Annatto is the international food and beverage industry’s preferred natural color in orange shades, ranging from light, yellowish orange to deep, dark orange. Chr. Hansen offers a full range of annatto natural color solutions including water-soluble, oil-soluble, acid-stable and encapsulated formulations, all with good light and heat stability.

Origin and sourcing of Annatto

The annatto color pigments are bixin and norbixin (labeled E 160b in Europe), which are extracted from the bright crimson seeds of a tropical shrub (Bixa orellana L.) growing in South and Central America, India and Africa. Annatto seeds have long been valued as a spice for flavoring and coloring savory dishes. The major proportion of the world production of annatto comes from the collection of seeds from wild trees or trees planted on family farms. Chr. Hansen has its own sustainable production and sourcing of annatto.

Usage of annatto

The many different types of annatto natural color solutions technically allow almost any food to be colored yellow to reddish. However, annatto is most commonly used for coloring of dairy products such as cheese, butter and spread.

History of annatto

For centuries, annatto was a traditional ingredient for food preparation and for cosmetic purposes. The Aztecs mixed annatto with cocoa to give a special taste and a more pleasing color to chocolate. Annatto was also used in their religious rituals, e.g., as war paint on male warriors. In the 17th century, European traders brought the seeds to Europe as the first vegetable color in large quantities. Since then, annatto has been used as a food colorant. Chr. Hansen has been supplying annatto colors for the dairy industry since 1876.

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