LycoRed doubles production of cochineal alternative

by Jeff Gelski
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ORANGE, N.J. — The production of Tomat-O-Red has doubled in the past month to meet demand among food and beverage manufacturers, according to LycoRed, Ltd., which is based in Israel and has a U.S. office in Orange. Many companies seek Tomat-O-Red as a red color alternative for carmine or cochineal insect extracts.

Tomat-O-Red, a patented food coloring based on lycopene extracted from tomatoes, has been on the market for more than five years, and LycoRed, a global company based in Israel, previously has promoted it as an alternative to carmine or cochineal extracts.

The issue drew attention when vegans learned The Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, was using cochineal insect extracts as red coloring for their Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino blended beverage and strawberry banana smoothie. The company in April announced it planned to transition to using lycopene instead of cochineal extracts for those products.

Doug Lynch, vice-president of business development for North America for LycoRed, said over the past two months he has received inquiries from companies making dairy products, baked foods, beverages, sauces, vegetarian-friendly meat analogs and cosmetics.

“Certainly in the last 60 days I have been inundated with calls,” Mr. Lynch said. “People have learned this natural lycopene alternative is out there.”

Lycopene offers advantages over carmine or cochineal extracts in that lycopene may be used in vegetarian, kosher or halal products, he said. The change in costs is neutral, he added.

Most of the tomatoes used for Tomat-O-Red are grown in California. The tomatoes are grown for lycopene content and not commercial use, Mr. Lynch said. He said LycoRed has enough supply of Tomat-O-Red to meet demand.

Morris Zelkha, president and chief executive officer of LycoRed, said, “We are pleased to offer a natural, vegan-friendly red food color additive, especially given the recent public outcry over the use of cochineal extract, which is derived from beetles. With this increased demand and interest in Tomat-O-Red, production levels are continuing to ramp up daily, and we are also fielding a flood of inquiries from food and beverage wholesalers and manufacturers of all sizes about the product’s many attributes and benefits.”

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