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Kraft, U of I Announce New Research Collaboration To Affordably Derive Food Colors From Corn

10 Sep 2023

imageBuilding on a long-standing relationship of innovation and cooperation, the University of Illinois and Kraft Foods Group, Inc., this week announced a new research collaboration focused on developing affordable food colors derived from natural sources.

The project will focus on the economic and technical feasibility of extracting food colors from corn and incorporating them into food and beverages. The three-year project will be broken into two phases, bringing together a wide range of interdisciplinary talent and technical expertise within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, including the Departments of Crop Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Agricultural and Consumer Economics, and Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Kraft Foods is providing $1.4 million in funding to the College of ACES for the research project as well as an additional $150,000 for fellowships for the university. 

“We are always looking for ways to offer choices and remain relevant to consumers’ changing needs,” said Chuck Davis, Executive Vice President, Research, Development, Quality and Innovation for Kraft. “This includes everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients. We have made great progress but it truly is a long-term journey. That’s why we’re excited to announce our collaboration with the U of I that approaches the research process in such an innovative way.”

Jack Juvik, a U of I crop sciences professor of plant physiology and principal investigator for the project, said maize (corn) was recommended to Kraft as an economically feasible source for food colors as ingredients in many packaged foods and beverages.

“Looking at the economics, corn has a sophisticated supply chain that allows it to go into many different products. This is a value-added opportunity for the industry; it’s not just a special product grown for colors,” Juvik said. “It’s also a good vehicle because there is a lot of corn grown already, and producers know how to grow and process it. We have to design the data to see what kind of recovery we can get and to figure out the forms that are most appropriate for foods, as well as their stability in foods.”

Juvik also explained that the naturally-occurring compounds, anthocyanins, in corn would be used as the source of food coloring.

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