Carrageenan market adapts to meat processors

Related tags Degussa food ingredients Seaweed

The use of hydrocolloids, in particular carrageenans, to provide
texture and viscosity to meat products has grown over decades in
parallel to the needs of food makers. While supply shortages are
currently impacting the price of a spectrum of food ingredients
today - corn, wheat and soy - supplies of carrageenans, extracted
from the raw material seaweed, are steady.

As with all segments of the food industry, new trends in the meat industry will influence the designs of the food developer. According to the chemicals firm Degussa Food Ingredients - number three in the refined carrageenan market behind FMC and CP Kelco - many manufacturers have created pre-packed sliced meat products. Such products require a good sliceability and a better control of syneresis. Carrageenans that allow better syneresis control, support longer shelf-life and provide less brittle / hard texture are gaining ground.

"The challenge lies in finding the right balance between the different gelling characteristics. This allows for products with superior water retention capabilities that provide a light texture to be achieved.

Consequently, such products can improve syneresis control of injected hams or poultry products at low injection levels while providing succulent texture,"​ said the firm that has a line of carrageenan extracts and semi-refined carrageenans under the Satiagel RPI and Aubygel RPI series.

In the EU the food market has grown to use both refined - known as E407 on food labels- and semi-refined - labelled as E407a - carrageenans. In the US, there is no distinction for the food labels - the hydrocolloid is simply known as carrageenen.

According to hydrocolloid market expert Denis Seisun​, the semi-refined market is growing in size as developers build new applications. While FMC, CP Kelco and Degussa dominate the refined market, Shemberg is the biggest player in semi-refined carrageenan, although the leaders in refined are now on board, said Seisun.

Semi-refined powder contains more cellulose material than its refined, purified sister but is easier and cheaper to produce. In most applications, the semi-refined doesn't appear to make a great difference, added Seisun.

The main source for the seaweed raw material from which carrageenans are produced are The Philippines and supplies are currently steady. Although close attention will have to be paid in the near future as China increasingly turns to The Phillippines to top up increasing demand for carrageenans that has exhausted supplies sourced at home. "In the spectrum of hydrocolloids, some are suffering and others are doing quite well - carrageenan is the middle,"​ Denis Seisun tells​.

Pectin, the 'darling of the texturisers' can command strong prices, while xanthan gum, at the other end of the scale, is suffering from low prices.

Recent industry moves in the sector saw Danish ingredients giant Danisco taking over the ingredients arm - that includes hydrocolloids - of French chemicals firm Rhodia. Under terms of the deal, Rhodia has sold its 50 per cent stake in the Chili-based Extractos Naturales Gelymar joint venture to Santiago firms Sintex and Algina Inversion, which jointly own the other 50 per cent. Gelymar produces carrageenan-seaweed extracts used as texturing agents by the food industry and has annual sales of almost $17 million.

According to Degussa Food Ingredients kappa-type carrageenans are extensively used in meat. They are polysaccharides with one sulfite group per two sugar units that form a thermoreversible, brittle gel. Next to kappa-type carrageenans, iota- and lambda-type carrageenans exist that form elastic gels or are used as thickeners with differing properties in terms of thixotropy, thermoreversability and solubility.

Products rich in iota-fractions are much more elastic, however their gel strength is also very limited. 'Taking advantage of the differences of the numerous carrageenan fractions, carrageenan products can be developed that precisely respond to the demands of the new generation of carrageenans for processed meat products,'​ said the German firm.

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