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.
Fiery Red Sweet Potatoes to Replace Crushed Insect Bodies as Food Coloring
Millions of cochineal insects will be spared by the Hansen sweet potato—which can be used to impart a fire-engine red color in foods such as gummy bears, cakes, and cereals.
March 1, 2019