LycoRed reports rocketing demand for lycopene-based red color as firms seek alternatives to carmine

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

LycoRed: 'We’ve seen a ten-fold increase in enquiries about Tomat-O-Red in the past 60 days....'
LycoRed: 'We’ve seen a ten-fold increase in enquiries about Tomat-O-Red in the past 60 days....'
Israeli lycopene expert LycoRed says it has seen a surge in demand for its tomato-based natural color Tomat-O-Red as a growing number of manufacturers follow Starbucks’ lead and seek a replacement for bug-derived colorant carmine.

While carmine - which is derived from crushed cochineal insects - is a safe and highly-effective natural alternative to synthetic red color FD&C Red #40, firms are facing mounting pressure to replace it from vegans, vegetarians, shoppers seeking kosher and halal products, plus those suffering from the ‘ick’ factor.

Higher prices and a change in labeling rules requiring manufacturers to list the color as ‘carmine’ or ‘cochineal extract’ on the label (instead of ‘color added’) have also contributed to a cooling of enthusiasm for the natural color amongst food and beverage manufacturers.

Carmine: all-natural, but not suitable for vegans…

In Starbucks’ case, the trigger was an online petition launched last month at​ that garnered more than 6,000 signatures from consumers unhappy that the retailer was using crushed bugs to color its frappuccinos.

Starbucks president Cliff Burrows quickly responded via the company’s blog, where he promised to replace it with lycopene​.

He added: “We’ve learned that we fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States… As our customers you expect and deserve better – and we promise to do better.

“I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products... ​[and switching to] lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract… This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage production.”

LycoRed: A ten-fold increase in enquiries…

LycoRed has been supplying food and beverage manufacturers with Tomat-O-Red - which is made using a patented process from lycopene-rich tomatoes grown in California - for several years.

However, interest has “really accelerated​” in recent weeks, and bosses have doubled production in the past month alone to meet demand, VP Business Development and New Product Marketing Doug Lynch told FoodNavigator-USA.

 “Clearly it takes a while for companies to change their recipes, but we’ve seen a ten-fold increase in enquiries in the past 60 days.

We’ve got new application requests from multinationals to start-ups covering everything from soft drinks to juices to confectionery, dairy and sauces along with cosmetics. People want something vegetarian and vegan but also kosher and halal.”

Tomato lycopene does not change color in the presence of ascorbic acid

While there are several natural red colors on the market including anthocyanin-rich red beet and paprika-based colors, Tomat-O-Red is pH, heat and light stable and suitable for applications containing ascorbic acid, he said.

“The anthocyanins are very pH dependent, they only remain stable at a low pH and they can turn brown in the presence of ascorbic acid. If you expose paprika to heat through pasteurization or a retort process, it will tend to break down.”

By contrast, he claimed, “Tomat-O-Red does not change color in the presence of ascorbic acid and it remains stable under all food processing conditions, including heat, cold and pH variations.”

As for price, switching from carmine to lycopene was “cost neutral”, ​he claimed. “The price of carmine fluctuates from year to year, whereas lycopene prices are much more stable as we can just ramp up production to meet demand.”

Tomat-O-Red is approved as a color additive in the US and is also a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredient, says LycoRed.

The global market for lycopene, both as a color additive and nutritional supplement, could reach $84m by 2018, up from $66m in 2010, according to a recent by BCC Research, said LycoRed.


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