Colour, flavour and fragrance

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, as well as one of the oldest. The characteristic saffron flavour, colour and odour come from several components, of which the most important are picrocrocin, crocin and safranal. All of these are present in stigma of the Saffron crocus.

World production of saffron is estimated at c. 300 tonnes per annum. More than 90% of world supply is grown in Iran. Based on current average market prices of c. USD 1,500/kg the market is worth some USD 450 million.

Based on various sources (including surveys by YES Bank, Indian and Iranian publications and direct conversations with potential users) and its own analysis, Evolva estimates that such increases in use can potentially boost the total addressable market for its saffron product to c. USD 800 million over time. Given the poorly documented nature of the market, and the fact that no product with the envisaged characteristics of Evolva’s product currently exists, this number is more than usually subject to uncertainty.

Producing the key saffron components by fermentation has three main benefits. Firstly, it will allow saffron to be available at a much lower price than currently, which will both expand existing markets and open new ones. Secondly, it will eliminate the many complexities involved in the current supply chain. Finally, by making each of the key components separately it will enable the production of customised forms that are for example particularly rich in aroma, taste or colour and that can be adapted to specific food formulations and regional preferences.


Our work on saffron is primarily conducted at Evolva’s Chennai site. We have established a variety of metabolic routes in yeast to the desired endproducts and filed patent applications as relevant. We are now systematically optimising the production characteristics of our yeast strains to achieve a commercially attractive cost of goods. We have conducted sensory work on the various endproducts to assess their organoleptic (taste, smell) properties.

During 2014, work will continue on the above activities. We expect products to be available in 2016.

Evolva currently intends to commercialise saffron ingredients in its own right, though it will work with distributors, etc., in a similar manner to resveratrol.

Contact Information

Evolva SA
Duggingerstrasse 23
CH-4153 Reinach
Tel: +41 61 485 2000
Fax: +41 61 485 2001
Evolva A/S
Lersoe Parkallé 42-44
DK-2100 Copenhagen OE
Tel: +45 35 200 230
Fax: +45 35 200 231
Evolva Biotech Private Limited
401 - 405, 4th Floor
Ticel Bio Park Ltd
Taramani Road, Taramani
Chennai 600 113
Tamil Nadu, India
Tel: +91 44 4297 1050
Fax: +91 44 4297 1060
Evolva, Inc. (Evolva USA)
2440 Embarcadero Way
Palo Alto
CA 94303
Tel: +1 650 856 2436
Fax: +1 650 856 7950

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