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How ADM Derives Natural Blue Coloring from a Little-Known South American Fruit

Innovation

From the outside, there’s nothing blue about the Huito fruit, which grows wild in tropical regions of Central and South America. But once you cut through the thin leather skin and thick, whitish pulp, you can see it: blue pigment naturally present in the fruit appears upon exposure to the air.

ADM’s research and development team has developed a patented and proprietary technology to optimize the process using traditional fruit juice processing methods. Farmers in three areas of the Peruvian jungle who manually harvest the Genipa Americana L. have long used the fruit for its coloring properties. ADM has built relationships with the suppliers of the Huito fruit, and we have an exclusive agreement for the supply of the unique raw material needed to develop this blue color.

“ADM offers the industry’s only patented, acid, light and heat-stable blue color derived from the juice of the Huito fruit,” said Maria Jose Alarcon, ADM product marketing manager, colors. “With Huito blue, it is now possible to achieve various shades of blue, green, purple and brown from a natural source even in the toughest applications.”

As one of the industry’s leading suppliers of colors for the food and beverage industry, ADM has an expansive supply chain with worldwide reach. Huito blue is unique because it is suitable for nearly any application, although ADM works with customers to evaluate formulations on a case-by-case basis.

“Unlike spirulina, which is also used to achieve naturally derived shades of blue in foods and beverages, Huito stands up much better to high-heat processing and maintains its color in an acidic environment,” said Alarcon. “Huito pigment is slightly darker than artificial colors or spirulina, which creates opportunities for new applications and unique blends. With our custom blends we can achieve virtually infinite shades.”

The growing demand for natural products, a greater perception of the negative effects of artificial colors in health and the interest from manufacturers in creating multi-sensory experiences are some of the factors that have contributed to the growth of the natural colors market. We anticipate demand for naturally sourced colors, including shades of blue, to grow as consumers continue to seek out products that align with their overall wellness and sustainability values.

“As the demand for sustainably-sourced ingredients has grown, ADM has taken measures to ensure proper traceability in our supply chain,” said Alarcon. “Each individual bag of Huito fruit purchased is traceable back to the specific village or community where it originated. ADM and our partners comply with the local laws and guidelines, and we are committed to no deforestation attributed to the harvest of the Huito fruit.” 

Additionally, ADM has partnered with Care Peru to improve the welfare of farmers and their families in the region. In 2019, an ADM Cares grant provided fresh drinking water and sanitation facilities at schools in the villages where the Huito farmers live. These projects had a direct impact on nearly 1,000 students across six schools. Continuing to build on this initiative in 2020, an ADM Cares grant provided a COVID relief package to 750 families in the community, with a direct impact to more than 3,750 people.