The largest fermentation company in terms of volume, Ajinomoto said it can claim a 60 per cent market share of the flavour seasonings category in Thailand.
Expanding supply lines for its amino acid based seasonings gives the Japanese firm further leverage to spear the seasonings market growing annually at about 10 per cent.
Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids; nine of these - known as 'essential amino acids' - must be taken into the body from food because they are not synthesised in the body.
Ajinomoto dominates the amino acid market (produced via fermentation) , claiming more than 25 per cent of the market for the popular amino acid feed lysine and 30 per cent of the market for the umami ingredient, monosodium glutamate. US firm ADM and Germany's BASF also figure in the handful of players that dominate the landscape.
Pitched at €10.97 billion in 2004, the global market for fermentation products, that includes enzymes, amino acids, citric acid and xanthan gum, is expected to rise by 4.8 per cent per year, to reach €13.6 billion in 2009.
But according to analysts BCC, amino acids is the second, and fastest growing category behind antibiotics in the €10.97 billion fermentation market, with strong growth of 7.2 per cent forecast for the next four years.
Lysine and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are the largest products in this category, and the total market value for amino acids, including threonine and tryptophan, is estimated to be in the range of $3.5 billion (€2.68bn) in 2004.
Due to increasing consumption, but also expected price increases for the products, the market in 2009 is expected to rise to about €3.86 ($5 billion).
"At about one million tons, MSG sees strong volumes, mostly pulling from Asia," analyst Ulrich März explains to FoodNavigator.com.
Combining individual amino acids has also expanded the range of taste and functions for amino acids. For example, the popular low calorie sweetener aspartame: 200 times sweeter than sugar, aspartame is a conjugate of amino acids aspartic acid ( a sour taste and slight umami) and the bitter tasting phenylalanine and is metabolised as an amino acid in the body.
Amino acids have also found an increasing number of applications in strengthening immune functions, alleviating symptoms of nervous disorders, and in drug discovery research.
The market for amino acids for beverages, health foods and supplements has also expanded in the last several years, with global demand pitched at about 17,000 tons.
Glutamine, used in sports nutrition, and branch chain amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine) used for maintaining and building skeletal muscle, are particularly strong in these growing markets.
The new Nong Khae Factory, one of Ajinomoto's largest food product factories, joins the firm's twelve other factories in Thailand.