Price fluctuations for gums and hydrocolloids may come from actions on land, many lands actually, as they are sourced from such places as Africa and India. The fluctuations also may come from actions at sea: Agar and carrageenan are sourced from seaweed. Price swings even may come from actions under the land. In recent years guar gum shot up in price because of its use in drilling for oil and gas.

Keeping updated on the prices of specific gums and hydrocolloids thus may prove complex. The benefits of using them as ingredients are easier to understand. Gums and hydrocolloids may provide moisture benefits in grain-based foods products. They may add fiber. They also may provide needed texture to gluten-free items.

Guar gum prices drop

Prices for food grade guar gum are falling. A price of $1 per lb is likely early in 2014, according to the most recent “Quarterly Review of Food Hydrocolloids” from San Diego-based IMR International, a market research and consulting company.

Guar gum, like many hydrocolloids, may offer health and functional benefits. According to a study appearing on-line April 3 in the British Journal of Nutrition, guar gum may have positive effects on the metabolic syndrome and the cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers from Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, examined 44 people with type 2 diabetes in a six-week study. An intervention group received an additional 10 grams of partially hydrolyzed guar gum a day.

Food grade guar gum once sold for under $1 a lb. Makers of such grain-based foods as tortillas sought it as a cost-effective thickening, texturing and moisture-binding ingredient. Then the oil and gas industry began using more guar gum, a plant grown in India and Pakistan, in a process called hydraulic fracturing. Food grade guar gum import prices rose to nearly $6 per lb in May 2012, and food companies sought alternatives.

Prices have ebbed as 2013 nears its end.

“The sky high prices of guar are gone, but nervousness remains,” the quarterly review from IMR International said. “A major unknown in the guar supply chain is the ability and willingness of farmers and traders to ‘hold on’ to guar seed stocks in the hope of better prices than currently available.”

Nicole Rees, business development manager for Glanbia Nutritionals, said, “Prices have fallen with increased supply, but that stability may be short term. Current falling prices could affect future planting, and ongoing demand from the oil and natural gas is unpredictable.”

Glanbia Nutritionals offers flaxseed-based alternatives to guar gum.

“Customers are hoping that guar gum pricing will stabilize, but, more importantly, they are looking at alternative gum and ingredient blends as a way to protect themselves from future market volatility,” Ms. Rees said.

The company’s OptiSol 5000 ingredient has been shown to work in tortillas, bread, sweet baked foods and a variety of other product systems. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. OptiSol 5300 has been shown to work in gluten-free applications.

Trade issues with xanthan

When guar gum prices soared, xanthan gum also was used in alternative systems.

Food formulators may wish to know what xanthan gum sources are subject to anti-dumping duties. The U.S. International Trade Commission on June 20 said imports of xanthan gum from China threaten the U.S. industry with material injury. The U.S. Department of Commerce determined the Chinese xanthan gum imports were sold in the United States at less than fair value. Anti-dumping duties went into effect.

The International Trade Commission also determined imports of xanthan gum from Austria neither threatened by material injury nor materially injured the U.S. industry.

“Jungbunzlauer is very pleased with this result and views it as a confirmation that Jungbunzlauer conducts its business in a fair manner,” said Jungbunzlauer, which exports xanthan gum from Austria.

Atlanta-based CP Kelco filed the original petition that sought the investigation of xanthan gum imports. CP Kelco this year expanded capacity at its San Diego facility by about 40%. The investment should increase the availability of domestically produced xanthan gum, which thickens and stabilizes emulsions, foams and suspensions, according to CP Kelco.

The expansion also should make more xanthan gum available for use in gluten-free products. According to a Mintel report released in September, the gluten-free food and beverage industry in the United States has reached $10.5 billion after growing 44% from 2011-13.

Gums and hydrocolloids often are needed to add back in functional properties lost when gluten is removed. For example, Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, Ariz., offers GumPlete SXCT-GF-707 for gluten-free brownies. It features gums, tapioca flour, rice flour and citrus fiber.

Consider konjac

This year Gum Technology Corp. has promoted konjac, which is harvested mainly from fields in China and Japan. Konjac is derived from a tuber known as “elephant yam” because the yam resembles an elephant’s foot. Its molecular name is glucomannan. Studies have shown konjac aids in the reduction of cholesterol and sugar absorbed from the gut, according to Gum Technology Corp.

The U.S Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program has konjac flour on its National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which means it is a non-organically produced agricultural product allowed as an ingredient in or on processed products labeled as organic.

Konjac, used as a stabilizer, is 85% to 95% dietary soluble fiber, said Amanda Higgins, a food chemist with Gum Technology Corp.

“Konjac has a short texture and can create extremely high viscosity in a system,” she said. “Sometimes it can be used at much lower usage levels than other stabilizers to achieve the same effect in an application. Konjac also can be utilized with other gums synergistically to increase moisture retention and act as a fat replacer. This can help reduce other ingredients in the system that potentially increases the cost of a product.”

If guar gum prices shoot up again, food formulators may wish to consider konjac as an alternative.

“Guar gum and konjac have some very specific synergistic effects with other stabilizers such as xanthan gum,” Ms. Higgins said. “A blend of guar gum and xanthan gum can create a very viscous solution, whereas konjac and xanthan gum in a cold system can create a pseudo-gel and in a heated system can create a gel. Konjac can replace guar gum in applications where the ingredients and processing would be ideal for both to perform in similar ways.”

Gluten-free products are another possibility.

“In some applications such as gluten-free brownies, konjac can be combined with xanthan gum to help create an even cell structure and prevent moisture migration,” Ms. Higgins said. “In other applications such as gluten-free pasta, konjac, which is elastic in nature, will help with the pliability and prevent cracking during drying.”

Seaweed supply

Price fluctuations and product trends may continue to affect gum and hydrocolloid choices made by food formulators. Less than a decade ago political unrest in such African countries as Sudan led to a rise in price for acacia gum, also known as gum Arabic. Future stability in the region is not guaranteed. According to the Dec. 18 issue of The Wall Street Journal, recent violence in South Sudan may have killed hundreds of people.

Currently, seaweed supply also is affecting gum prices.

“Some of the seaweed gums such as agar and carrageenan are seeing pressure to the higher side due to higher demand and shortages of raw material,” said Joshua Brooks, vice-president of sales and marketing, general manager, for Gum Technology Corp.

Pectin, agar, carrageenan, alginates and locust bean gum are experiencing upward price trends based on raw material supply, according to the Dec. 12 issue of “Hydrocolloid News” from IMR International.

“A formulator can always look to synergistic blends to mitigate ingredient shortages,” Mr. Brooks said. “For example, we know that combining konjac and carrageenan can increase the gel strength of the carrageenan, therefore allowing for a lower usage level. Incorporating starches, fibers and gums together can lower the overall usage of starches, fibers and gums alone and also offset supply issues.”

Keep toppings stuck to product to avoid waste

When toppings fall off grain-based snacks during manufacturing and shipping, companies lose money. TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md., recently introduced Add-Here CSA, a cold water soluble, hydrocolloid system, in response to that problem. The company now has trial tests showing the effectiveness of Add-Here CSA.

Reading Bakery Systems Science and Innovation Center, Sinking Springs, Pa., conducted trials on pretzel chips with a sesame seed topping. The addition of Add-Here CSA led to increased initial particulate weight gains of more than 30%.

Add-Here CSA increased the percentage of sesame seeds retained on the pretzel chips after production and simulated shipping. The per cent of seed retention was more than 60% with Add-Here. For the pretzel chips in the control group, the per cent was under 30%. No adverse effects on sensory attributes were found in the pretzel chips with Add-Here CSA.

DuPont, CP Kelco expand in hydrocolloids

The U.S. food industry should have more supply of microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) and pectin thanks to expansions this year.

DuPont Nutrition & Health expanded its MCC offering through an extended agreement with Mingtai, based in Taiwan and an MCC manufacturer. The agreement includes development, production, distribution, marketing and sale of the hydrocolloid. MCC provides a fat-like mouthfeel and replaces fat in a number of emulsified products, according to DuPont Nutrition & Health.

The board of directors of CP Kelco this year approved the first phase in a series of projects to expand its Brazilian pectin operation by 30%. CP Kelco offers Genu pectin for beverage, dressings, jams, jellies, bakery filings, and pharmaceutical applications.