Unlike soy lecithin, the company’s Topcithin SF sunflower lecithin can be labeled as allergen-free, and Cargill expects it to be particularly popular in confectionery, where lecithin has an important emulsifying function.
The company’s premium-grade lecithin is one of a wide range of lecithin grades which it brought together in its Lecithin Toolbox back in 2007. Until now, however, all of its lecithin has been made from soy.
The sunflower lecithin was launched in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region in November, but Cargill has had to wait until the ingredient was recognized as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) before it could be released on the American market.
It takes a thick liquid form which can be used to replace some cocoa butter in chocolate, for keeping chewing gum moist, or in the production of chewy candies, such as toffees. The company said that it could also be applied to sauces and instantized foods.
Dana Craig, marketing manager and fruit, beverage and confection at Cargill Texturizing Solutions, North America told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The main driver for the launch was providing our customers with a GRAS product that does not require allergen labeling…Topcithin SF lecithin is a clean label alternative…that matches soy lecithin in functionality, taste and color.”
Providing a non-GM alternative was also important, especially considering increased consumer suspicion about GM soy.
Cargill claims that the new ingredient is strictly segregated throughout its production to avoid contamination with potential allergens, such as soy and rape. The seed crushing for its global supply of sunflower lecithin takes place in Donetsk, Ukraine, and the processing on a dedicated line in Vigonza, Italy. Cargill says it oversees the whole supply chain process.
According to Leatherhead Foods International, annual sales volumes of food-based lecithin are estimated at 100-150,000 tonnes. In its recent food additives report, it said: “Non-GMO lecithin is a growth sector, as is sustainability. The use of fully-traceable non-GM materials is expected to result in premium prices for natural emulsifiers and thus enhance market value growth.”
Although it is possible for people to be allergic to sunflower, it is considered to be rare. The Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network, which represents the interests of allergy sufferers, says that in terms of the number of Americans who suffer from sunflower allergy “reliable figures aren’t available.”