Colorful potato source: Chr. Hansen unveils carmine alternative source, expands applications
19 Feb 2019 --- Danish-headquartered bioscience company Chr. Hansen has commercialized a new vegetable variety – the Hansen sweet potato Ipomoea batatas – using traditional breeding methods to create a long-sought after vibrant, natural red alternative to carmine. The potato is the result of a decade-long breeding program at the company.
Chr. Hansen launched two liquid red products in November 2018 and is set to launch four more during February/March 2019:
· A powder.
· A more pinkish-red, cost-effective blend with more black carrot inside.
Two blends with safflower which produce:
· A bright tangerine orange and;
· A red with a more orange tone.
The shade ranges from pinkish red to red to orangey red to orange.
“Developing the Hansen sweet potato ipomoea batatas has been a key strategic initiative for us for many years. Traditional non-GMO breeding is time-consuming and we’re very pleased that it is now on the market,” Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, Vice President, Commercial Development, Natural Colors Division at Chr. Hansen, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “Sweet potatoes can be grown around the world, but we’ve focused our growing programs in Latin America. We’re currently processing several hundred tons of vegetables per month and have contingency plans to meet increased demand. Unlike many sources of natural colors, it is a year-round crop. This means that we can adjust our planting schedule every month to fine-tune production according to forecasts,” he notes.
Over 10 years ago, Chr. Hansen plant scientists discovered a promising pigment in a tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was not satisfactory. They took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The company’s plant scientists spent years cultivating and selecting generation after generation of seedlings. They partnered with growers to learn the best ways to plant, nurture and harvest the Hansen sweet potato, as well as perfecting methods of handling, transportation and extraction. The result is a plant-based, brilliant red that gives customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors.
Strawberry red is a popular shade for food products – from cakes to confectionary to milkshakes. But until now it has been nearly impossible to make a fire-engine red color with no risk of off-taste without using carmine, the company notes. As consumers move towards vegetarian and vegan food choices, the need for a carmine alternative has become more pressing. The new FruitMax red juice concentrates are 100 percent plant based and provide a new solution to our customers looking to respond to this consumer trend.
All the products are classified as coloring foods or minimally processed colors. In the US it will be labeled as “vegetable juice (color).” In the EU and most of the rest of the world it will be labeled as “sweet potato concentrate.”
The clean label trend continues to boom. Innova Market Insights still reports 13 percent CAGR in food & beverage launches with a clean label claim (Global, 2013-2017). Products with this type of positioning accounted for 29 percent of global new food & beverage launches in 2017.
At the same time, there is a growing popularity for new product development on a vegan platform, with a 35 percent increase in product launches recorded with a vegan claim in 2018 from 2014, according to the market researcher. The leading market sub-categories in 2017 for vegan claims on a global basis were cereal & energy bars (4.9 percent), meat substitutes (4.0 percent) and dairy alternative drinks (3.8 percent).
“We are in the business of providing the full palette of colors that our customers need. Those needs are continuously changing, and consumers are often the first to make new requirements known,” Dalmose Rasmussen explains. “As consumer trends evolve, we often see that the most effective front-pack claims also change. Food & beverage manufacturers with a clean label strategy have many claims they can use and adjust according to current trends. ‘Carmine-free’ would be a more limiting claim than ‘vegan,’ for example. And even companies that color their products naturally may choose to use a completely different, high-impact claim like ‘reduced sugar.’ Interested consumers are looking for more information than can fit on a package, and that’s where the digital communication universe plays an important role,” he notes.
Dalmose Rasmussen explains that the confectionery sector has a particularly big need for this shade. The new color products are especially suitable in jellies, hard candy and dragées. Sugar icing, fruit preparation, water ice and emulsified meats are also well-suited. Because it is heat stable, extruded cereals also offer a good match.
“The unique attribute of the Hansen sweet potato is that it can deliver a fire-engine red in applications like jellies. In white-based applications like cake the color is pink. The red color doesn’t tip towards blue like the typical purple sweet potato that produces a bright pink that is more blueish, or other anthocyanins such as black carrot and grape skin,” he says. pH affects all anthocyanins but the Hansen sweet potato is more stable other anthocyanins. “The pure product gives a bright red and then it can be blended to achieve a variety of colors,” Dalmose Rasmussen adds.
Carmine, which is an insect-derived color, receives some negative press, whether fairly or not, but Dalmose Rasmussen stresses that the color is still widely used and a very popular source in many parts of the world. This latest move is therefore not an indicator that Chr. Hansen has plans to exit this space altogether. “Carmine is an excellent source of bright red and pink color and we continue to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of carmine for the food & beverage market. Carmine delivers the most stable, bright red of all natural colors and can be used in nearly all food applications,” he notes. Consumers committed to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle or who prefer to purchase food with no additives of any kind avoid carmine, however. “In some regions, carmine has fallen out of favor with consumers. But consumer preferences continue to change and it’s possible that in a world now learning to eat insects as a source of protein, there could be a future where carmine becomes more popular than ever,” he adds.
Last month, Chr. Hansen reported solid organic revenue growth of 10 percent in the first three months of the financial year 2018/19. This corresponds to 6 percent reported growth due to adverse currency impacts.
Health & Nutrition (17 percent), Food Cultures & Enzymes (10 percent) and Natural Colors (6 percent), all reported growth. EBIT before special items increased by 9 percent to €71 million, corresponding to an EBIT margin before special items of 26.3 percent, which was up 0.9 percent-point compared to last year. The overall outlook for 2018/19 remains unchanged.
Dalmose Rasmussen stresses that Chr. Hansen is committed to their color business moving forward. “R&D investments like the development of our new vegetable variety will be key to fueling growth in the same way that R&D is at the heart of our other business areas,” he concludes.
In the February 2019 issue of The World of Food Ingredients, Gaia Saccani, Senior Marketing Manager Natural Color Division EMEA at Chr. Hansen notes how we are living in the social media era where food aesthetics have become more important than ever, especially among the younger generation. “Color is key in food, not only of flavor and quality, but also of emotions and feelings,” she says, noting how natural solutions are opening up opportunities to deliver products with bright, vibrant color that can be simply labeled as ingredients. You can read the interview here.
By Robin Wyers
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