The German flavour and fragrance house started producing synthetic menthol (L-menthol) in 1973, and counts it as one of its core competencies alongside vanilla and citrus.
“It is a key ingredient for confectionery and personal care,” marketing manager Bernhard Kott told FoodNavigator.com. He said the L-menthol market has been grown by around 10 per cent year-on-year. “We predict there will be higher and higher demand”.
One of the main reasons for burgeoning demand is the growing use of menthol-flavoured products in emerging markets, especially in the oral care category; higher incomes and Westernisation mean more people are cleaning their teeth with toothpaste.
L-menthol is also an important component in flavours for confectionery, such as mints and chewing gum.
To meet the growing demand, Symrise will double its existing capacity, with an investment of €15-20m. Its long-term partner Lanxess, which supplies the intermediate raw materials for L-menthol (meta-Cresoles and thymol), is also expanding with new capacity and infrastructure, to enable this.
The expansion of Symrise L-menthol capacity was a joint decision taken with Lanxess. “We on our own could not increase out capacity if Lanxess were not doing so too.”
Symrise produces L-menthol at its plants in Holzminden, near Hanover in Germany, and in Bushy Park in the United States. The new capacity is expected to be available by mid 2012.
Synthetic v natural
Natural menthol comes from mint that is sourced mostly from India and accounts for about half the demand for menthol overall, according to Kott.
Symrise specialises in L-menthol, however, which is the synthetic but the molecule is nature identical. Kott said: “The advantage is that we can assure a constant supply. In areas where milt grows there can be good and bad harvests, bad weather, etc. Global brand owners have to ensure whole year long availability. It they don’t get menthol, they have to stop production”.
Other market moves
Symrise and Lanxess are not alone in identifying the potential of L-menthol. Just last week BASF announced it is entering the market with the construction of a plant at its site in Ludwigshafen, which will use its own patented process.
While BASF will sell its L-menthol to flavour and fragrance houses, however, Symrise’s primary focus is to ensure its own supply of the ingredient for its flavour products.
Kott said Symise might sell L-menthol outside the company only “in selected cases”.