The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will be to develop natural alternatives to synthetic chemicals that are used to impart color to food, medicine, and cosmetics. Negative health impacts of some high volume synthetic colorants are driving demand for natural and safe colorants that are obtained from biological sources. This project will advance the commercial feasibility of a class of naturally occurring pigments that have properties of color, functionality, stability, and safety that make them attractive as food colorants. Based on six years of prior university research, a potentially suitable botanical source of a red pigment has been identified. The goal of this project is to develop a commercial process to produce the pigment from this botanical source. The pigment will be tested as a replacement for a synthetic red pigment that has been widely used as a food additive. The goal is to provide a natural alternative to reduce the health risks associated with artificial colorants.
This SBIR Phase II project proposes to develop a naturally occurring red pigment from a plant source as an alternative food color additive. Phase I demonstrated that the red pigment could be extracted at small-scale and performed well in food applications. The goal of this Phase II project is to scale up commercial processes for extraction and purification of this red pigment, and to conduct further performance testing. The pigment, which previously has not been available in commercial quantities, will be produced from a selected variety of a major crop species. The goal is to develop processes to scale pigment production under conditions that will validate a commercial scale. This will include the integration of mechanical separation, food grade extraction, and various commercially-available clarification systems. The products will be tested for performance characteristics and consistency of quality during scale up by examining thermal, pH, and light stability in a range of probable food and other applications. In addition, yield produced will be evaluated to validate economic competitiveness.