An Avocado, a School Science Fair Project, and Some Serendipity Lead to New Natural Food Coloring

Here is a cool story that just might help solve the problems so many consumers have with the coal tar-based synthetic food dyes currently dominating the commercial processed food market…


 

Holy guacamole: Food-coloring startup gives avocado pits new life

When Greg Ziegler was helping his son decide on a science fair project, Ziegler, a professor of food science at Penn State, didn’t consult the tea leaves for guidance. Instead, he found the answer — and the idea for his future company — while making guacamole…

Ziegler and his team have discovered how to capture unlikely colors — blood reds to Tang-like oranges — from avocado seeds, using a process that’s part science-part miracle of nature. Many fruits and vegetables carry an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase besides polyphenols, and when exposed to air, they begin to turn brown due to enzymatic reactions. Apples, for instance, with their high concentration of polyphenols, brown up shortly after a bite is taken.

But while avocado flesh reacts similarly, it’s what’s inside that matters. Because of unique substrates in their seeds, the reactions produce a radiant orange color instead of browns or blacks. A few tweaks to pH and concentration can result in different hues.

The idea has grown into a full-fledged business, called Persea Naturals after the genus name of avocados, and has already earned funding through a university research grant and the school’s Fund for Innovation.

The company’s brand, called AvoColor, has already tested the stable, water-soluble coloring in soda, ice cream and gummy bears. They’ve also tried it in cakes — frosting and crumbs included…