Weathering the guar gum market

by Jeff Gelski
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While this summer’s U.S. drought will affect ingredient pricing, the monsoon season in India may alter the price of one specific ingredient. A decreased amount of monsoon rain may increase the need for guar gum alternatives.

The food industry uses guar gum in many applications. For example, it may keep tortillas from breaking and it may assist in giving ice cream a desired texture.

Guar gum once sold for under $1 per lb, but prices that low no longer exist. Average import prices this year more than doubled to $12.76 per kilogram ($5.80 per lb) for May imports from $5.15 per kilogram ($2.50 per lb) for January imports, according to the July 30 issue of Hydrocolleague News, an e-mailed newsletter from IMR International, a hydrocolloid consulting company based in San Diego.

The oil and gas industry’s increasing use of guar gum in a process called hydraulic fracturing has factored into the escalating prices.

“Hydraulic fracking in the U.S.A. is facing strong environmental pressure,” the Hydrocolleague News said. “There is a possibility that such anti-fracking forces may reduce such activity in the U.S.A. Even if that were to become the case, hydraulic fracking in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) would more than make up for reduced U.S. activity.”

The number of guar gum plants, grown mainly in India and Pakistan, may increase in future years. Caremoli increased production capacity at its facility in Jodhpur, India, up to 12,000 tonnes and also opened a guar gum production facility in Ames, Iowa, with a capacity of 5,000 tonnes per year, said Andrea Caremoli, president of the company.

The weather in India will affect guar gum supply and price this year.

“If monsoons are not going to arrive on time and no rainfalls are expected in those not-irrigated areas, which are the biggest guar areas in India, then a significant reduction in the size of the crop may have a strong impact on the price, which can stay at high levels, due to the increasing demand in the oil and gas,” Dr. Caremoli said.

According to an article in the Aug. 7 issue of The Wall Street Journal, rainfall in India was 20% below the 50-year average with the monsoon season halfway over.

To minimize the cost impact of guar gum, food and beverage companies may use such alternatives as tara gum, locust bean gum (L.B.G.) and xanthan gum in reformulations, Dr. Caremoli said.

“Many of our customers have decided to reformulate,” he said. “They either reduced the use of guar gum in their recipes or reformulated out guar gum all together.”

Palsgaard A/S, Juelsminde, Denmark, recently launched two ingredients that may reduce guar gum use in ice cream.

Tara gum is used in place of guar gum in Palsgaard Extrulce 258, an integrated mixture of emulsifiers and stabilizers that is designed to allow for the manufacture of ice cream with high overrun while maintaining quality and reducing raw material costs.

“Tara gum and guar gum are both galactomannans and as such have properties that are comparable in some respects and different in others,” said Hanne K. Ludvigsen, product and application manager, ice cream and dairy group for Palsgaard A/S. “Tara gum is not a 1:1 replacement. It takes a reformulation of the complete emulsifier/stabilizer blend to outbalance the main differences between guar gum and tara gum.”

IceTriple 102, another integrated system of emulsifiers and stabilizers, contains carboxymethylcellulose (cmc), which is used for replacing part of the guar gum.

Ingredient suppliers also promoted guar gum alternatives at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition June 26-28 in Las Vegas.

Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, Ariz., offers Hydro-Fi XCT-0123, which replaces guar gum in baked foods. The ingredient incorporates xanthan gum, citrus fiber and tara gum.

Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, Wis., used OptiSol 5300, a flax-based ingredient, in a gluten-free whoopee pie the company showcased at I.F.T. Another flax-based ingredient, OptiSol 5000, has been shown to reduce guar gum use in tortillas, bread, sweet baked foods and batters.

Dr. Caremoli said the price of guar gum may never fall below $1 per lb again, but the ingredient has a future in the U.S. food industry.

“Guar gum will remain a highly used hydrocolloid in foods and beverages because it’s a natural product with high performance in a wide range of food preparations,” he said. “Guar has been extremely available and convenient for years. Hydrocolloids are cyclic based on cost and availability. When one hydrocolloid price skyrockets, other hydrocolloids become more popular to use due to cost savings.”

Investigation of xanthan gum imports moves forward

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to investigate imports of xanthan gum from Austria and China, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. A preliminary anti-dumping duty determination is due on or about Nov. 12.

CP Kelco, Atlanta, on June 5 filed a petition with the D.O.C. and the I.T.C. urging for the investigation. CP Kelco suspected imports from China and Austria were being sold at substantially less than fair value. The I.T.C. on July 19 said, “There is a reasonable indication that a U.S. industry is materially injured by reason of imports of xanthan gum from Austria and China that are allegedly sold in the United States at less than fair value.”

Xanthan gum, a hydrocolloid, is used as a thickener and stabilizer in water-based solutions. Xanthan gum is used in foods, beverages, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals. It also has oilfield and industrial uses.

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