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Robby Gardner is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, specializing in fresh produce and health food ingredients.
Innovations that make manufacturing with natural colors a little bit easier.
Earth’s plants bear so many colors, it’s a shame manufacturers have such trouble using them. The processing and storing of foods, beverages, and dietary supplements can degrade these natural colors, if not destroy them entirely. But, every so often, commercial colors are born that make manufacturing with natural colors a little bit easier.
The world’s largest manufacturer of anthocyanin colors, San Joaquin Valley Concentrates (Fresno, CA), now promotes a crystalline form for its pink-to-purple shades, most of which contain color from grapes. With the help of a new drying process, the company removes water from its raw materials in such a way that what is left are color-rich crystals.
The crystals are of the same shade and stability as equivalent liquid colors. Their unique structure and composition prevent clumping, provide fast solubility in water, and enable usage rates reportedly lower than those of liquid colors. For these reasons, the company’s crystal colors can offer cost savings.
But they also lower calories.
“Our products contribute fewer calories compared to other fruit and vegetable juices for color,” says Thomas Lampe, company director of business development. “When you add them to a beverage-at five to ten times a lower dosage than liquid colors-they add a lot of color, but not many calories.” Fewer calories, he says, make it easier for manufacturers to stay within the five-calorie limit allotted for zero-calorie claims in the United States.
San Joaquin Valley Concentrates benefits not just from crystal color blends, but also from highly selective ingredients. One building block for many of its blends is a unique OU kosher grape color from the Rubired variety, which Lampe says has color-bearing anthocyanins more stable than those of any other fruit used for coloring, including elderberry, aronia berry, and grape skin extract. Currently available OU crystal colors include Red Grape, Purple Grape, Purple Carrot, Zinfandel Shade, Merlot Shade, and Rosé Shade.
Derived from the flesh of red palm fruit, red palm oil could impart significant color if it weren’t for the sensitive nature of its carotenoids. They degrade at high temperatures.
Accepting the natural limitations of red palm oil, SternChemie (Hamburg, Germany) developed SternRed virgin palm oil at processing temperatures so low that the palm fruit’s crude, red-orange color is still maintained. And restrictions on heat do more than preserve color. SternRed palm oil retains its vitamin E complexes and carotenoids, which act not just as colorants, but as antioxidants for extending product shelf life.
SternRed is best suited for fried foods, baked goods, margarines, dressings, and mayos. When used in deep-frying, it imparts a golden yellow. This declaration-friendly ingredient can be listed as vegetable oil.
Blue is a tough find in the natural colors market, so it’s no surprise that Valensa International (Eustis, FL) had to find it in green.
By extracting phycocyanin pigment from blue-green spirulina (Anthrospira platensis), Valensa didn’t just develop a potent nutraceutical and blue-colored spirulina (now GRAS and marketed as Pur-Blue or SpiruBlu); it created an opportunity for natural blue coloring. Once Pur-Blue clears FDA through a color approval petition, it can be marketed purely as a color.
Blue color from spirulina is already permitted in Europe, where Nestlé uses it to color its blue Smarties confectionery. But the U.S. confectionery market shouldn’t be far from the trend. Like Valensa, Mars is waiting on approval to use blue spirulina color. The chocolate maker submitted its own blue color petition in 2012.
Once it’s approved, Pur-Blue will be suitable for coloring of alkaline applications, such as candies, yogurts, and ice creams, and it might one day be stable enough for beverages.