Anthocyanins – compounds found in vegetables, fruits, and flower petals – are already used to create natural blue colors for foods but were deemed unsuitable for hard panned confections such as M&M’s because the color was unstable and liable to change.
Mars claims to have solved the problem by having two coatings for the confection. The first layer includes a sugar and calcium carbonate and the second a sugar and a natural blue anthocyanin. Potential anthocyanin sources include red cabbage and purple sweet potato.
The periwinkle problem
“When a natural blue anthocyanin-containing colorant is used to color a hard panned coating, the coating color quickly shifts after production from blue to periwinkle or violet,” said Mars in its patent application.
“This phenomenon also impacts green colored hard panned coatings colored with a blend of a natural blue anthocyanin-containing colorant and a natural yellow colorant. In these cases, the initial color of the coating quickly shifts from green to mustard colored.”
The company said that having calcium carbonate and an anthocyanin color in separate coating layers stabilized the color and produced results akin to common synthetic blue colors FD&C Blue No. 1 (brilliant blue) and FD&C Blue No. 2 (indigotine).
Mars said that any anthocyanin juice or extract that provided blue hues with a high pH (6-10) could be used, such as red cabbage, purple sweet potato, blue potato, purple carrot, black carrot or blue flower petals.
Mars said that there was growing interest in the confectionery industry to replace synthetic materials for coloring foods with natural colorants.
What about spirulina?
In 2012, the firm filed a petition calling on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve another natural blue called spirulina, which is derived from algae. The color was permitted for foods in the US last year.
Jelly Belly previously told ConfectioneryNews that it was experimenting with spirulina.
WIPO Publication No. WO/2014/150230
Published: 25.09.2014 Filed: 10.03.2014
'Stabilization of natural blue anthocyanin-containing colorants and products made'
Inventor: Mars - Rebecca Robbins