Making colour: Innovators rethink pigment production with next-gen fermentation

Colour is vital to food. It not only evokes an emotional response that may sometimes lead consumers to buy a product, but it has been shown to strongly influence flavour perception as well. Put simply, colour impacts how the mind tastes.

Now, a range of companies are producing colour using fermentation. The method has a range of benefits.

Somewhere over the rainbow  

Fermentation is a complex process. Unlike many other colour production methods, it relies not on insect proteins or raw materials to produce, but fungi, microorganisms, and space.

Denmark-based Chromologics, for example, uses a filamentous fungi to produce its red colourant.   

“The first generation of Natu.Red is fermented by a non-GMO organism and production is achieved by our proprietary process design. We do submerged fermentation and have scaled our process to more than 10,000 litres. The red molecule is made by the filamentous fungus and then secreted into the fermentation media,” Gerit Tolborg, co-founder of Chromologics, told FoodNavigator.

“When the fermentation is completed, we filter away the filamentous fungus and after a number of simple downstream processing steps, we have an exquisite, deep red powder in our hands.”

“When the fermentation is completed, we filter away the filamentous fungus and after a number of simple downstream processing steps, we have an exquisite, deep red powder in our hands.”

The process is, however, difficult to use for other colours using the same fungi – it must be adapted. “The production of secondary metabolites in filamentous fungi is very much dependent on the growth conditions. Colours are usually secondary metabolites, because they are not essential for growth and survival of the fungus but bring the microorganism certain advantages.