Colour me natural

Thursday, 18 May, 2017

Natural flavours and colours are now almost de rigueur in consumers’ expectations, but few consumers are aware of the costs and limitations of natural dyes.

When extracting natural colours the source product is usually reduced to waste as the dye is distributed throughout the product.

However, a new source of red/blue/purple coloured anthocyanins where the product is not destroyed during colour extraction may be on the horizon.

In a University of Illinois project coloured corn is being used as the source of the natural pigments. Rather than being dispersed throughout the corn the anthocyanins are located in the outer layers of the kernel. This outer layer can be separated during processing with the rest of the corn still used for ethanol or grit production.

The U of I team has identified the optimal milling process, established that the corn-derived anthocyanins are stable in food products and even found that Peruvian corn has the highest concentrations of anthocyanin.

Now the team is looking to transfer the Peruvian genes into high-yielding corn hybrids that will thrive in the US mid-west.

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