Carotenoids for Color – January 2015

24 February, 2015

The following excerpts were taking from the article Carotenoids for Color by Rachel Adams in the January 2015 Colors Survival Guide from Food Product Design.

Because all carotenoids fall somewhere in the line of yellow, red or orange, there are several options to create the ideal color in that range – whether formulating dairy products, beverages, baked goods or other products. However, not all carotenoids perform the same in different formulations, and they can be affected during processing or by packaging. So knowing which product to use in which application is key to keeping product development smooth and successful.

According to Jennifer Brown, Technical Sales Manager, DDW, Louisville, Kentucky, beta-carotene is the most common carotenoid colorant, and is used most often in beverages, specifically fruit juice drinks. However, its yellow color, which brown describes as “egg yellow,” can benefit a variety of applications, including cheese products, margarine, butters, dairy products and non-dairy creamers. In beverages, beta-carotene is also seen in some flavored waters, carbonates and energy drinks.

In formulations, Brown said beta-carotene is “very acid stable” and “has good light stability, so it’s not going to fade on the shelf.” However, using beta-carotene to color beverages presents some challenges. For example, if the emulsion isn’t stable, the finished product can create a yellow ring lining the cap of the beverage packaging. While this is “a potential challenge,” according to Campbell Barnum, vice president branding and market development, DDW, it’s “not a challenge every time. It depends on the quality of the emulsion; when the emulsion is not stable, then that’s an issue.”

Beta-carotene is available in water-dispersible and oil-soluble versions. Standard oil-soluble versions – which can be used for a yellow ton in products like microwaveable popcorn, margarine and other oil-based products – typically contains 22 percent and 30 percent beta-carotene, whereas the water-dispersible versions common in the marketplace have 1 percent and 10 percent.

Beta-carotene is one carotenoid that, in addition to being naturally derived, can be created synthetically, a form that some call nature-identical. “Nature-identical is a little more economical, so it has a larger market,” Barnum said. “But we’re seeing some growth in the naturally derived beta-carotene. Both look the same on the label, but customers prefer to pay that premium for the naturally derived kind.”

Apocarotenal – a carotenoid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits and some vegetables, such as spinach – produces a yellow/orange color and is often used in cheese products, Brown said. “Color depends on the concentration – you can do yellow to a darker color, like a darker, warm red.” In fact, according to Barnum, apocarotenal will achieve a hue closer to red than annatto or beta-carotene.

During formulation, apocarotenal is stable across the pH range of about 2 to 8, and has good light and heat stability. Its powder form also works well in extrusions.

Annatto is another commonly used carotenoid-based color that can range in hue from yellow to orange/red and is commonly used to produce a strong orange color. “One of the neat things about annatto is, in lower concentration, it appears yellow; as you increase that concentration, it’s more orange,” Brown said.

“Predominately, it’s an orange color.” Unlike beta-carotene, annatto is not stable in lower pH ranges, making it less ideal for use in beverage applications. “Limitations occur when you start to get it down into the pH ranges of below 4,” she continued. “At 3.5 it starts to precipitate out.”
However, her company produces an acid-stable annatto that can go to lower pH ranges, between 3.5 to 3.8.

Annatto exhibits “excellent heat stability,” Brown said, making it very stable in baked goods. Annatto also has good light stability, although it is susceptible to oxidation, which can cause color to fade. Other applications include seasoning blends, breaders and cheese products, including cheese seasonings and natural cheese products. In powder form, “annatto will give that speckled look, which works well for cheese,” Barnum said.

Unlike other carotenoids, annatto can be both water-soluble (norbixin) and oil-soluble (bixin), Brown said, which is important for use in fried applications. “This is why it is useful in batters and breaders. If you use the water-soluble type to add color to your batter and breader, it’s not going to color the oil.”


Lycopene can create a range of red hues. IN dairy products, , such as yogurt and salad dressings, lycopene will produce “strawberry-pink” hues, Brown said. However, during heating – in bakery and beverage applications, for example – lycopene tends to create a red-orange color. Therefore, “lycopene can replace carmine in dairy products, but not in baking due to heat stability, Brown said.”

According to Brown, lycopene is stable across the pH range of about 2 to 8, although acid in the application will enhance the color to provide a brighter hue. Lycopene is also recognized by consumers on the label, and is often associated with various health benefits. Although it has no provitamin-A activity, lycopene does exhibit a physical quenching rate constant with singlet oxygen almost twice as high as that of beta-carotene, and has been shown to protect against a broad range of epithelial cancers.

Spice Origins

Paprika and saffron colorants derived from spice origins contain carotenoids. Paprika carotenoid colorants – manufactured from the dried and ground sweet-pepper pods of Capsicum annum – include capsanthin and capsorubin, and will create an orange color. Paprika can also be solvent-extracted to produce paprika oleoresin, a purified form of the coloring compounds. Paprika colorants are used frequently in salad dressings and in savory applications like spices and seasonings, Brown said, adding that they also blend well with turmeric and annatto to give different shades of yellow-orange used frequently in popcorn.

To avoid adding unwanted flavors, all forms of paprika colorants – whether powder, oleoresin, or liquid – need to be deodorized, because at high levels paprika will impart a “pepper flavor, but not heat,” Brown said. Paprika is also susceptible to oxidation, which can be minimized through the use of proper packaging. For example, the clear plastic that goes on the outside of a popcorn bag is actually designed to help with the stability of the oil-soluble colors, such as annatto and paprika, which can oxidize in fat, Brown said.[/three_fourth][one_fourth]paprika unofficial[/one_fourth]

[full_width]To read the whole article, please visit Food Product Design’s website here.[/full_width]

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