Danisco tips sustainable emulsifiers for bright future despite limited uptake

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sustainable palm oil, Oil palm

Danisco says industry interest in its sustainable palm oil-based emulsifiers has been hit by continued input price pressures, but still insists they have a bright future.

Head of emulsifiers Martin Klavs Nielsen told FoodNavigator.com that Danisco was looking to launch sustainable and natural products in the near future, but said client “conversion”​ to the firm’s existing range had been relatively small.

In January 2009 Danisco launced sustainable palm-based emulsifiers​ used mainly to bind oil and water in food “as a major product area”​, with the USP that such products deter the clearing of rainforests to plant palm trees in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Danish ingredients firm is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil​ (RSPO) and GreenPalm, which operates a web-based trading system for sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Nielsen’s comments come against the backdrop of a report from US-based Global Industry Analysts,​‘Emulsifiers, A Global Strategic Business Report’, which predicts that the global food emulsifier market will produce 2.3m tonnes annually by 2015, but said volumes had suffered during the recession due to lower food and beverage sales.

“Food ingredient producers shifted focus from health-focused products to low-cost products as uncertainty prevailed due to the financial crisis,”​ said GIA.

“Emulsifier producers laid emphasis on substitution and reformulation of products due to tighter budget and increased competition.”

Cost-in-use drives reformulation

Klavs Nielsen said that emulsfiers – which in a syrup form, for instance, might constitute 8% of a given product – form a small proportion of a product quantity-wise, and although he agreed that they are one area where food producers are driving down costs, he said this had led to reformaulation opportunities for Danisco.

“Take bakery customers, who see flour and sugar prices going through the roof. Cost-in-use is vital and has played a major role, where emulsifiers allow people to save by cutting back on other ingredients.

“For instance, you can use flour of a slightly different quality, and a functional emulsifier to achieve an end product with same positive taste profile.”

Klavs Nielsen stressed that interest in healthy emulsifying products was consistent with clients reducing ingredient cost-in-use, but admitted sales of Danisco’s sustainable palm-oil based emulsifier had been hit by the recession.

“There has been enourmous interest, and we’ve been talking with many clients and potential clients about using it. But the conversion rate is somewhat less, with clients still in the learning period.

“Sustainable palm is interesting, but with input costs up it’s not the first thing may have in mind. Some have converted, but not a large number of customers, although it is a trend that is continuing.”

Major challenges ahead

“The world emulsifier market did shrink when the recession hit two and a half years ago, and we are still on a recovery path. Major challenges involve working with customers to deal with fluctuating and rising input prices, while there is a growing interest in sustainability.”

Klavs Nielsen said Danisco’s principal, established markets for food emulsifiers like Europe and North America were “not growing particularly fast”,​ and agreed with GIA that Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing world market, with analysts predicting 8% growth by 2015.

South America and Eastern Europe, were also developing “to a certain extent”​, he added: “places where wealth is increasing, and the movement towards cities means a there is a greater reliance on processed food that uses emulsfiers”.

“Users then get into fat and calorie reduction, as well as high-fibre products. You need to use emulsifiers alongside functional ingredients for an edible product – it’s easy to cut calories and fat out, but to get mouthfeel and taste right isn’t easy.”

As for potential Danisco product launches in 2011: “We are increasing our R&D spend and recently renewed our product portfolio, with new launches in bakery, fats and oils; we’re looking closely at what we can do with sustainable and natural emulsifiers, so you can expect developments in this respect.”

GIA itself predicts increasing world demand for emulsifiers to allow for fat reduction, and said polyglycin polyicinoleate (a bean-based product used to reduce chocolate viscosity) is the fastest-growing emulsifier category by volume.

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