Unilever and Co probe new sources of black, white and blue food colours

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Color, Leatherhead food research

Unilever and Co probe new sources of black, white and blue food colours
A patent search conducted by Leatherhead Food Research (LFR) during research for a report on food colours has revealed a flurry of activity by firms to identify new sources of black, white and blue colours: shades the food industry has always struggled to source from nature.

Patents filed included an application from Wild Flavours for a method of preparing a stable blue colour from the wholefruit, puree or juice of plants containing a compound called genipin, and an application from Alava Marquinet and José Inaki for a method of obtaining a stable black food colorant from Cuttle fish or octopus ink.

Unilever, meanwhile, has been granted a patent to develop a natural white colour based on oil, water and a biodegradable surfactant that could serve as a viable alternative to titanium dioxide (E171) or modified starches.

Titanium dioxide has historically been used to improve the appearance of salad dressings, dips and sauces that can turn pale-white or grey after being stored at room temperature.

However, many firms are looking for alternatives as titanium dioxide can precipitate from foods, damaging their appearance, while modified starches can alter taste. Many firms are also looking to avoid both substances as part of clean-labelling initiatives.

Unilever’s solution is “bright white after manufacturing, and maintains a white colour for at least about six months afterwards, even when stored at ambient temperature”, ​says LFR.

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