The difference between butterfly pea extract and spirulina extract

A NEW BLUE COLOR: butterfly pea extract

Recently, FDA approved a new natural blue pigment: an anthocyanin derived from pterostilbene, also called butterfly pea extract. It produces what the Milwaukee-based manufacturer describes as a “bright denim shade” for products with a pH above 3.8, and a deep purple shade in low-pH food and beverages such as sport drinks.

The scientific name for this flower petal is Clitoria ternatea, which is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly used to make decaffeinated herbal teas. Chefs as well as food and beverage manufacturers also use it as a coloring agent to liven up their dishes.

The difference between butterfly pea extract and spirulina extract


Difference 1: Color

Butterfly pea extract in products with a pH higher than 3.8, this water-soluble color takes on an incredibly vibrant denim blue hue that is closer to synthetic FD&C Blue #2 than FD&C Blue #1. In lower pH products, such as sports drinks, it takes on a purple hue. In low pH beverages, especially sports drinks, or many soft drinks, or even alcoholic beverages, it will be a nice deep purple color. In a neutral pH range, it will have a different hue.

Spirulina extract always has a beautiful natural color and is brighter and more natural.

Difference 2: Stability

Butterfly pea extract has good thermal stability, it did not perform as well as it should in different PH. In PH above 3.8, it is close to denim blue; in lower PH products, it is purple; in lower PH and even alcoholic beverages, it is dark purple; and in a neutral PH range, it takes on another hue.

Spirulina extract is mostly blue granules or powder, it is a protein-binding pigment, so it has the same properties as protein, with an isoelectric point of 3.4. Soluble in water but insoluble in alcohols and oils. Unstable to heat, light and acid. Stable under weak acid and neutral (pH4.5~8), precipitation occurs when acidic (pH4.2), strong alkali can be to decolourization.

Difference 3: Application

The approved applications for this butterfly pea extract include alcoholic beverages (spirits, liqueurs and flavored alcoholic beverages); non-alcoholic beverages (sports and energy drinks, flavored or carbonated water, fruit drinks (including smoothies and cereal drinks); carbonated soft drinks (fruit or juice, ginger ale), nutritional drinks, fruit and vegetable juices, tea); chewing gum; coated nuts; liquid coffee creamers (dairy and non-dairy); ice cream and frozen dairy desserts; dairy and non-dairy beverages; hard and soft candies; fruit products in yogurt.

In 2013, the U.S. FDA approved Spirulina extract for use as a blue coloring for candy and chewing gum, and in 2014 expanded the application of Spirulina extract to include ice cream, frozen desserts, beverage blends and powders, yogurt, cream, pudding, cheese, gelatin, bread crumbs, and ready-to-eat cereals.

Difference 4: Extraction method

Butterfly pea extract is a dark blue liquid made from the aqueous extract of dried pterostilbene flowers, which is then ultrafiltered to remove residues from the plant product, and then concentrated and pasteurized.

Spirulina extract is extracted by low-temperature physical water, using only gentle physical methods throughout, and adding only water as an auxiliary.

Difference 5: Market availability

For raw material suppliers, what brands look for is not only high-quality ingredients with clinical scientific data, but more importantly, a “sustainable” supply of the ingredient to meet the long-term supply of consumers in the market. Although butterfly pea flower is not difficult to grow, it is “not a large-scale commercial crop.

Spirulina extract is derived from phycocyanin. Spirulina has been developed over decades and the market and supply chain is very mature and the production is increasing every year.

About BINMEI and spirulina extract

Zhejiang Binmei Biotechnology Co., Ltd is the world’s largest supplier of Spirulina extract. BINMEI believes that the nature of Spirulina extract and butterfly pea extract are different and show different shades of blue. Butterfly pea extract actually belongs to the pigment of anthocyanin class, only in the specific PH is blue, directly soak water is actually purple, very sensitive to the change of PH, in the food is very difficult to do the hue consistent. As a plant-based protein, the color of spirulina extract is more pure, bright and lovely, is the closest to the blue of the sky and the sea, at the same time, because scientific research found that spirulina extract is more and more functional, so it is also developed into health food in foreign countries.

The stability of spirulina extract is more difficult to break through, BINMEI has invested a lot of research in improving the stability of spirulina extract. At present, we have developed a stable spirulina extract suitable for beer and carbonated drinks, which has already been applied in the market. In terms of heat resistance stability, we have successfully developed heat resistant algae blue protein preparation in laboratory stage, which is expected to be applied in the market. At the same time, the production cost of spirulina extract has been greatly reduced, laying a broader foundation for the application of spirulina extract in food.