Purple sweet potatoes and black or purple carrots have been added to the list of ‘new naturals’ for food and beverage coloring. Several speakers at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), currently taking place at the Indiana Convention Center, focused on the increasing demand for natural food coloring due to consumers’ preferences, needs of manufacturers, and the overall swell in the public’s interest in health benefits derived from anti-oxidants.
According to one of the speakers, Texas A&M’s Stephen T. Talcott, Ph.D., the centuries-old industry of creating and utilizing natural colors is quickly regaining its popularity in both the U.S. and worldwide, as more companies are taking initiatives to utilize more sustainable and cost-efficient crop alternatives to synthesized as well as extracted red pigments. Dr. Talcott also said that aside from adding visual appeal to food and beverages, the use of natural colorings help enrich these products with antioxidants.
The new additions of root crops such as black carrots and purple sweet potatoes (PSPs), Talcott said, is a major change in the industry, as they are classified as primary agricultural products, compared to grapes which are cultivated mostly for other purposes and only used as a secondary or byproduct-based color.
Talcott talked about how colors ranging from light pink to rose, red and deep purple can be derived from purple sweet potatoes, and how this breed contains the same anthocyanin pigments in black cherries, while remaining similar in taste with regular sweet potatoes. The anthocyanins found in PSPs have shown to be one of the best pigments for natural coloring as they are stable, can be highly pigmented, and have a neutral taste. The challenge remains in the actual extraction of the pigments, to which Talcott is currently developing a more efficient solution to.
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