There is a big trend in the food and cosmetic industry to move away from artificial colors and flavors, replacing them with natural ingredients. My guest today is Gerit Tolborg, the CEO of Chromologics. Gerit describes herself as an accidental entrepreneur. Through her research at the Danish Technical University, she stumbled upon a way to naturally produce a red colorant using fungi and fermentation. Listen in as we discuss the business of artificial and natural ingredients, what it takes to build an R&D heavy startup, and the journey of becoming an entrepreneur when you never thought that was in the cards.
- 2:09 Why companies are moving away from artificial colors
- 9:40 Producing colors through precision fermentation
- 16:00 How Chromologics started
- 23:00 Building an R&D heavy startup
- 41:00 Challenges of being a female CEO
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 1:45
I want to start today’s conversation a couple years back. Because I read that in 2015, Nestle actually announced that they were going to remove artificial flavors and certified colors from their chocolates in the US. And I think they’ve done it with some other brands around the world. So, just to kind of open and frame what we’re talking about today, why are artificial colors such a big problem for big food companies?
Gerit Tolborg, Chromologics 2:09
I think that started back in the days around 2007 and 2008 with the publication of a study that’s now kind of called the Southampton Study. It was the first time that scientists could link ADHD in kids with artificial colors. And that kind of started a debate: how good are artificial colors? Are there health effects that we didn’t know about or that we didn’t see? And then also the regulatory agencies like the FDA and the EFSA started looking closer at the artificial colors, and they could actually make some connections. They started banning some of the artificial colorants also. And all this created more and more consumer awareness about colorants, which then forced the companies to react to the consumer demands, stop using synthetic colorants and switch to natural ones instead.
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 2:55
Yeah, and I want to dive a little bit deeper into when we talk about artificial colors, like what have been the common ones that we’ve seen? The ones that I’ve heard of are kind of beta carotene, which I think is what’s in carrots and carmine.