Denmark-based bioscience company Chr. Hansen recently trademarked the Hansen sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), a new variety of sweet potato with a red hue that can be used to replace carmine. Cochineal insects are crushed to make carmine—a red colorant used in a variety of foods, beauty products, and other goods. “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,” Jacob Dalmose Rasmussen, Vice President of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors, told Foodnavigator. “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. And as consumers move toward vegetarian and vegan food choices, the need for a carmine alternative has become more pressing.” The color extracted from the sweet potato is more heat stable than beet extracts and, when combined with carrot- and paprika-derived pigments, creates a stable red color that can be used in extruded cereals, cakes, gummies, cookies, and other products.

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