Carmine is traditionally manufactured by cultivating and squashing the cactus-dwelling bug cochineal.
One kilogramme of carmine requires the collection of 100,000 cochineals, which adds significantly to its cost, says Chr Hansen.
However, researchers at the firm discovered the complicated process the cochineal use to make the colour.
“Using this insight and state-of-the-art biotechnology, researchers have produced carmine by a modern fermentation process and Chr Hansen is now filing patents to protect the technology,” claims the company’s chief executive Cees de Jong.
“This is a potential game-changer for carmine production,” he adds. “The new technology is expected to make production of carmine more cost-efficient and thereby further lower the barriers for conversion to natural colours.”
Although, fermented carmine is still some years from commercialisation, he explains.
Jong adds: “When the technology is ready for use, Chr Hansen has an excellent position to exploit it. Fermentation is our core competence and we are market-leading.”
Last year, Chr Hansen launched its natural alternative to the synthetic food colour Red 40 (or Allura Red), following concerns over cost increases.
Price hikes were linked to the rising cost of p-cresidine sulphonic acid, which is used in the production of Red 40.
“Our best advice to food manufacturers, who are concerned about the price fluctuations for red 40, is to use this as an opportunity to switch to a naturally derived alternative,” it says.
Red 40 is also up to 40% more stable than other natural red shades, the company claims.
The products are derived from vegetable-based sources.