A healthy shade of purple

29 May, 2018

Interview with Ilanit Bar Zeev, Vice President Natural Solutions – Natural Colors BU Director at Frutarom, at the DAIRY INDUSTRIES international magazine, May 2018

Q. Why do you think the focus is on purple foods?

There is an increasing consumer demand for food solutions with ‘healthy’ fruits like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and combinations of these fruits. All of them are from the purple family of foods. This is part of the super fruit trend – using more anthocyanins and plant-based colours.

Anthocyanins are a compound of flavonoids that have proven to be a powerful group of antioxidants. It’s important to consume antioxidants, because they not only help protect the body from diseases, but they may also help prevent premature ageing.

The thought of adding another step to one’s diet may seem daunting, however, adding anthocyanins to a diet is as easy as recognising the brilliant colours of fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins are highly pigmented phytonutrients that can only be found in plants.


Q. What issues are there with purple foods?

The colour and stability of these pigments are influenced by pH, light, temperature, and structure. For example, in acidic conditions, anthocyanins appear as red, but turn blue when the pH increases. At high temperatures, anthocyanins are less stable at higher solution temperatures. Studies shown that heat process at a maximum of 35°C reduced the total anthocyanin content in the common grape, to less than half the amount in control berries at 25°C.

Some sources are also strong in odour or taste, such as red cabbage and red radishes. Sources from different plantations or regions can appear with different flavours.

All the above should be managed while extracting or formulating the pigments of colouring foodstuff to meet the desired process and profile of the final products – from ice cream, to yogurt or beverages.

When stabilising the formulation, it is key to generate acid proof solutions, de-odour the solution, control the crops for standardised flavours, generate heat treated solutions and tailor the colour solutions to the specific manufacturing process of the food and beverage producers. Stability tests should be performed to mimic the desired shelf life with the specific packaging and warehousing conditions of the final product.

For example, Frutarom offers purple corn extract. It is a variety of Zea maize, grown in the Andes region of South America, particularly Peru. The kernels of purple corn have been used since ancient times to colour foods and beverages. Aside from its use as food and dye, purple corn is thought to have many health benefits.

The worth of the extract is based not only on its higher anthocyanidin content, but also on the fact that its cyanidin fraction, the most active one, is present in greater proportion in comparison to other anthocyanidin sources.

Another product is Rosy Bright Free, a clean label, red plant-based vegan solution that is based on stabilised anthocyanin that offers heat process resistance with a natural, palm free version, which includes blends of anthocyanins with beta carotenes or paprika.

Beautiful purples can also be achieved with carmine derivatives. Carmine is a pigment that extracted from the cochineal insect that grows mainly in Peru. Carmine solutions are the most stable red pigments in the natural industry and the most common worldwide, with around $150 million (€121m) in market size. However, the trend for plant-based red solutions has generated the need to find other sources than carmine for solutions, such as Rosy.

Q. How big do you think the market will grow in the next few years?

The expected compound annual growth rate will be between eight to ten per cent for natural colours, depend on the region. Growth expectations are based on the actual performances of the industry over the past few years and several factors.

For example, the food and beverage industry has gained more knowledge and expertise of converting artificial colours to natural, and feels more confident in increasing and expanding its offerings, which include:

• Natural, organic and clean label antioxidants for colour protection, to assure stability and food protection

• Availability of advanced technologies that offer solutions to challenges that were formerly difficult, such as encapsulation and innovative filtration techniques. These are for developing suitable solubility and stability solutions with suitable quality and appearance needs.

The industry is also making the solutions more affordable than before, with responsible sourcing based on managing source plantations. This includes planting plants with the highest active ingredients contents, using efficient and managed growing methods that increase yield dramatically, while working with local communities to increase process sustainability, along with empowering women and securing incomes.

The ability and knowhow of separation and extraction help to utilise much more from one source, such as extracting the byproduct of annatto seeds to generate annatto tocotrienols, which are a vitamin E antioxidant.

Q. What other trends are occurring?

Sustainability, trust, responsible sourcing and clean label will be the key trends in 2018. The consumer wants to know the story behind the product and where it come from (farm to fork). A sustainable strategy including helping farmers in different countries and locations, maximum control on the supplying chain and more transparency, is also key. However, the products need to be affordable and accessible.

The big food and beverage players are starting to work more closely with ventures and startups for generating focused solutions to meet market expectations. These include healthier, authentic, free from, and alternative to products, which will generate more freedom for self-treatment by consumers.

Q. What else have you learned?

The market for colouring has changed dramatically. Most of the food companies are looking for natural colours solutions that are sustainable and at the same time more functional in terms of stability, and longer shelf life. For example, in yogurt with fruits, colours and stability are extremely important since consumers expect to get white yogurt and a fruit layer that does not dissolve into the yogurt. More food companies tend to work closely with suppliers on tailor-made solutions – from shade to application. It leads to shorter time in R&D development and improves flexibility while keeping transparency.