The bioactive compounds of saffron (crocus sativus, L) spice and its floral by-products (mainly crocin, safranal and flavonoids) have potential health benefits particularly regarding cognitive function and mental health. There is a lack of knowledge on their use as a source of bioactive extracts for the development of functional food ingredients. The main objective of the project is to develop new innovative and added-value products from saffron and its floral by-products, improving the saffron quality in the Mediterranean area and turning it into a highly profitable botanical source. Specific project objectives and the approach to achieve them are: - To produce high quality saffron and floral by-products optimizing the cultivation and processing conditions, and their characterization, with contribution of saffron producers and SMEs in Algeria and Spain. - To develop and characterize bioactive extracts and ingredients from saffron and its floral by-products improving functionality and stability, using up-to-date and innovative technologies with involvement of the industry. - To develop innovative healthier food products from the saffron ingredients through traditional recipes, preserving the nutritional and organoleptic quality. - To investigate the antimicrobial and prebiotic potential of the extracts, and their cardiometabolic prospects “in vitro” and “in vivo”. - To test the effect of the bioactive extracts on mood and cognition in humans. The multidisciplinary science-based outputs, technological improvements, and applications of saffron bioactive extracts and ingredients with defined authenticity and functional composition, will lead to new functional foods from the traditional Mediterranean diet, contributing to improve the health of the population. At the same time, saffron production will become more sustainable and profitable taking advantage of a high-value biomass. This will also foster the employment and international market in this industrial sector.

Period of Implementation

Mar 1, 2021 - Feb 29, 2024
Total Budget

EUR 1,108,000.00



1. To develop an integrated approach for the sustainable valorization of traditional saffron cultivars through the integral use of the plant material. 2. To optimize plant processing and elaborate innovative eco-friendly extraction processes from saffron and its by-products in order to obtain stabilized new bioactive ingredients. 3. To develop new and safe functional foods and dietary supplements of high quality based on the functional ingredients. 4. To validate the beneficial activity of the extracted compounds by preclinical studies (in vitro & in vivo). 5. To assess the new saffron ingredients bioactivity and beneficial effects on mood and cognition through a clinical study


Our main hypothesis is that saffron and its floral by-products are suitable and affordable raw materials for the production of sustainable and highly bioactive healthy food ingredients. As a consequence, the main aim of this research project is the valorization of saffron and its floral by-products by developing stable functional ingredients and food products backed by robust scientific evidence.

Impact Pathway

• The development of new ingredients, bioactive extracts, and functional foods linked to local traditional protocols and recipes and according to seasonal and sustainable production schemes. • Development of new functional food products, through the application of bioactive extracts and ingredients to traditional recipes but with improved processing conditions regarding sustainability and preserving the nutritional quality. • Improving the sustainability of the saffron spice production and profitability of this industrial sector taking advantage of high-value biomass that is currently unexploited, optimizing the environmental impact. • Development of bioactive extracts and ingredients rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds, establishing new eco-friendly extraction processes from saffron and its floral by-products. • Increasing the saffron quality and so the competitiveness of the European and North-African saffron producers (10% of the volume of world saffron market) with respect to other cheaper saffron producers (e.g. Iran and India) through the reduction of costs of the crop and its handling and by increasing processing revenues. • Developing research tools to assess the efficacy and health benefits of novel ingredients from different waste streams using the saffron industry as an example. This is vitally important if we are to improve the sustainability of Mediterranean saffron production. • Development of a decision support tool to define, at a national level, potential areas suitable for saffron cultivation and for increasing the saffron yield and quality • The proposition of local processing solutions, better addressing the quality management, deriving from sustainable traditional recipes while preserving the nutritional value of food. • Improved sustainable processing solutions for the development of patented innovative healthy ingredients from saffron and its by-product extracts and their applications, for the promotion of the nutritional and functional quality of traditional foods. This will lead to the creation of new market opportunities, strengthening the competitiveness and growth of the saffron industrial sector and the traditional food processing industry • A significant impact on society. Indeed valorization and augmentation of saffron sales could contribute to a salary rise coupled with an augmentation of employment rate. In addition to a direct local effect, this project generates large scale in chain positive effects onto salaries and employment at every stage in the saffron industry, from the field to the shelf. • The development of new tools to demonstrate the quality and authenticity of raw materials and products.