CALIPATRIA — DIC Coproration will invest $13 million to expand production capacity of its subsidiary Earthrise Nutritionals, 23 miles north of El Centro, in Calipatria, California.
Earthrise Nutritionals is a Spirulina production and sales company with an annual yield of approximately 500 tons. The company’s outdoor algae cultivation facility covers 44.48 acres.
The plant produces Linablue, a natural blue coloring derived from edible algae Spirulina. Investment in this project follows the investment of around $10 million in November 2013 for its first expansion. New facilities are scheduled to commence operation in 2018.
“The increase in more educated health conscious consumers have influenced major food product manufacturers in the Americas and Europe to announce their plans to make the switch from using artificial to natural food coloring,” company officials said. “ In light of these trends, DIC expects that the global market for natural blue food coloring will grow by 50% annually from 2016 through 2020.”
In 2013, phycocyanin, the blue food coloring extracted from Spirulina, became the first natural blood food coloring to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Since then, demand for phycocyanin has increase drastically, particularly in the Americas and Europe, which have seen a rapid shift in consumer demand toward natural food coloring. Concurrently, sales of the DIC Group’s commercial phycocyanin product Linablue have risen sharply, particularly for use in frozen sweets and confections.
In addition to Linablue being used as a vivid blue colorant, phycocyanin can be combined with natural yellow and red pigments to create food coloring that impart more vibrant greens and purples.
The company’s food safety management system earned certification from major global accreditation organizations, including Food Safety Systems Certification (FSSC) 22000 in 2016. The DIC Group’s Spirulina production facility on Hainan Island, in the People’s Republic of China, is also working to obtain FSSC 22000 certification.
A pioneer in Spirulina research, the DIC group is currently exploring ways to extract the other pigments that remain in the Spirulina biomass after the blue pigment has been removed, as well as its use as a plant derived protein in food and animal feed. Having identified Spirulina as a next-generation business to be cultivated under its new medium-term management plan, DIC108, which began in 2016 the Group will also promote R&D aimed at swiftly commercializing products based on these products.