Until recently, Minnesota-based Suntava has positioned itself as a supplier of natural purple-corn derived food colorings, but it has also been researching and breeding corn to maximize its antioxidant content for over a decade, according to the company’s CEO Bill Petrich.
He told NutraIngredients-USA.com: “It is loaded with the antioxidants that you would find in blueberries or pomegranates…We have bred it in two hemispheres for the past 13-plus years. We look to get higher and higher levels of the key ingredient in the corn.”
That key ingredient is anthocyanins, a sub-group of flavonoids, with reports in the literature suggesting flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, protecting the body from oxidative stress. Suntava claims that its purple corn has four times the antioxidant power of blueberries, and is rich in cyanidin-3-glucosides, which reportedly have a stronger antioxidant activity than other common anthocyanins.
Petrich described the flavor of the company’s purple corn concentrate as “quite interesting and difficult to describe, but very refreshing”, adding that it would be of most interest to companies making functional drinks, vegetable juices and fruit juice blends.
He added that the company aims to work in the most sustainable way possible, extracting the anthocyanins from the corn while leaving the proteins, starches and oils intact. These are currently sold to the animal feed industry, although Petrich said that Suntava was looking to introduce them eventually to the human food supply.
With the development of its new concentrate, this latest move brings the company into the functional beverage space, but Petrich said that the company is “in constant evolution” – and dietary supplements are the next possible application for Suntava’s purple corn.
The company said that purple corn has been used in Peru for thousands of years in a drink called ‘chicha moranda’. It is a non-alcoholic drink produced by boiling purple corn with pineapple, quince, green apple, cinnamon, cloves and lime juice.