Propionic acid is a carboxylic acid used in food and feedgrain preservation, as well as for production of pharmaceuticals, crop protection agents, solvents and plastics.
BASF produces propionic acid, which is derived from the petrochemical product ethylene, in Ludwigshafen, German, and in Nanjing, China. It has an annual capacity of 119,000 metric tons, of which 39,000 metric tons comes from its 50 per cent joint venture in Najing.
A spokesperson for BASF said only that the price increase was a result of a “change in the entire market situation”.
But a report from Leather Food International last year indicated that the competitive environment for preservatives including propionates – as well as benzoates and sorbates – has undergone considerable change in recent times, not least as emerging markets such as China have entered the industry.
Leatherhead said the estimated total propionic acid and its salts used by the food industry in 2007 was around 38,000 tonnes, with a value of US$40m.
BASF has not given an indication of the percentage price increase that an additional €100 per ton represents. The new price comes into effect immediately, or as soon as contracts allow.
The spokesperson said that propionic acid is partly used directly in foods and partly in mixtures. Calcium propionate, which has an anti-mould and some antibacterial activity, finds uses in bakery products like breads and pizza bases, as well as cold pack cheese and pie fillings.
Sodium propionate is also used as an antimicrobial in a wide range of foods, including baked goods, beverages, confectionery, puddings, jams and fillings and meat products.
In pharmaceutical products, propionic acid is used for synthesising d-ethyl ketone.
At the same time BASF has announced an increase in the price of another carboxylic acid, 2-Ethyl-hexanoic acid (2-EHA) by €120 a tonne. Uses for this chemical include manufacture of plasticisers, PVC stabilisers, lubricants and drying additives for coatings.