Healthy Hues

En­tre­pre­neur Ash­ley Phelps and her com­pany Color Kitchen are on a mis­sion to bring a rain­bow of whole­some, non­toxic col­ors to our fa­vorite home­made con­fec­tions

Better Nutrition - - TREN'WATCH - By Neil Zevnik

Al­ter­ing the color of food to make it more ap­peal­ing goes back as far as Egypt in 1500 B. C., where nat­u­ral ex­tracts and wine were used to punch up oth­er­wise bor­ing con­fec­tions. By the 19th cen­tury, ad­di­tives con­tain­ing lead, mer­cury, and even ar­senic were rou­tinely used to en­liven culi­nary off er­ings. In the 20th cen­tury, th­ese nox­ious el­e­ments were re­placed by dyes de­rived from coal tar and other syn­thetic pro­cesses.

There is con­tro­versy over the eff ects and safety of th­ese cur­rent col­orants, with co­gent ar­gu­ments on both sides. But for those who pre­fer to err on the side of cau­tion, es­pe­cially when their chil­dren’s health may be at stake, there is a move­ment to­ward demon­stra­bly safe and nat­u­ral dyes that pro­vide the req­ui­site rain­bow de­lights with­out the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

The Per­son

En­ter Ash­ley Phelps and Color Kitchen. Trained as an artist, Phelps grad­u­ated from UCLA and moved to San Fran­cisco, where she painted and ex­hib­ited, work­ing pro­fes­sion­ally as a mu­ral­ist and art teacher. Be­cause she was chem­i­cally sen­si­tive, she had a hard time work­ing with sol­vents and paints that com­monly con­tain formalde­hyde as a preser­va­tive. Look­ing for gen­tler al­ter­na­tives, she learned that even “non­toxic” chil­dren’s paints con­tained th­ese chem­i­cals, though they were la­beled as safe.

Then one day her Ethiopian land­lord showed Phelps his house paint made of cac­tus, and it made her won­der if there was a way to make nat­u­ral, chem­i­cal­free al­ter­na­tives for arts- and- crafts paints. Af­ter em­bark­ing on an en­thu­si­as­tic quest for in­for­ma­tion about his­tor­i­cal and cur­rent it­er­a­tions of col­or­ing agents, she de­vel­oped a line of nat­u­ral paints for kids, called Glob Col­ors, made from food- grade in­gre­di­ents.

The Pas­sion

At this point, Ash­ley was hooked. Next up, she de­vel­oped a nat­u­ral food- dye kit for Easter eggs, and from there it was a short step to dyes for food col­or­ing, as she came to re­al­ize that there was a dis­tinct lack of nat­u­ral choices in that sec­tor of the mar­ket. And what could be more artis­tic than creat­ing beau­ti­ful desserts?

Thus was born Color Kitchen, off er­ing ar­tifi cial- dye- free, plant- based, ve­gan, gluten- free, non- GMO food col­ors. Phelps re­al­ized that bak­ing and dec­o­rat­ing, “tap into per­sonal val­ues of hap­pi­ness, fem­i­nin­ity, cre­ativ­ity, and love.” Creat­ing col­ors that en­abled health- con­scious par­ents to al­low their chil­dren pre­vi­ously for­bid­den treats be­came not only a cre­ative en­deavor, but also a way to re­store a lit­tle magic to the kitchen.

“I’m proud to have cre­ated a nat­u­ral, plant- based so­lu­tion, so par­ents can color a birth­day cake and not worry about their child’s health. I see my col­ors as bring­ing joy and hap­pi­ness to health­con­scious par­ents and their chil­dren, so that cel­e­bra­tions can be en­joyed fully.”

And her tasks don’t end with per­fect­ing suc­cess­ful col­ors— those col­ors have to work in recipes for con­fec­tions of all sorts. So de­vel­op­ing and test­ing recipes is a nec­es­sary part of her reper­toire, and one that she em­braces with delight.

For Ash­ley, it comes down to this: “Mak­ing the prod­ucts is a cre­ative process for me. And when I get feed­back from par­ents that their child is no longer re­stricted from en­joy­ing sweets be­cause of the ar­tifi cial dyes, it makes me happy. My mom was a nu­tri­tion­ist, and we weren’t al­lowed to eat candy or sugar, so I know what that feels like. No child should be de­nied birth­day cake!”

“I see my col­ors as bring­ing joy and hap­pi­ness to health- con­scious par­ents,” says Phelps, above.

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