Surimi – a Japanese word literally meaning "ground meat" – refers to fish-based food products that mimic the texture and colour of crab and lobster meat. It is made from fish protein prepared from white fish flesh that is mixed with ingredients, including starches, egg white and flavourings.
Roee Nir, colour and flavour global commercial manager for Lycored, said that surimi product manufacturers globally have been trying to find a substitute for carmine, due to what he claims is growing consumer aversion and possible allergy links to that colour, which is extracted from cochineal insects.
He told FoodNavigator.com that in comparison to other natural colours, its lycopene-derived red is heat and pH stable and does not migrate during the surimi production process.
It has been tested thoroughly by the Israel headquartered company's lead customers in the surimi manufacturing sector, and is now ready for wider release, added Nir.
Carmine is often blended with paprika to achieve the correct shade for the local surimi market and LycoRed said its tomato lycopene formulations are blendable with paprika and any other colours to allow manufactures retain such flexibility.
Nir said that while Japan and the US are the priority markets for the new colour, the European and Chinese markets are developing quickly in terms of demand for surimi and LycoRed is looking to target those regions as well in relation to the red colorant.
Traditionally popular in the Far East, surimi has become increasingly popular in Europe. European consumers, now more health-conscious than ever, are increasingly incorporating surimi and other fish-based products into their daily meals.
And recent years has seen EU surimi production increasing substantially in France, the Baltic States and Spain.
Meanwhile, R&D work is also underway at LycoRed, said Nir, to extend the use of the red colour to the meat analogue sector.
He claims that the lycopene colorant, already used in range of other food and beverage applications, allows manufacturers to achieve the precise colour shade they want without compromising on flavour.