Nutritional Outlook: Anthocyanins pull double duty as health-promoting ingredients and natural food colors

Anthocyanins is extracted from berries such as raspberries, blueberries

Natural colors are being widely adopted in the food, nutrition, and beverages industries, gradually replacing their synthetic counterparts. Natural colors accounted for almost 70% of the total colors market in 2021, compared to 2010 when they accounted for only 40% of the total market. The extensive use of organic colors in functional foods and nutritional supplements has raised interesting discussions about whether or not these organic colors can also impart any nutritional value to food.

Natural colors in their original environment—in raw materials such as beets, berries, or turmeric roots—have biological functions that came about as evolutionary advantages that sometimes translate to functional properties, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components, which are found to be beneficial to consumers.

Natural colors such as betalains, curcumins, and carotenoids are rich in a few micronutrients such as vitamins, carotenoids, and minerals. The value they add to the final food product is significantly marginal, however, as these colors are added in only minute concentrations (less than 1% in most cases).

But one type of natural color—anthocyanins—holds value beyond its coloring effects. Anthocyanins can impart many functional properties; hence, they are preferred in many functional and nutritional foods.

What Are Anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins are water-soluble phenolic compounds responsible for providing a comprehensive range of plants their color. Anthocyanins are extracted from natural fruits, berries, and vegetables such as blueberry, raspberry, black currants, red cabbage, and purple sweet potato, among others.These pigments can produce blue, purple, violet, magenta, red, and orange hues. Like all other flavonoids, anthocyanins have proven to be significantly beneficial for health.

Depending on their source, anthocyanins can have different functional attributes. Anthocyanins extracted from elderberries are used in dietary supplement products such as chewable gummies, capsules, and syrups. Anthocyanins extracted from blueberries provide a wide range of benefits for brain health, cardiovascular function, and immune health. Anthocyanins can also improve blood flow and ensure that oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nutrients are transported throughout the bloodstream in the best possible way, thereby supporting healthy blood vessels. Safety and toxicological concerns are also relatively low when it comes to anthocyanins.

Typical Applications for Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are widely used across the food industry and in cosmetic and personal care products, animal feed, and nutra and pharmaceutical products. In pharma and nutraceutical products, anthocyanins are mostly used for their health benefits.

Bakery, confectionery, and dairy are the most prominent application areas for anthocyanins when it comes to food. For sausages and meat products, anthocyanins extracted from red radish and red cabbage are the most preferred grades. In beverages, anthocyanins extracted from berries and fruits are preferred for their colors and nutritional attributes for making wines, juices, and other beverages products.

Anthocyanins are valued in the personal care and cosmetic industries for their positive effects on maintaining skin health and appearance. Skincare creams and cosmetic products with anthocyanins can smoothen and moisturize the skin, help with collagen synthesis, and prevent the formation of wrinkles. Anthocyanin are also popular in personal care industry due to a growing demand for sustainable colors.

The Growing Popularity of Anthocyanins in Dietary & Nutritional Supplements

Anthocyanin-rich dietary supplements have grown in demand as they’ve proven to offer such health benefits as increasing aerobic performance and maximizing oxygen consumption by the body. Many global nutraceutical companies such as Amway, Herbalife, and Swisse, among others, offer anthocyanin-product brands. Many others are expected to launch new products containing anthocyanins. Another brand, Evonik Industries AG, launched a supplement named Medox containing anthocyanin extracts from wild Scandinavian bilberries and blackcurrants. Medox has almost 80 mg of anthocyanins per capsule and is widely promoted for blood vessel health.

Anthocyanins’ Global Market

Consumer awareness of the benefits of food additives such as anthocyanins for improving functions like immune health and cardiovascular function has made anthocyanins one of the largest categories of sustainable colors for food applications. The global demand for anthocyanins was estimated to be around US$310 million in 2021.

There is high demand for anthocyanins in countries like the U.S., the UK, France, and China where they are widely used in dairy, bakery, and beverage products. European countries have an estimated 30%-35% share of the total global demand for anthocyanins due to changes in food consumption patterns, coupled with an increase in demand for healthy food.

The anthocyanin ingredients market is highly competitive and fragmented with numerous global players such as Symrise, Oterra, Kalsec, Sensient, Roha, Naturex, and ADM. Kalsec produces red radish grades of anthocyanins in Europe for food, beverage, and personal care customers in Germany, Italy, the UK, etc. In South Asian region, Roha is the major manufacturer and supplier of anthocyanins extracted from grapes for beverage and confectionery applications.

Color houses are also developing novel anthocyanin blends to meet the needs of their end customers. Black carrots and red radish, among all the fruits and vegetables, are highly preferred sources by the color houses for the extraction of anthocyanin colors. Raw fruits and vegetables are largely cultivated in South Asian countries and exported to North America and European countries for the extraction process.

Natural red colors extracted from anthocyanin-rich fruits are quite popular in the cosmetics industry. Demand for these is anticipated to grow in the coming years due to the encouraging use of natural and sustainable ingredients in the personal care industry. Givaudan recently developed Oxy’less 1805, a red color extracted from anthocyanins from red radish for use in color cosmetic products such as lipsticks.

Future demand for anthocyanin ingredients is forecasted to grow at a 4% CAGR between 2022 and 2027, in part thanks to growing use of natural ingredients in nutraceuticals and pharmaceutical products in developing countries like Latin America and APAC.

Due to their unique nutritional characteristics, anthocyanins have been gaining popularity. Their application is not limited to just enhance the color but also to drive the overall nutritional value of the final product. Growing demand for anthocyanin ingredients will largely depend on major factors such as their adaptability to a wide range of pH environments, long shelf life, ability to be used in almost all kinds of products, and stability under high temperatures and light conditions.

About the Authors

Shivam Sharma ([email protected]) is an associate consultant, specialty chemicals, for ChemBizR. Anil Pothamsetty ([email protected]) is a consultant, specialty chemicals, for ChemBizR. ChemBizR is a boutique business research and consulting partner of chemical companies globally, involved in addressing companies’ critical business challenges and strategic growth initiatives to help them transform their enterprise for sustainable growth in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving environment. For more information, e-mail [email protected].

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