Improvement of Naturally Derived Food Colorant Performance with Efficient Pyranoanthocyanin Formation from Sambucus nigra Anthocyanins Using Caffeic Acid and Heat

Molecules. 2020 Dec 18;25(24):5998. doi: 10.3390/molecules25245998.


Consumers and regulations encourage the use of naturally derived food colorants. Anthocyanins (ACN), plant pigments, are unstable in foods. In aged red wines, ACN with a free hydroxyl group at C-5 condenses to form pyranoanthocyanins (PACN), which are more stable but form inefficiently. This study attempted to produce PACN efficiently using high cofactor concentration and heat. Elderberry anthocyanins were semi-purified and caffeic acid (CA) was dissolved in 15% ethanol and diluted with a buffer to achieve ACN:CA molar ratios of 1:50, 1:100, 1:150, and 1:200, then incubated at 65 °C for 5 days. The effect of temperature was tested using ACN samples incubated with or without CA at 25 °C, 50 °C, and 75 °C for 7 days. Compositional changes were monitored using uHPLC-PDA-MS/MS. Higher CA levels seemed to protect pigment integrity, with ACN:CA 1:150 ratio showing the highest tinctorial strength after 48 h. PACN content growth was fastest between 24 and 48 h for all ACN:CA ratios and after 120 h, all ACN had degraded or converted to PACN. PACN formed faster at higher temperatures, reaching ~90% PACN in 24 h and ~100% PACN in 48 h at 75 °C. These results suggest that PACN can form efficiently from elderberry ACN and CA if heated to produce more stable pigments.

Keywords: CIELab; color intensity; color stability; elderberry; natural food color; pigment; spectrophotometry; uHPLC.

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / chemical synthesis*
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry
  • Biological Products / chemical synthesis*
  • Biological Products / chemistry
  • Caffeic Acids / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Food Coloring Agents / chemical synthesis*
  • Food Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • Sambucus nigra / chemistry*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Temperature*


  • Anthocyanins
  • Biological Products
  • Caffeic Acids
  • Food Coloring Agents
  • caffeic acid