Facing a step up in competition from non-hydrocolloid alternatives on the market, Rouen-based CNI will look to an extension of its portfolio to protect its 50 per cent share of the refined gum market.
But with the lion's share, nearly 70 per cent, of inventories coming out of war-torn Sudan in Africa, compacted by a draw-down in stocks, prices rocketed last year moving from €2 a kilo about a year ago, to €5 a kilo at the end of 2004.
The first generation of the Eficacia brand, launched by CNI last year, targets classic emulsions, such as formulations with essential oils.
"This latest launch is for more complex emulsions, such as those with a strong percentage of oil, high brix levels, natural colours and beverages with light alcohol levels," says Benedicte Maheut, at CNI.
Food and drink makers do have alternatives available in the form of gelatine and modified starches. Working in an increasingly tough environment, impacted by squeezed margins and growing consolidation, a new level of competitiveness appears to be opening up as starch and gelatine suppliers push to compete with gum arabic.
But CNI claims a formulation with its latest Eficacia gum emulsifier represents "a third of the price of an emulsion made with gum acacia,", Maheut tells FoodNavigator.com.
While prices fluctuated quite considerably in 2003, rising rapidly by 25 per cent to 30 per cent between March and May in 2003, since Spring 2004 prices have remained fairly stable seeing only slight fluctuations. Observers estimate gum arabic to be currently in the region of $4,000 a tonne.
Derived from two acacia species; acacia senegal and acacia seyal: senegal sells for about $3 a pound, and seyal (used by the confectionery industry) at about half this price.
Sudan, the largest exporter, produces 25, 000 tonnes of acacia gum annually followed by Chad 10,000 then Nigeria whose production fluctuates between 3,000 to 5,000 tonnes.
Long established in the acacia gum belt that stretches from Senegal to Sudan, CNI claims it can guarantee supplies thanks to diversified sourcing; from over 12 countries worldwide, with 30 to 40 per cent of the gum coming from Sudan.