Developing strategies to address higher hydrocolloid prices

by Jeff Gelski
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Food and beverage formulators dealing with higher prices for gum/hydrocolloid ingredients should consider at least three factors: keep in mind the total formulation costs, make certain to use the gum ingredients correctly and be aware of any alternative ingredients for those experiencing price increases.

The reality of rising gum/hydrocolloid prices surfaced in July. CP Kelco, Atlanta, said it plans to raise prices up to 10% across all product lines. The products include carboxymethyl cellulose, pectin, xanthan gum and carrageenan, as well as select specialty biopolymers.

“Increases in global demand have affected the supply of critical raw materials such as fruit peel and cellulose, while other raw materials have experienced steep cost increases throughout the first half of 2010,” said E. Charles Brown, vice-president of marketing for CP Kelco.

Simply cutting back on the use of gums/hydrocolloids in formulations may not be the best answer when dealing with cost issues.

“While hydrocolloid prices are increasing, these ingredients are typically not the ingredients driving the majority of the food product cost,” said Linda Dunning, industry manager, Dairy, for Danisco and based in New Century, Kas. “Therefore, when hydrocolloids and/or emulsifiers may increase in the finished product, the overall formulation costs could be reduced.”

Jane Schulenburg, global marketing director for CP Kelco, agreed food and beverage companies should focus on total formulation costs. She added CP Kelco works with its customers to make certain gum/hydrocolloid ingredients are used correctly.

“A lot of times people aren’t hydrating correctly,” she said.

For an example of that, xanthan gum, if not hydrated correctly, may serve no purpose in a dressing.

Ms. Schulenburg said she expects demand for gums and hydrocolloids to continue to increase. CP Kelco lately has heard from new customers in such segments as beverages, meat products and dairy desserts. As manufacturers seek to add vitamins and minerals into bottled water, they need gums and hydrocolloids, she said. As companies seek to take sugar and calories out of ice cream and dairy desserts, they may use gums/hydrocolloids to bring mouthfeel back to the finished product.

CP Kelco is expanding production of pectin, cellulose and xanthan, Ms. Schulenburg said. In July CP Kelco said it will invest $8 million to expand a pectin facility in Lille Skensved, Denmark. Pectin, derived from the peel of citrus fruits, is used as a gelling and stabilizing agent in the manufacture of products such as low-sugar and sugar-free jams and fruit spreads, fruit preparations for yogurt, thermo-reversible bakery glazes and ice cream variegates.

Finding alternatives to gums and hydrocolloids may depend on application.

“Pectin, which can be an economical unique gelling gum mechanism, would be hard to replace in jams and jellies, but could more easily be replaced in acidified milk beverages with other gums or gum systems,” said Mar Nieto, senior principal scientist for TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md.

TIC Gums offers alternatives to acacia gum, also known as gum Arabic, which has been prone to price swings. TIC Gums this year introduced TicaPan Quick Crunch, a system for sugar and polyol (sugar alcohol) syrups used in confectionery coating and hard panning.

“Gum Arabic, in many applications such as film application, panning, candy, lithography, can be effectively replaced by a non-gum Arabic system,”

Dr. Nieto said. “The TicaPan and TicaFilm lines of gum are offered by TIC Gums as functional equivalents to gum Arabic that are less subject to shortage and price increase.”

Supply from China may affect the xanthan market.

“Chinese xanthan, due to its lower cost structure, may take away a good chunk of Western xanthan sales, especially as quality of Chinese xanthan improves,” Dr. Nieto said. “In case of price increases, guar gum, especially in our flavor-free guar gum, could be used to replace xanthan as a thickener and stabilizer in applications such as sauces, soups, dips, marinades, and the like.”

Danisco recently introduced a new Grindsted xanthan line. Using this xanthan may result in a 30% dosage reduction, said Tom Rourke, senior business development manager for Danisco and based in New Century.

The functionality of various sources of xanthan gum may differ, Ms. Dunning of Danisco added.

“Making a switch in suppliers based on cost alone could result in significant manufacturing problems and reduced product quality if one fails to evaluate these interactions,” she said. “These risks are true with the majority of hydrocolloids, that while used at low levels, have an enormous impact on the finished product characteristics and stability.”

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