Cargill's first North American maltitol plant is now in full operation, helping the firm to target the steadily growing polyol branch of the sweeteners market.
Situated at the companys corn milling biorefinery campus in Blair, Nebraska, the new facility, in addition to Cargill's maltitol plant in Europe, is designed to provide food manufacturers with global access to new, innovative sweetness solutions.
"We made our first footprint in the North American polyol industry two years ago with the re-opening of the erythritol plant in Blair," said Per Ole Jensen, global business director, polyols.
"Expanding our manufacturing capabilities to offer maltitol further demonstrates our commitment to the worldwide polyol business and establishes our position as a global leader in this ingredient category."
Cargill says that its new polyol manufacturing facility is North Americas only source of Maltidex HP high purity liquid maltitol. Maltidex HP maltitol is over 96 per cent pure, which the company claims is the highest purity level of all liquid maltitol products available.
Maltidex maltitol can replace sugar one-for-one in a variety of foods including confections, baked goods, ice cream and dairy products, beverages and pharmaceutical applications.
The liquid version can also be a valuable replacement for crystalline maltitol, particularly in coated, sugar-free chewing gums, where it adds convenience, provides cost and labour savings and reduces bag waste.
"Maltidex HP maltitol and Eridex erythritol are two unique products in the Cargill polyol line," said Kathy Fortmann, product manager, polyols and dextrose Americas, for Cargill Sweetness Solutions.
"We now have the broadest polyol product line available including maltitol, erythritol, sorbitol, isomalt and mannitol."
The billion-euro market for polyols (sugar alcohols) is growing at just under three per cent, but further growth is expected for these sugar replacers as health concerns continue to push up overall demand for sweeteners in sugar-free and low-calorie food products.
Cargill is certainly anticipating this. In Europe, expansion at the firms Krefeld (Germany) and Castelmassa (Italy) facilities include new hydrogenation and finishing capacity for maltitol, mannitol and isomalt.
Market analysts Business Communications Company pitched global market demand for polyols in 2001 at about 1,397,000 metric tons in sales volumes. This volume is expected to exhibit an average annual growth rate of 2.7 per cent for the next five years to reach 1,597,000 metric tons.
But with alternative sweeteners estimated to be growing at 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, growth could be considerably higher for polyols. However some market observers maintain that the higher prices of polyols in comparison to sugar will hold back demand for the product both at an EU and world level.
In addition to Cargill, leading players in sorbitol supplies include Archer Daniels Midland, Swiss firm Lonza, Roquette America and SPI Polyols.
In Europe a handful of polyols - sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, maltitiol and isomalt - have been approved by the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) for use in foodstuffs and fall under the 'additives' label. In the US sorbitol has achieved GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) status.