Beta-carotene, as a component of plants, has been used for centuries to provide a yellow to orange color to foods and cosmetics. Beta-carotene is probably the best known of the largest family of pigments produced by nature, the Carotenoids. Although abundant and extractable from various sources, the beta-carotene utilized by the color industry is made synthetically. This is a relatively new development, with commercial production starting around 1954. This form of 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.”
All carotenoids are insoluble in water and almost insoluble in oil. Nonetheless, through formulation, commercial forms are available for coloring almost any product requiring a yellow to yellow-orange to red color. A standard oil-dispersible form is a micronized suspension containing 30% beta-carotene, readily soluble in hot oil/fat. The standard water soluble form is an emulsification with starch or gelatin, available at 1% or 10% and as a liquid or powder. 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 or vitamin C can 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.
It has found use in yellow to yellow-orange products not requiring clarity. Annatto, turmeric and saffron can be tailored to mimic to beta-carotene’s hue.