IFC Solutions in Linden, New Jersey, makes both natural and artificial food coloring in “almost any desired shade,” according to the company. This variety of colors would have been tough to imagine in the mid-19th century, when the first artificial food color (purple) was produced from coal by-products. These “Color Bits” are prized by candy manufacturers because they are easy to mix into hot masses of candy but are low in moisture, which makes for a long shelf life.
Color Bits are made by oversaturating liquid colorants (left, ) and then adding a thickening agent, like corn sugar (right).
Scarlet Shade Red C (left tray) and Striping Red C (right tray) both get much brighter once diluted. If you’ve eaten a candy cane in the US, the red stripe is likely to have come from a tray like the one to the right. Both are proprietary blends based on Red 40, a synthetic dye also known as Allura Red. Once the resulting cake dries, it is chopped into bits.