How to Replace Carmine in Orange, Red and Purple Applications

Written by Shahab Moradi and Lauren Robinson

Carmine and cochineal are natural colours extracted from insects. They provide beautiful, bright hues and can be found in many different food and beverage items – most commonly confectionery, beverage, fruit prep and bakery. However, with the rising popularity of vegan and plant-based diets, some manufacturers have been forced to look elsewhere for natural orange, red and purple colours. Carmine is also not usually considered kosher or halal, creating further complications. As such, product developers across Australia are looking to replace carmine in their colouring solutions. However, the brightness and stability of carmine can be difficult to match, and replacements need to be carefully selected to suit each application.

This article provides a brief summary of what carmine alternatives may be suitable for use in different colour applications.


Replacing Carmine in Orange Applications

There are several options you can consider when it comes to replacing carmine used for orange colouring. Annatto and paprika are the two best options in our experience. Depending on the application, you may need oil-soluble or water-soluble options. Luckily, annatto and paprika can both be found in either of these formats. As well as this, they can also provide similar heat and light stability compared to carmine. Some colouring plant extracts also come with the added bonus of being clean label, which is of increasing importance to consumers.

As the below images from our laboratory show, plant extracts can match carmine very effectively in orange applications.

Carminic Acid V Plant Extracts Bottle


One thing to keep in mind is that the dosage rates may be higher when using annatto or paprika instead of carmine, meaning that the cost in use may be greater. For example, see the below image where 2.0g of Paprika Extract is required to match 1.0g of Carmine in a confectionary application.

Carminic Acid V Paprika
Image via DDW The Colour House:


Replacing Carmine in Pink & Red Applications

If you need to replace carmine in a pink or red coloured application, you also have some good options. Beet is generally the first alternative that is suggested. Beet does provide good light stability and is relatively inexpensive, however the downside is that it offers very poor heat stability. Although there are beet-based colours with improved heat stability, often a high dosage is required to come close to matching carmine in bakery applications. This high dose can cause flavour interference in some instances, so it is not always the best solution. However, beet can work well in some other applications such as ice cream and yoghurts.

When replacing red carmine in low pH applications such as sorbet or beverages, you have access to several good options such as anthocyanins from black carrot and purple corn. Similarly, there are also several replacement options for applications such as fruit preps and fillings, where heat stability is important. Lycopene or purple sweet potato (which is also an anthocyanin) can both provide good red and pink options for these applications.

SoBe Water
SoBe Strawberry Dragonfruit Nutrient Enhanced Hydration Beverage (far right). This product uses purple sweet potato juice concentrate for its dark pink colour. Image via Amazon:


Replacing Carmine in Purple Applications

Purple carmine colour (4-aminocarminic acid) was previously very popular in low pH applications such as confectionery, fruit prep and beverages. However, over the past several years this colour has become less prevalent. This is partly because of the introduction of restrictions on this colour by the European Union in 2019. If you need to find a carmine alternative for purple applications, there are many suitable options available to you. Vegetable extracts such as red cabbage, purple sweet potato and some purple carrot are all suitable replacements.

Quaker Oats Purple Colour
Quaker Oats Forest Fruits Flavoured Porridge. This product uses anthocyanins from black carrot to help achieve its light purple colour. Image via the Quaker Oats website:


How Can We Help?

Unfortunately, there is no one alternative that offers everything that carmine does. Generally speaking, using blends of multiple different natural colours is the best approach if you require a very close carmine match.

If you’re working on a carmine replacement project and would like some extra guidance on colour solutions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.



Shahab Moradi:

Phone: +61 3 8691 5296


New Zealand

Alan Bulmer:

Phone: +64 9 622 8798