Background: Blue is a color not often present in food. Even so, it is especially attractive
to children. Today, most blue coloring agents used by the food industry are synthetic. With increasing
health issues concern by the scientific community and the general population, there is a trend to
look for natural alternatives to most synthetic products. There only exist few natural blue colorants,
which are presented in a literature survey, along with the methods currently used for their recovery
from natural sources. The best extraction methods and process parameters for the extraction of blue
anthocyanins, iridoids and phycocyanin are discussed.
Methods: A literature survey was conducted to detect the main sources of blue colorants found in nature.
The focus was on the extraction methods used to recover such molecules, with the objective of
finding efficient and environmentally safe techniques for application at industrial level, and, thus, allowing
the production of natural blue colorants at scale high enough for food industry consumption.
Results: The main natural blue colorants found in literature are anthocyanins, phycocyanin, and genipin.
While anthocyanins can be recovered from a variety of plants, the source of phycocyanin are
algae, and genipin can be obtained specifically from Gardenia jasminoides Ellis and Genipa americana
L. Several extraction techniques have been applied to recover blue colorants from such sources,
from classical methods using organic solvents, to more sophisticated technologies as ultrasoundassisted
extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, pressurized liquid extraction, high-pressure extraction,
and enzyme-assisted extraction.
Conclusion: There is great potential for anthocyanins, phycocyanin and genipin use as natural food
additives with health benefits, besides imparting color. However, the technologies for the colorants
recovery and application are not mature enough. Therefore, this area is still developing, and it is necessary
to evaluate the economic feasibility of the proposed extraction processes, along with the safety
and acceptance of colored food using these additives.