Colors, flavors and fragrances giant Sensient Technologies has opened a new CO2 extraction plant at its flavors HQ in Indianapolis that will enable it to manufacture its Natural Origins line of concentrated botanical extracts in the US as well as the UK.
The new facility, which complements Sensient’s CO2 extraction facilities in Bletchley, UK, comprises two commercial scale supercritical CO2 extractors plus several pilot units for research and development.
High performance natural extracts
Jean-Philippe Giorgis, sales director at Sensient US Flavor Systems, said: “Today’s consumer market places an increased emphasis on foods and beverages with authentic tastes and recognizable, wholesome ingredients.
"We’ve responded to these trends with an R&D focus on our proprietary botanical extracts line, Sensient Natural Origins, which can now be manufactured in the US as well as at our facility in the UK.”
Other technologies used in conjunction with CO2 extraction at the plant include counter current extraction, molecular distillation and more traditional methods such as percolation distillation and cold solvent extraction, he said.
The benefits of supercritical carbon dioxide extraction
Supercritical carbon dioxide is widely used as a solvent for botanical extracts as it can deliver highly concentrated products, extracts free of solvent residues (hexane, etc), higher quality products owing to the low temperatures (steam can change/damage natural compounds), leaves no hazardous waste, and enables compounds in a complex mixture to be selectively separated (as their solubility is pressure dependent).
The process involves pumping pressurized CO2 into a chamber filled with plant matter. When CO2 is subjected to pressure it becomes ‘supercritical’ and has liquid properties while remaining in a gaseous state, enabling it to function as a solvent, pulling the oils and other substances from the plant matter.
The process operates at around 95-100˚F as opposed to 140-212˚F in steam distillation.
A CO2 supercritical extract will also exhibit a more 'genuine' aroma of the herb, spice or plant from which it is derived than a distilled essential oil, claim proponents of the technology.
Record Q2 performance
Sensient’s flavors and fragrances operation generated an 8.8 percent rise in operating profit to $36.1m on sales up 10.5 percent to $226.5m in the three months ended June 30, while its colors division notched up an 18 percent increase in operating profit to $24.6m on sales up 17.2 percent to $132.4m.