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Startup Innovation Challenge

Innovating pigment production with Chromologics - Anders Odum [Interview]

FiE 2017 start-up winner Chromologics
Using a 2-step fermentation process that produces natural pigments which can be applied in various industries, Danish start-up Chromologics is set to change the way natural pigments are produced.

ChromoRed, the main pigment produced by the company is cost compatible and complies with most dietary requirements. This game-changing innovation won Chromologics the Best Innovation Award at the Fi Europe 2017 Start-up Innovation Challenge. Anders Odum, CSO at Chromologics, provided more insight into this intriguing product.

Can you briefly explain what ChromoRed is and how you created this product?

"ChromoRed is a natural pigment which can be used for food coloring. ChromoRed is produced in a fungus which excretes it into the media where we can harvest it. Coming from a biological source, as fungus, makes the colorant natural, vegan, halal and kosher. ChromoRed is the product of many years of research at the Technical University of Denmark, where the color producing fungus was identified, the process was adapted and the colorant profiled chemically."

How is ChromoRed different from other already existing natural food colorings?

"The unique feature of ChromoRed is two-fold: One ChromoRed is natural non-GMO, cost competitive, red pigment with technical stability on par or better than the current pigments. This means that ChromoRed can be used in a wide-range of applications, whereas the current colors are only applicable for a small subset of foods. The other is our production process - using fungus in submerged bioreactors, we can scale production in a sustainable and cost efficient way compared to colors which are extracted from foods, such as berries and beetroots which can then be used as foods rather than raw materials."

Can you give a few examples where and how natural pigments made by Chromologics can be applied?

"Some of the industries which utilize most colorants is the candy and cakes industry, and here ChromoRed will be directly applicable. ChromoRed is very pH stable and very tolerant to pasteurization allowing it to be baked without losing much color. We are currently working on the long-term stability of ChromoRed when exposed to excess water, to apply for beverages, as this market is severely lacking red colors that are stable."

Why do you think it’s important to be implementing bio manufacturing on a bigger scale within the food industry?

"The resources we have on this planet are limited, and bio manufacturing like Chromologics allows us to utilize natural sources to produce ingredients with minimal impact on farmland and on the environment in a scalable manner. The current methodologies of colorant is extraction from foods such as tomato, beet roots and berries, all of which are potential food sources."

As a start-up so far what have been your main challenges? What have you enjoyed the most?

"Being a spin-off from a University, some of the main challenges have been focusing on the business and industrial side of projects like this. We started with a very academic approach and process but have slowly transformed our approach, our mindset and our production processes to industrial thinking.''Gaining validation from partners, both industrial and academic, start-up competitions like this and meeting the entrepreneurial world in Europe has been given us the motivation and drive to continue."

What is next for Chromologics?

"Currently we are waiting for some very exciting data regarding safety and then we will proceed to seek additional funding and partners to further develop and test our colorant. The road for approval is long but we are up for the challenge."

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