True blue: GNT gains regulatory approval for spirulina extract in beverages
11 Nov 2022 --- Color supplier GNT has secured US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the use of spirulina extract in beverages, enabling manufacturers to achieve vibrant blue shades while maintaining a clean label. The move comes amid a rising consumer interest in spirulina which has increased exponentially over the past decade.
The company has developed a patented formulation technology that allows spirulina extract to remain temperature- and acid-stabilized in beverages.
The Exberry Blue Beverage Solution is suitable for various applications, including sports, energy, and carbonated drinks, juice drinks, enhanced waters and alcoholic beverages below 20% ABV.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Jeannette O’Brien, VP at GNT, US, says it’s important to note that there are technical limitations in this category. “For instance, spirulina extract is expected to perform best for refrigerated non-dairy beverages, and the color performance will depend on formulation, processing, and packaging considerations. Shelf-stable aseptic non-dairy beverages are outside of feasibility scope for now. We’re always happy to work closely with product developers to provide the best technical recommendations while also being transparent when we believe spirulina extract will not be suitable. We’re focusing predominantly on the use of spirulina extract in acidified, low-pH beverages including alcoholic drinks and syrups, which utilize GNT’s patented stabilization system.”
“When we filed our first color additive petition for spirulina almost 10 years ago, there were concerns about consumers’ familiarity of spirulina on the label. This is no longer the case. Today, spirulina is very much on-trend due to its powerful health halo – brands now use it as a hero ingredient. It also contains a naturally occurring pigment called phycocyanin, which is fully water-soluble and can deliver exceptional blue shades while maintaining clean and clear labels,” she explains.
The color additive petition was filed in January 2020.
Success for spirulina
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) had previously permitted spirulina extract as a natural blue coloring ingredient in certain food products and powdered beverages.
However, GNT has now successfully petitioned the FDA to amend the regulation to cover all non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages below 20% ABV. The update will come into effect on December 13, 2022.
This means the Exberry Blue Beverage Solution can be used as a clean label replacement for Blue 1 in most drink applications. It delivers a bright turquoise blue shade in acidified beverages with a pH range between 2.6 to 3.4. It can be combined with other Exberry food solutions that deliver hues including navy blue, violet and green.
“GNT’s Exberry Blue Beverage Solution at long last offers manufacturers a pathway to bright, stable, regulatory-approved and consumer-friendly natural blue colors,” underscores Jane MacDonald, technical director at GNT, US.
“Natural blues have always presented challenges, from regulatory hurdles to technical limitations, but with GNT’s technical knowledge, we create opportunities for manufacturers.”
Supply chain scale-up
The FDA’s approval of natural blue colors derived from spirulina extract for products include applications such as yogurt, ice cream and confectionery.
GNT is the largest spirulina extract manufacturer in the world. Its spirulina supply chain is vertically integrated, beginning with raw material cultivation to its dedicated product manufacturing facility to ensure commercial scale-up capabilities.
The company’s state-of-the-art facility also utilizes green energy generated from solar panels to enhance sustainability.
“Spirulina’s brisk market growth shows no signs of slowing down due to growing consumer awareness of this ingredient’s health halo, which taps into burgeoning wellness trends,” adds O’Brien.
“Exberry colors are also created at our cutting-edge manufacturing facilities using gentle, physical processing methods that align with the transparency these shoppers want to see.”
“We expect spirulina extract to become an increasingly popular coloring ingredient in the beverage space over the coming years. Exberry Blue Beverage Solution is an innovative new technology that opens up exciting new possibilities, but it isn’t a plug-and-play process – it requires expert knowledge and careful formulation. We’ll work in collaboration with our customers to identify how best to deliver vibrant blue, green, and violet shades in different beverage applications,” she notes.
Eye on botanicals
Product launches with flavor ingredients are gaining ground with annual growth of 6% (CAGR, 2017-2021), according to data from Innova Market Insights. Flavor creativity is trending, and flower and herbal flavors are gaining ground.
Earlier this month, FoodIngredientsFirst reported that “minerals and jewels” inspire GNT’s turmeric and spirulina bluish-green shades.
Meanwhile, GNT expanded its EU organic-certified Exberry Coloring Foods range with new yellow and green shades made from organic safflower and spirulina. The launch comes amid a drive in interest for organic ingredients across F&B applications.
The company also recently unveiled shades of green based on turmeric and spirulina for various confectionery products.
By Elizabeth Green
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