RedLeaf Biologics Inc was formed by a group of friends in the spring of 2015 with the goal of producing a previously unavailable organic red pigment we call RedN for use in food and animal feed. The key development that led to the founding of the company was the discovery, five years earlier, of a rare variant of sweet sorghum by Kentucky Professor Seth DeBolt, who spotted a single red-colored plant in one of his fields. Seth saved the plant as a curiosity and carried out genetic studies for several years, by crossing the reddish plant to other sorghum lines, thereby establishing that the trait was heritable. We now call the sorghum variety that resulted from his studies, RedNatural, and have obtained an exclusive license to the variety from the University of Kentucky.
Seth and RedLeaf food chemist Stefan Bauer also characterized the chemical nature of the red pigment and learned that it was due to several red compounds called deoxy-anthocyanidins, that are normally found only in the seed coats of sorghum varieties. The compounds had been previously suggested for use in food coloring, but the relatively small amount of seed coat material available limits the amount of pigment that can be economically produced from that source of tissue. The discovery of the RedNatural variety greatly increased the amount of pigment that can be produced at a reasonable cost. In order to produce the RedN pigment, the company has assembled a team of people with the range of skills required to grow and harvest the crop, extract the pigments, assure quality control of the products and identify applications, and market the products. Small batches of the pigments are now available for testing by prospective customers and the company expects to build a production facility in the Lexington KY area in the near future for large-scale production of the RedN pigment and a related product called RedPlus that is a powerful antioxidant for animal feed use. We believe that the RedN pigment will be a unique and welcome addition to the suite of natural food colorings that are currently being sought by the food industry.