Unlocking Brilliant Blue with Red Cabbage

Consumers’ appetite for clean label products has steered formulators towards the hunt for new hues from within nature’s colour palette. But botanical sources do not account for every shade of dye – in particular, the search for an authentic blue has yielded limited options.

This considerably impedes the industry’s ability to bring natural pigments up to par with synthetic food dyes on the basis of performance.

Food Specialist GNT and researchers at the University of California, Davis have been exploring the most promising advancements in the search for brilliant blue.

“Blue colours are really quite rare in nature – a lot of them are actually reds and purples,” noted Pamela Denish, a graduate student at the UC Davis Department of Chemistry and Innovation Institute for Food and Health in the US.

The international research team have recently discovered the natural brilliant cyan blue colour can be obtained from red cabbage. This new pigment could be an alternative to synthetic blue food colourings such as the widely used FD&C Blue No. 1.

A team led by scientists at the Mars Advanced Research Institute and Mars Wrigley Science and Technology have been collaborating on this red cabbage project with the UC Davis and other universities in Japan, France, and Italy for about a decade.

So far, the UC Davis researchers have established that the blue compound works in low moisture matrices, such as the sugar matrix used for coating candies.