A new trademarked sweet potato variety is showing promise as a natural and vibrant red alternative to carmine and artificial food colors, according to Food Navigator.
Chr. Hansen, the Denmark-based ingredients company that commercialized the Hansen sweet potato, said it has been "nearly impossible" until now to create a fire-engine red color that doesn't have an off taste without using carmine from crushed cochineal insects. The new sweet-potato-based color responds to the growing number of vegans and vegetarians, the company added.
"Over 10 years ago, we discovered a promising pigment in a root vegetable’s tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was on the low side. We took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The result is a plant-based, brilliant red that gives our customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors,” Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, vice-president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors, said in a release.
Because bright red is such a popular shade for foods such as cakes and candy, and because more consumers are looking for vegetarian and vegan options, Chr. Hansen said the demand for a natural color source beyond carmine has become more significant in recent years. For these reasons, food manufacturers are likely to be interested in trying this new sweet potato-based coloring.
Chr. Hansen said its customers had been asking for a natural red color, and the Hansen sweet potato can be the solution. Its new FruitMax line of colors, including both red and orange, is based on blends of pigment sourced from the new variety, the company said.
Besides providing more vibrant colors, the Hansen sweet potato is more heat-stable in baking applications than colors sourced from beets, Pernille Borre Arskog, Chr. Hansen's natural colors division senior manager of global marketing, told Food Navigator.
For baked goods, candy and other products, the sweet potato-based colors could help shift formulations toward more natural ingredients. A GNT global consumer survey found 79% of consumers define "natural" as being made without artificial colors. Consumers in general are looking for items offering less-processed ingredients, and plant-sourced colors are a big part of that trend.
Color and flavor are also linked, so consumers are likely to reach for products with appealing colors that help to telegraph how they'll taste. Brightly colored products could more often be shared on social media, which could also boost their appeal in the marketplace and give manufacturers that all-important competitive edge.