Natural blue colorant for hot and cold drinks withstands heat processing, low pH, and full pasteurization

Finding stable, natural alternatives for blue coloring has been one of the biggest challenges for companies in the natural colors industry.

Israel-based FoodTech startup Gavan Ltd. has developed proprietary technology to produce natural blue coloring that is highly stable in hot and cold drinks. Finding stable, natural alternatives for blue coloring has been one of the biggest challenges for companies in the natural colors industry.

Gavan has now added a new natural blue colorant to its line of natural blue colorings. Derived from spirulina, the new natural blue color is said to withstand high-heat processing and low-pH environments, enabling full pasteurization. Said the company in a press release, “The new coloring formulation is ideal for hot beverages such as tea and coffee as well as functional drinks and sports drinks. Such products typically require specific production parameters, including infusion in boiling water or acidic medium.”

Natural alternatives to blue colors have been challenging to find. In a press release, Yael Leader, head of product for Gavan, explained: “Both synthetic blue dyes and plant-based blue coloring have regulatory, stability, intensity, or price challenges. The main barrier to creating food formulations with natural colors is stability—the ability to overcome formulation challenges and ensure vibrant and consistent true blue throughout the product’s shelf life.”

Beverages have been especially difficult for natural blue colors, the company said, because “delivering a heat-stable, naturally derived, vibrant blue for products with low pH is tricky. Any heat treatment might impact the color irreversibly, and any shift in the pH can impair the color stability and influence the blue color’s shade.” Fortified ingredients added to a functional beverage can also throw off the color by reacting with the colorant, speeding up color degradation, causing fading, or causing pigments and minerals to bind and create sedimentation, Leader said.

Gavan uses its proprietary process to extract phycocyanin, the pigment-protein complex synthesized by blue-green microalgae like spirulina that produces a pure blue shade. Gavan’s technology for yielding phycocyanin from spirulina “extracts and optimizes the colorant gently, without damaging the source, and enables the extraction of multiple compounds from the whole spirulina, without waste,” the company says. The process, which is non-GMO, prevents the colorant from fading, even when exposed to pH levels as low as 3.0 or when pasteurized at 90°C for 30 seconds, the firm says. It also enables control over particle size, which helps improve stability over the final product’s shelf life.

According to Gavan, the ability to extract this stable, natural blue colorant ultimately gives formulators a wide range of color options in addition because blue is a primary color that can be used to create other colors like green and purple. These offshoot colors are said to also be highly stable and vivid.

The technology can also be applied to other plant-based alternatives. “Gavan’s proprietary technology enables us to transform spirulina or other plant-based compounds and sources into easy-to-use, water-dispersible food colorings suitable for hot and cold beverages,” said Itai Cohen, Gavan’s CEO and cofounder, in the press release.

As for the blue shade, said Cohen, “Gavan’s blue can replace artificial coloring and opens options for acidic beverages to be colored with any blue shades. It has no impact on flavor and maintains a clear, clean label. Our advanced platform can revolutionize plant-based products across multiple categories.”