Avocados take on a billion dollar industry

A graduate of the Ben Franklin TechCelerator Program and runner‑up at the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference’s Tech Tournament, AvoColor is one of State College’s most promising start‑ups in the world of food science.

AvoColor is an all‑natural and water‑soluble food colorant that produces red, orange, and yellow hues to be used in a variety of food products. Not only is the product safe and simple to process, it’s also quite affordable, as it takes advantage of the avocado pit, typically thought of as a waste product.

Testing of AvoColor has been overseen by Dr. Gregory Ziegler, a professor of food science at Penn State, who formed Persea Naturals, AvoColor’s parent company, last summer. Dr. Ziegler has been mulling over the usefulness of the avo‑ cado pit for years (he published an academic paper on the subject in 2011, in the Journal of Food Science, and additional writing in 2013 in Current Pharmaceutical Design), and his discovery was sparked when he noticed the large differences between the chemical reactions an avocado pit undergoes, and those that occur in separate fruits and vegetables. While most turn an unsightly brown when exposed to oxygen, the avocado seeds turn bright orange. Now, it definitely seems that Dr. Ziegler’s long history with the concept is paying off. The product has been highly successful in nearly every test that it’s up against, whether it’s being added to dairy products, baked goods, or beverages.

AvoColor is more than just an innovative and affordable new way to color food products, however. It also addresses a relevant market demand, as more consumers look for natural alternatives to synthetic food additives. While many natural color additives have a short shelf life, or low aesthetic appeal, AvoColor experiences neither of these issues, as it has both a high stability and high vibrancy. Current natural color additives on the market are often sourced from ingredients that impact flavor or diet requirements. For example, saffron, paprika, and turmeric can be used for their colors, but can potentially change a food item’s flavor. Additionally, carmine is a popular natural color additive, but it’s an insect byproduct, making it non‑kosher and unsuitable for vegetarians.

AvoColor, a totally natural, bright, and stable additive choice that’s suitable for vegetarians, and kosher and halal diets, believes it can revolutionize this $2 billion food colorant market, and that it fits nearly half of all food colorant additive demands. Down the road, it could even be considered as an additive for the cosmetics market. For the time being, however, the company is continuing its testing using standard food processing methods and expanding research to fully understand the potential of their new discovery.

Check out more ways Penn State and other Happy Valley entrepreneurial and financal resources are changing industries across every sector at  Innovation Park at Penn State's website, and be sure to catch all their newest insights in the latest edition of their Journey's magazine!

This article and its photos are provided by Innovation Park at Penn State.

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