Beta-carotene, a common component of plants, has been used for centuries to provide a yellow to orange color to food and cosmetic products. Beta-carotene is probably the best known of the largest family of pigments produced by nature, the Carotenoids. Although abundant and extractable from various plant sources, the beta-carotene utilized by the color industry is typically made synthetically. This is a relatively new development, with commercial production starting around 1954. Synthetically prepared beta-carotene, as well as canthaxanthin and apo-8’-carotenal similarly synthesized, are permitted for use as color additives in the US and Europe and are usually referred to as “nature identical.” More recently, beta-carotene has been extracted from algae, specifically from Dunaliella salina. This source of beta-carotene is organic compliant under 7 CFR 205.606(d)(2). Pricing tends to run higher for algae extracted beta-carotene than for synthetically prepared beta-carotene.
All carotenoids are soluble in oil, and only marginally soluble in water. Nonetheless, through formulation, commercial forms are available for coloring almost any product requiring a yellow to yellow-orange to orange-red color. A "standard" oil-dispersible form is a micronized suspension containing 30% beta-carotene, readily soluble in oil or fat. The "standard" water soluble form is an emulsification with starch or gelatin, available in 1% or 10% strengths, in either liquid or powdered form. Selection of the appropriate form will depend on the amount of dispersion required and/or the stabilization required.
All carotenoids are susceptible to oxidation and somewhat, to light. Use of antioxidants such as tocopherols may reduce shelf life loss of visual color. Hue is not affected by pH shifts. Beta-carotene has good stability to heat less than 100°C. Beta-carotene is available kosher and halal certified.
Beta-carotene has found use in yellow to yellow-orange products not requiring clarity. Annatto, turmeric, and saffron can be tailored to mimic the hue of beta-carotene. So, it is the food or beverage technologists choice about how best to color their finished product ... orange.