are typically less expensive, blend more easily, and are more stable. They generally do not impart undesirable flavors to food.
Synthetic colors come in two forms: dyes, which are colors that function by dissoution and lakes, which are formed by chemically reacting dyes with precipitants and substrats of alumina, which can be used for applications where bleeding is undesirable.
Colors that are considered to be natural are those dervied or extracted from natural sources such as vegetables, minerals or animals. The pigment percentage of a natural color can vary, which typically imparts a less intense, more natural hue. Due to the various sources, not all natural colors are stable for use in all applications.
Color additives from natural sources are subject to the same safety requirements as synthetic color additives for regulatory approval.