Purple rain: Purple corn craze moves from snacks to beer, bread, confectionery and popcorn

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Maize

A Minnesota-based firm making waves with anthocyanin-packed purple-corn ingredients says it has had significant interest from the snack food market, but is also talking to microbrewers, confectioners, and firms manufacturing everything from sourdough to cereals.

Suntava Inc - which supplies natural purple colors (a natural alternative to synthetic Red #40), purple corn flour, purple corn meal (for tortilla chips, bars, sourdough, cereals), purple corn grits and purple corn micro pellets (for popped snacks) - has also developed a purple corn syrup ideal for beers, bars, jams, confectionery and baked goods.

Although consumers are still learning about phytonutrients, they are starting to get the message that ‘purple foods’ are good for you, says Suntava, which contracts with growers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to grow non-GMO purple corn unusually high in anthocyanins.

The harvest for this year is in October and the firm is urging manufacturers to get in touch now to ensure they secure supplies.

We’re talking to the 3rd largest beer company in Japan and the top microbrewers in the US

And while some food manufacturers are primarily interested in the novelty factor of purple foods, others have really homed in on the health message, business development officer Terry Howell told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We were at IFT and we were so busy I didn’t leave the booth for three days. We’ve got companies experimenting with everything from tortilla chips to extruded snacks, popped snacks, bread and crackers. We’re also talking to the third largest beer company in Japan and four or five of the top microbrewers in the US.

Purple corn-mystic
Illinois-based Axium Foods Mystic Harvest tortilla chips contain Suntava purple corn

“They love the different purple colors you can get but also the nutritional benefits.

“The 45DE (dextrose equivalent) purple corn syrup works really well in brewing, confectionery and baking. For example, you can use it in a berry granola bar as a binder instead of brown rice syrup so you get some wetness and a beautiful color plus all the antioxidants.”  

Twice the antioxidant power of blueberries

But what’s so special about purple corn?

While ORAC scores should not be viewed in isolation, they are a good indicator of the free-radical busting potential of foods. And purple corn blows pretty much everything else out of the water, claimed Howell.

“Suntava purple corn has an ORAC value (per 100g) of 10,800, whereas blueberries have 4,669. It also has a far higher ORAC score than other corn varieties, 15 – 20% more of the eight essential amino acids found in yellow cornand four times the level of anthocyanins in blue corn.”


Rat studies have also demonstrated the potential of purple corn to tackle low-grade inflammation (as evidenced by its positive effects on pro-inflammatory markers); reduce the oxidation of lipids in the blood; and positively impact blood glucose levels, he claimed.

There is also some exciting new research on their effects on human colon cancer cells, said Howell, who is promoting Suntava purple corn as having ‘twice the antioxidant power of blueberries’.

Independent lab analysis of Suntava’s purple corn also shows that it contains higher levels of protein and fiber than blue, white and yellow corn, he said.

Production capacity

Suntava's purple corn contains four times the level of anthocyanins as blue corn

Suntava is able to rapidly ratchet up production if necessary said Howell. However, it would ideally like to have companies contract with it near the end of the calendar year to get a clearer heads up about what to plant for harvest the following year, he said.

“We expect to have a lot of contracts in place in 2013 for 2014.

“About 60% of investors in Suntava are farmers. We control the seed and we can grow in the northern corn belt in the US and in South America.

"This year we’re looking at around two million pounds of organic purple corn and eight to nine million pounds of conventional non-GMO purple corn.”

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1 comment

Mistic Harvest Purple Corn Chips

Posted by Gail Turkovich,

I can't live without them, just love them! Searched for them at all my local food stores. Finally ordered them directly from Mystic Harvest. (16 pkgs per box) Will be reordering another box soon. I eat them everyday. Great with beer too.

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