08 January 2019
New Study on the Mathematical Description of Thermal Phycocyanin Degradation Demonstrates Potential Processing Parameters to Increase the Heat Stability of Natural Blue Colorants
Researchers include Elena Leeb and Kai Reineke of GNT Group
What is it about a blue candy, ice cream, or pastry that captivates consumers? Is it the novelty; the mystery; the unfamiliarity? Whatever the reason, there’s no question that shoppers are inexplicably drawn to this evasive color. Blue is seldom found in nature besides the occasional flower, bird, or berry, but it does exist, and as the aversion to artificial food dyes continues to build, there’s an equally significant demand for a natural blue alternative. To meet this growing need, the food industry is relying on a particular species of microalgae, Arthrospira platensis, commonly known as spirulina. Phycocyanins, the high-value component obtained from spirulina, is the only naturally-derived blue available to the food and beverage industry.
Incorporating spirulina successfully into food and beverage applications can be complicated, which is why research related to its stability and usage is especially valuable. A new study published in Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies broadens the fundamental knowledge of spirulina color-loss due to heat exposure by systematically testing the impact of short term heat treatments. A team of researchers, including researchers from ETH Zurich’s Sustainable Food Processing Laboratory in collaboration with GNT’s own Elena Leeb and Kai Reineke, found that color loss in spirulina can occur in multiple stages, and hence does not fit the originally hypothesized first order kinetics. By modeling the kinetics of color loss due to heat exposure, the study paves the way for further investigation into innovative solutions to stabilize spirulina.