Watch how annatto helps to create economic development in the Ivory Coast, by creating local job opportunities. Annatto is sourced by our Natural Colors Division for yellow and orange color.
Partnering for mutual success
The majority of crops suitable for natural colors are grown in emerging and developing regions where farm yields are often low. To help improve the competitiveness, quality and efficiency of the local farmers, Chr. Hansen works closely with suppliers and shares knowledge in agronomy, plant selection and breeding. Building local capacity not only helps the local producers to raise their standards but also secures a future supply for our customers. Chr. Hansen has used this approach for many years, believing it to secure a win-win situation, by generating local employment and development in the rural areas and a steady supply for Chr. Hansen.
Creating local development through long-term partnerships on the Ivory Coast
One of the colorant crops, where Chr. Hansen actively engages with its suppliers, is annatto. It is a small seed sourced from Africa and South America that gives the yellow and orange colors often used in dairy products. To ensure the sustainable supply of annatto seeds, Chr. Hansen has established a strategic partnership with its long-term suppliers in the Ivory Coast. By sharing technology and know-how, Chr. Hansen aims to improve efficiency throughout the extraction process, as well as securing agronomical competences to enable a productive annatto plantation based on organic principles.
Due to increasing demand, it has become more important to secure access to raw materials. Solid and long-term relationships with our suppliers are therefore crucial to ensure a sustainable growth platform for Natural Colors.
The local production and value creation results in new employment opportunities, giving hope to the younger generation that often face unemployment and need to move to bigger cities. The partnership also supplies educational and medical facilities to the local communities, and a local agroecologist ensures that the process of cultivating farm land and planting new trees protects local biodiversity.
From a color crop to a sustainable bio-factory
In Brazil, Chr. Hansen has worked for more than a decade with local annatto farmers and communities, helping them optimize the plants that provide colors for a wide variety of food applications. In 2015, a new Brazilian-Danish research project co-funded by Chr. Hansen was initiated, aiming to convert the annatto plant into a sustainable bio-factory that can deliver higher yields, better nutrition and improved stability. This also implies that intensive colorant crops can be grown, using fewer square meters of land for cultivation.
Breeding for color concentration is remarkable, as significant improvements are achievable, while other parameters, such as crop yield, are typically improved by less than 5–10 per cent
The research project, which will run over a four-year period, involves partners from the University of Arhus in Denmark and the University of Campinas in Brazil. It has received funds from The Innovation Fund Denmark as well as the Brazilian FAPESP Research Foundation.
The origins of Annatto
The annatto color is extracted from the bright crimson seeds of a tropical plant (Bixa orellana L.) growing in South and Central America, India and Africa. For centuries, annatto was a traditional ingredient for food preparation and for cosmetic purposes. In the 17th century, European traders brought the seeds to Europe as the first vegetable color imported in large quantities, and since then annatto has been used as a food colorant. The major proportion of the world production of annatto comes from the collection of seeds from wild trees or trees planted on family farms.
Currently, 30% of food and beverage applications use natural colors with a total estimated market value of approx. € 1,000 million
The demand for natural colors increases by approx. 10% annually driven primarily by the demand for healthier alternatives to synthetic colors