Lycopene is bright red carotene that is found naturally in a range of red-coloured fruits, including tomatoes, melons, papayas and pink grapefruits. It has a role as a natural colouring for food and beverage applications, and has gained renown as an antioxidant.
BASF manufacturers a synthetic lycopene which is nature-identical – that is, has exactly the same molecular structure as lycopene in tomatoes. It has been marketing a direct-compressible powder for use in tablets, and an oil-dispersible version for capsules and oil-based foods.
The new version, called LyciVit 10 CWD/S, can be used in a far wider spectrum of product types, such as lemonades, fruit juices, sports drinks and ready-to-drink beverages – as well solid foods like dairy, cereals and nutrition bars.
A spokesperson for BASF told Foodnavigator.com that LycoVit is intended for use both as a colouring and as a nutritional ingredient.
Some research has concluded that lycopene can inhibit the progression of age-related prostate enlargement in men, and others have investigated its role in reducing oxidative white blood cell damage in elderly women.
But as for how it can be labelled on products, a decision on several lycopene health claims is anticipated from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) soon.
BASF believes there is a growing market for carotenoids as food colourings, not least since the Southampton study drew a link between certain cocktails of artificial colours and sodium benzoate and hyperactivity in children.
As of mid 2010 products containing the Southampton colours (Sunset Yellow, Carmoisine, Allura Red, Tartrazine, Ponceau 4R, and Quinoline Yellow) will have to carry a warning label drawing attention to the hyperactivity connection.
BASF says carotenoids are helpful as a wide range of colours is available – and formulation technology means one ingredient can be used to give a range of different colours.
They look more “juice-like” than azo dyes, and are also stable when used in formulations with ascorbic acid.