Rousselot was put up for sale by its parent company Vion late last month, and is expected to bring in about $1bn or more, according to hydrocolloids industry expert Dennis Seisun.
Seisun, who is founder of IMR International and publisher of The Quarterly Review of Hydrocolloids, said that the company was most likely to be sold to a private equity firm – and the rendering and gelatine sides of the business may be split following the sale.
“Antitrust will probably stop the majors like Gelita and PB Leiner from buying Rousselot,” he said. “…I think that potential buyers are likely to be interested in the gelatine business, and not interested in selling fat.”
He added that there had been a lot of interest in Rousselot, and a deal was likely to be reached at the latest by the end of the year.
“I think it will be an interesting acquisition and attract a lot of attention,” he said.
Gelatine prices have been climbing, as raw material availability remains tight. Global demand for gelatine has been increasing too, but rising spending power among Chinese and Latin American consumers has led to greater demand for whole pork carcasses for food – including the skin, which previously was diverted to gelatine production.
According to IMR figures, skin and hide gelatine prices are now at their highest level since the firm started tracking them 22 years ago, in 1991.
Guar prices: A new normal?
“The price situation for several hydrocolloids has become a hot topic,” Seisun said. “The one that use to be red hot, but is now just hot, is still guar. We are now at about $5 to $6 a kilo when it traditionally used to be $1 to $2.”
Prices for the ingredient started to skyrocket in 2010 when demand spiked from the oilfield industry, which uses guar gum in its fracking process, causing price problems for the food industry. Prices spiked at $20 to $25 a kilo.
Most people in the guar industry are of the opinion that current prices are the ‘new normal’, Seisun said, as guar has unique characteristics that make it superior to other hydrocolloids and technologies for fracking.
“The general feeling is that if guar comes back to a reasonable level, the alternatives they have found won’t be too much threat to guar,” he said. “If it stays between $5 to $6 a kilo, guar probably will remain the choice for the oil industry.”
There have been steep price increases for xanthan gum, particularly in the US, due to an antidumping lawsuit, which is due to be resolved shortly. Prices in Europe have not gone up quite so dramatically as in the United States, but have still risen significantly, partly in response to the US antidumping action.
Austria-headquartered Jungbunzlauer is the only non-Chinese company that is part of the action, and its duties are expected be about 18%, while proposed duties for the Chinese firms range from about 22% to 154%.