Gavan sings the spirulina blues for hot and cold drinks

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Derived from spirulina, the new natural blue holds up under high-heat processing and in low pH, enabling full pasteurization. Pic: Gavan
Derived from spirulina, the new natural blue holds up under high-heat processing and in low pH, enabling full pasteurization. Pic: Gavan

Related tags spirulina food colors Ingredients colors Colours

FoodTech start-up Gavan, Ltd. has created a range of natural blue colorings for hot-and cold drinks via a proprietary technology.

Gavan said the technology delivers an entirely natural, pure blue that provides high performance and high stability.

Derived from spirulina, the new natural blue holds up under high-heat processing and in low pH, enabling full pasteurization. The platform allows for a full spectrum of stable shades of blue. The new coloring formulation is suitable for hot beverages such as tea and coffee as well as functional drinks and sport drinks. Such products typically require specific production parameters, including infusion in boiling water or an acidic medium.

Vivid blue foods and beverages are eye-catching, however, consumers increasingly want to avoid the artificial additives that is sometimes associated with vivid colors. Gavan said finding an all-around solution to the natural blue problem has been a challenge.

"Both synthetic blue dyes and plant-based blue coloring have regulatory, stability, intensity, or price challenges,"​ said Yael Leader, head of product for Gavan.

"The main barrier to creating food formulations with natural colors is stability—the ability to overcome formulation challenges and ensure vibrant and consistent true blue throughout the product's shelf life."

The "blue challenge" is even more evident in beverages. Delivering a heat-stable, naturally derived, vibrant blue for products with low pH is tricky, Gavan said. Any heat treatment might impact the color irreversibly, and any shift in the pH can impair color stability and influence the shade of blue.

"A growing trend in beverages is fortified drinks with high amount of vitamins and minerals,"​ Leader said.

"These ingredients can react with the pigment and accelerate the color-degradation process, cause fading, or create a complex binding of pigments and minerals that can deposit sedimentation in the final application."

Phycocyanin is a pigment-protein complex found in blue-green algae that naturally produces a pure blue. Gavan utilizes its technology to extract phycocyanin from spirulina and produce a stable, natural blue colorant. Blue is one of the three primary colors and as such, it opens a window to producing other high-in-demand colors—anywhere from non-chlorophyll green to purple shades. These varieties also are highly stable and vivid.

Gavan's non-GMO technology extracts and optimizes the colorant gently, without damaging the source, and enables the extraction of multiple compounds from the whole spirulina, without waste. The technology protects the colorant from fading, even at pH as low as 3.0 or when pasteurized at 90°C for 30 seconds. In addition, the platform's control over particle size offers improved stability throughout the final product's shelf life.

"Gavan's proprietary technology enables us to transform spirulina or other plant-based compounds and sources into easy-to-use, water-dispersible food colorings suitable for hot and cold beverages,"​ said Itai Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Gavan.

"Gavan's blue can replace artificial coloring and opens options for acidic beverages to be colored with any blue shades. It has no impact on flavor, and maintains a clear, clean label. Our advanced platform can revolutionize plant-based products across multiple categories."

Gavan's team developed ecofriendly technology to protect the natural compounds in spirulina and other plants while maintaining their complex functionality and purity.

Long-time collaborators Uri Jeremias, a veteran of the restaurant industry who brought his culinary knowledge to the ingredient industry, and Allen Hazan, with experience in designing processes and products, created the new technology after meeting Cohen, an entrepreneur with passion for sustainability and Baruch Dach, a marine biotechnologist and inventor.

Related news