Blue Spirulina is famous as a natural food coloring: How is blue spirulina made?

Wednesday May 29, 2024

Nearly all the countries in the world allow the use of blue spirulina in food and beverage, and it is hard to find blue color in nature, so blue spirulina is famous for its natural blue food coloring concept, but now it does not stop at the concept, it is used in many food and beverage industries all over the world. In the EU, it can be easy to find blue spirulina candies and cakes, in the US, we can find different brands of blue spirulina supplements,  at the same time, blue spirulina drinks are trendy in East Asian countries. How is the word hottest blue spirulina made?

What is the blue spirulina made of: Manufacturing process

Blue spirulina is usually extracted from spirulina.  In industries producing, how is blue spirulina made? Spirulina platensis is always cultured by spirulina factories, to extract phycocyanin, also the unique protein be called blue spirulina. To extract blue spirulina, usually go through the following manufacturing flow chart:

Laboratory Breeding: Select high-quality spirulina platensis

Large-scale farming Spirulina platensis

Harvest and prepare Spirulina powder

Spirulina cell disruption


Ultra-high-speed centrifugation

Spray drying



What factors affect the extraction efficiency of blue spirulina?

Different factories use different producting technology to extract blue spirulina. The difference is that after spirulina cell disruption, by adding different chemical agent to precipitate and separate blue spirulina, diffierent chemical agents  leads to different production lines and different extraction efficiency. To increase blue spirulina extraction efficiency, some factories choose Ammonium sulfate precipitation or salting out method to extract blue spirulina.  Adding chemical agent can increase blue spirulina extraction efficiency a lot, and producing lines more easy. This method can lower factory producing cost, making factory have more advantage in the blue spirulina price.

Some enterprises choose to sacrifice blue spirulina extraction efficiency, only adding water in the total producting process, by more complex producing line design to extract blue spirulina. The producting line advantage is more safe,more better retain the structure of phycocyanin. Enterprises choose this method to extract blue spirulina , the producing cost more higher, but quality more better, due to its safe, the upscale market and customers who value product safety are more interested.

What is the blue spirulina made of: Structure and benefits

Blue spirulina is also be called Phycocyanin. Phycocyanin (PC) is a pigment-apoprotein complex which constitute the major light-harvesting antennae for oxygenic photosynthesis in cyanobacteria and red algae. PC is a very effective energy transducer which transfers the energy from sunlight to photosystem II. Phycocyanin, a high value protein, is constituted by one polypeptide alpha (α) ranging from 10 to 19 kDa and one polypeptide beta (β) ranging from 14 to 21 kDa that form a monomer. The subunit α is covalently linked with one phycocyanobilin and the subunit β has two phycocyanobilin attached[1].  Phycocyanin is a water-soluble, non-toxic, and blue colored photosynthetic pigment reportedly used in food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries [3]. Over the years, the biological functionality of phycocyanin has been extensively researched (e.g., antioxidation, inflammation, cancer, antimicrobial activity, neurodegeneration, diabetes, wound healing, and hyperpigmentation) [1].

Chemical, (A), and protein, (B,C) structure of phycocyanin from Spirulina platensis. (B) Represents the αβ monomer, and C) represents the three-dimensional (α3β3)2 hexamer structure of phycocyanin. The α subunit is represented by green, orange, and pink and the β subunit by grey, yellow, and brown. (C) Highlights a phycocyanobilin chromophore. α- and β- subunits have one and two phycocyanobilin, respectively. α: alpha, β: beta. Adapted from Yuan et al. (2022) [1] and Wu et al. (2016) [2].

What is blue spirulina made for: Supplements, beverage and food

As natural coloring food, blue spirulina always be used as candy surface coloring, cream and cake coloring, ready-to-drink beverage coloring, yogurt enterprises like using blue spirulina create beautiful blue yogurt, and Beer companies like to use blue spirulina to power their beers, and some people like use blue spirulina DIY many different kind of blue food.  Blue spirulina widely used in many industries, some enterprises produce blue spirulina as supplements in tablets, powder or capsule to get profit.

What is the development prospect of blue spirulina: the stronger the health pursuit, the larger the blue spirulina market

It is anticipated that there will be an increased use of phycocyanin in the production of nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals, as well as medicinal goods. The usage of spirulina as a very nutritious food source, and coloring ingredient, as well as consumer awareness of the health risks associated with synthetic colors, are other factors contributing to the market’s rise over the projected period. The food and beverage sector is seeing significant growth thanks to the nutritional and coloring benefits of phycocyanin, which is derived from spirulina. The import and export of goods containing artificial food colors are prohibited in many nations, which is helping the phycocyanin business expand. For instance, the artificial food color Allura red AC is prohibited in Denmark, France, Belgium, and Switzerland.

1.Yuan B., Li Z., Shan H., Dashnyam B., Xu X., McClements D.J., Zhang B., Tan M., Wang Z., Cao C. A review of recent strategies to improve the physical stability of phycocyanin. Curr. Res. Food Sci. 2022;5:2329–2337. doi: 10.1016/j.crfs.2022.11.019. Amarante M.C.A., Braga A.R.C., Sala L., Moraes C.C., Kalil S.J. Design strategies for C-phycocyanin purification: Process influence on purity grade. Sep. Purif. Technol. 2020;252:117453. doi: 10.1016/j.seppur.2020.117453. Morais, M.G.; da Fontoura Prates, D.; Moreira, J.B.; Duarte, J.H.; Costa, J.A.V. Phycocyanin from Microalgae: Properties, Extraction and Purification, with Some Recent Applications. Ind. Biotechnol. 201814, 30–37.

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