Beetles: Love Me Do23 Sep 2014
The South American beetle has been used as food colorant for centuries, giving bright red colouring to soup, ketchup, sauces, jams and canned fruits. You may have seen recent controversies with coffee outlets starbucking their Frappuccinos with crushed bugs, and French food conglomerates including ground-up beetles in state-of-the-art yoghurt products. The use of cochineal (carmine […]
The South American beetle has been used as food colorant for centuries, giving bright red colouring to soup, ketchup, sauces, jams and canned fruits. You may have seen recent controversies with coffee outlets starbucking their Frappuccinos with crushed bugs, and French food conglomerates including ground-up beetles in state-of-the-art yoghurt products.
The use of cochineal (carmine acid) is quite common in food production. That doesn’t decrease the gross-out factor a whole lot, though.
The cochineal insect is native to South America and Mexico, and, contrary to the popular nomenclature, they’re technically not beetles. In fact, they’re tiny insects which live on cactus plants. They feed on Red Cactus berries, which concentrate the colour in their bodies.
They are harvested by traditional and controlled methods, and then boiled in water, followed by a drying, crushing and hydration process from powder to final product. Check out the ingredient labels of any product that could have red dye and look for carmine acid, carmine or cochineal extract.
Health fears over artificial food additives have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes.
Carmine isn’t just about colouring, either. Like astaxanthin – also a naturally occurring colorant, found in crustaceans and salmon – it’s an antioxidant, so it’s good for you. In fact, it’s 50 times stronger than vitamin E in that regard. It is certainly better for you than any synthetic colour derived from coal tar. Would you rather be eating a pigment created by insects – or a derivative of fossil fuel?
We have probably been eating ground-up red beetles for years. We just didn’t know it. Although no negative health effects have been reported from eating carmine, the name on the label can be misleading. People have the right to know what they’re eating, even if it does not pose a health risk. This is especially true when ingredients are derived from living creatures. The FDA’s food labelling requirements should be a lot clearer, and not cloaked in secret food industry codes that nobody else really understands.
As with most food labelling issues, awareness is the ultimate answer. If enough people become aware of the truth about carmine as a natural food colorant in food and its benefits when compared to artificial colorants, this could open the door for increased production, leading to a supply/demand boost for what is, after all, technically a natural product.
What’s required is that the health benefits of natural colorants like carmine need to be sold while downplaying the gross-out factor of eating, for example, crushed insects. With the right good old fashioned guerrilla marketing techniques that have been around as long as food colorants, who knows? – carmine might just go viral.
Chickpea revolution? Companies looking to innovate could face higher prices as global shortage hits
5 Aug 2022
From coffee to ice cream, recent product launches demonstrate how companies are betting on chickpea in the plant-based revolution… but could a global shortage scupper innovation?Read more
Swedish food packaging company Tetra Pak exits Russia amid mounting sanction-led supply chain pressures
4 Aug 2022
Tetra Pak has become the latest big company to exit its remaining operations in Russia as the country faces increasing shortages under ongoing sanctions.Read more
European soft drinks industry celebrates sugar reduction milestones as the ‘war on sugar’ continues
3 Aug 2022
The European soft drinks sector has achieved a 17.7% reduction in average added sugars since 2015, says its industry association, UNESDA. However, experts warn that the “war on sugar” will intensify from both consumers and governments in the next few y...Read more
Diageo unveils plans for €200 million carbon-neutral brewery in Ireland
1 Aug 2022
Diageo has unveiled plans for a €200 million carbon-neutral lager and ales brewery in Ireland – the country’s first.Read more
Mexican packaged food companies to feel profit squeeze as inflation continues
29 Jul 2022
Mexican packaged food companies are set to feel bigger profitability pressures over the next year as commodities price inflation and slowed growth continues, said credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings.Read more
Gut health is the biggest growth area for US personalised nutrition brands
28 Jul 2022
Gut health will be a key growth area for personalised nutrition brands in the US throughout 2023, fuelled by the development of more user-friendly microbiome testing kits and the importance of gut health for US consumers, according to the Nutrition Bus...Read more
How (and why) should food brands leverage social media?
27 Jul 2022
Social media is a powerful and far-reaching tool which allows brands to get closer than ever before to their consumers. To reap its value, brands should closely monitor consumer attitudes on social media and proactively engage with them.Read more
Canada rolls out new front-of-pack ‘magnifying glass’ label for high salt, sugar and fat foods
26 Jul 2022
Canadian authorities have launched a new front-of-package nutrition label designed to help shoppers make more informed product selections as they purchase groceries by highlighting foods high in specific ‘unhealthy’ nutrients.Read more
Shifting trends: Analysing the impact of high inflation in India
25 Jul 2022
Despite food and beverage categories in India feeling the pinch of increasing inflation, the overall outlook remains upbeat as governmental support steps in and evolving consumer purchasing patterns shape the sector.Read more
A switch to alternative proteins could be cheapest and highest impact solution to climate crisis – report
22 Jul 2022
Shifting to alternative proteins could be the “most capital-efficient and high-impact” solution to today’s climate crisis, according to a new report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which suggests more than 30% of consumers are willing to fully swap...Read more
Are you a supplier?
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation