HØRSHOLM, DENMARK — A fermentation process has produced carmine, a red pigment, in a way that may reduce the cost of the naturally-sourced red color, according to Hørsholm-based Chr. Hansen. The process also does not involve cochineal insects.
“The process needs to be further optimized for industrial production,” said Finn Okkels, department manager, new technology for Chr. Hansen. “It will take several years before fermented carmine is approved and hits the market.”
Naturally-sourced carmine currently relies on the cultivation of cochineals that live on cactus plants. One kilogram (2.2 lbs) of carmine requires manual collection of 100,000 cochineals, which adds to the cost of the naturally-sourced color, according to Chr. Hansen.
Chr. Hansen collaborated with the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and the Department of Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark to produce carmine through the fermentation process.
|Finn Okkels, department manager, new technology for Chr. Hansen.|
“This is a potential game-changer for carmine production,” said Cees de Jong, chief executive officer of Chr. Hansen. “The new technology is expected to make production of carmine more cost-efficient and thereby further lower the barriers for conversion to natural colors.”
No insects or animal products are used in the process, Mr. Okkels said. Fermented carmine will be vegetarian, halal and kosher. Researchers have established the carmine biosynthesis pathway in several production organisms, and researchers continue to introduce carmine biosynthesis into other production organisms, he said. The process for fermented carmine is a more sustainable and more carbon dioxide-neutral process than the methods used for producing synthetic pigments, Mr. Okkels said.“We expect the cochineal-derived carmine and the fermented carmine product will co-exist on the market just as is the situation with, for example, vanillin produced from the vanilla orchid and vanillin produced by much cheaper methods,” he said.