The blue food coloring extraction facility at Earthrise Nutritional’s Southern California spirulina cultivation operations is slated for $13 million expansion.

DIC Corporation has announced that it will expand the production capacity of its California-based subsidiary Earthrise Nutritionals, LLC, for Linablue®, a natural blue food coloring derived from spirulina. Investment in this project, estimated at approximately US$13 million, follows the investment of around US$10 million in November 2013 for its first expansion. New facilities are scheduled to commence operation in 2018.

In 2013, phycocyanin, the blue food coloring extracted from spirulina, became the first natural blue food coloring to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Since then, demand for phycocyanin has increased drastically, particularly in the Americas and Europe, which have seen a rapid shift in consumer demand toward natural food colorings.

Sales of DIC Group’s commercial phycocyanin product Linablue have risen sharply, particularly for use in frozen sweets and confections. The DIC Group currently has over 90% of the global market share for spirulina-derived natural blue food coloring, and they expect that the global market for natural blue food coloring will grow by 50% annually from 2016 through 2020.

In addition to Linablue being used as a vivid blue colorant, phycocyanin can be combined with natural yellow and red pigments to create food colorings that impart more vibrant greens and purples. Demand for these applications is also expanding.

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.

Earthrise’ production capabilities encompass everything from the cultivation of high-grade spirulina to refining and manufacturing of finished products. With an annual yield of approximately 500 tons, the company’s outdoor algae cultivation facility, which covers a total area of 180,000 square meters, is the world’s largest.