Xylitol is derived from plant and fruit fibres, and as ‘tooth-friendly’ non-fermentable sugar alcohol it has various food industry applications as a sugar replacer – with Danisco itself citing everything from confectionery to oral care, beverages and bakery.
In terms of production, other manufacturers use a biomass hydrolysis process (BHP) to acid hydrolyse corn cobs and extract xylose; via purification and filtration it is then converted into xylitol.
Whereas the BHP process results in corn cob and water/heat waste, Danisco’s more modern DWB (Danisco wood-based) concept, utilises an integrated waste side-stream from neighbouring pulp and paper plants – with high carbohydrate and energy values – as feedstock for its xylitol production facilities.
Where the xylose is already hydrolysed in a “tar-like slurry”, says the company, there is no need to for acid hydrolysis, and after the polyol is extracted the waste stream can be returned to its parent factory for incineration and resultant energy production.
Lower carbon footprint
Danisco spokeswoman Sarah-Jane Jumppanen told FoodNavigator.com: “Our hydrolysis method is unique, but this is the first time we have branded our xylitol after proving savings via this independent LCA; it’s cutting-edge within the industry and demonstrates our sustainability commitment.”
The LCA, conducted by sustainability consultancy firm EarthShift, compared both production methods based upon the production of 1,000kg of crystalline xylitol, and assesses raw material impact on air, water and soil emissions across 15 categories.
In a subsequent ‘white paper’ on Xivia (the new brand name for its xylitol in the light of the study) Danisco reports that, whereas the carbon-footprint of the corn-cob method compared roughly with that involved in producing around 11kg of pork meat, the new process emits only 3.6kg of CO2, an emission level similar to that entailed in producing 1kg of pork.
“The main scenario in the study shows that the BHP concept results in environmental impacts that are 84 to 99 per cent higher than those associated with DWP,” states the paper.
Sweetener business recovery
Accordingly, a key USP for Xivia is that food and beverage buyers can include this positive carbon footprinting information on food packaging, while Danisco claims production cost savings could give it a “competitive advantage.”
James Dedman, business director of polyols at Danisco told FoodNavigator.com that the company had always used the DWP extraction process, and therefore it was unrelated to the recovery of its sweeteners division in Q1 of 2010, which had struggled during the recession.
Nonetheless, he explained why the new study was of particular interest to makers of products with a high xylitol content such as confectionery and chewing gum.
“If you take sugar-free chewing gum, xylitol accounts for 60 per cent of the total finished product, meaning that reductions are particularly meaningful when it is used as such a high proportion,” he said.
Dedman added that lower emissions via the DWB method also signalled production savings, with a “considerably lower” use of chemicals, raw materials and energy.