Wild Flavors discovers ‘holy grail’ of acid-stable natural blue

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Wild Flavors Inc has developed a new acid-stable blue color for food and beverage, solving a quandary that has thwarted the US industry for decades.

While other natural blue colors are available in the US, these are based on anthocyanins and are only stable at neutral pH, 5.5 to 7.0. In more acidic environments they turn red.

Wild Flavors’ blue addition to its Colors from Nature range, on the other hand, remains blue from pH 2.5 to 8.0. This means it can be used in a broad range of food and beverage products.

“When you look around in nature you see a lot of red, yellows, orange and green – but you don’t see a lot of blue in nature,”​ Jason Armao, director of colors and special ingredients told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

“I have been getting requests for this as long as I have been in the industry – and I have been working with colors since 1985,”​ he said. Coming up with a natural, acid stable blue color has been considered something of a “holy grail”.

The new blue is interesting not just for the creation of blue foods and beverages. Blue is also required to make other hues, such as purple and green.

“There is no naturally-derived green that is approved, and it is hard to get a true purple color.” ​Anthocyanins tend to give a reddish purple.

The company is not revealing the fruit from which the color is derived because it is patent-pending, but Armao said it is a mixture of fruits.

Regulatory processes

In other parts of the world there have been some blue colors that function in an acidic environment – such as a gardenia blue that is used in parts of Asia – but these are not approved for use in the US.

Armao explained that the term ‘natural’ is accepted parlance in the industry but the FDA does not define natural colors. Rather, all colors are termed “color additives”.

Color additives are split out into certified colors, which require the manufacturer to send samples to the FDA for certification before being introduced, and exempt colors, most of which are derived from natural sources.

Wild Flavors says its new blue is exempt under Section 21 CFR 73.250. Exempt colors are typically labeled as what they are – for example, ‘fruit juice concentrate (color)’.

At present the company is focusing on the US market with the color. Asked whether it will seek approval in Europe, he said “potentially yes”.

“For other countries there are different processes to go through, and these processes take time.”

The company made its final patent application this year, but it is out of its hands how long the patent will take to be granted. Armao said it can take “two years or more”.

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