September 17, 2013

This month I spoke to Bente Korsgaard, Head of Cargill Texturizing Solutions’s Aliginates business, about the company’s announcement on 11 September that US$15 million (GB£9.41 million) is to be spent on upgrading and expanding its alginates production plant on the French coast, in Lannilis, Brittany.

Used in a variety of applications by the food, pharmaceutical and personal care industries, these alginates are derived from a secure and sustainable source of fresh brown seaweed harvested by local fisherman. In Bente’s words: “It’s a very effective operation because the plant is located so near to the coastline.”

Cargill Texturizing is one of the largest suppliers worldwide. “There aren’t many suppliers,” stated Bente. “There is a clear leader and it is our strategy to be a clear number two. There are two other significant players in EMEA and we see a growing presence in China. Europe is our strongest market but we sell globally — with sales in North America, South America and Asia — and we have commercial teams globally.”

The $15 million investment is to fund not only increased capacity at the plant and therefore overall growth in the alginates market but also sustainability and safety. As summarised by Bente: “Sustainability, namely through more efficient wastewater processing, and safety, that is the safety of our employees, are key priorities for Cargill.

“Sustainability is extremely important,” she continued. “Many people live off the ocean, therefore we must do our utmost to safeguard its ecosystem. A substantial amount is going towards increasing wastewater safety, making sure that regulations are adhered to and nature respected when injecting produced water back into the sea. We work with nature and respect it; this part of the project is a very big deal for us.”

Cargill produces different types of alginates to be used in a variety of applications. The type of brown seaweed obtained by the Lannilis fishermen depends on the season, and the different types of seaweeds produce alginates that have varying characteristics, for example, gelling or thickening. It therefore follows that one particular season of alginate is going to be more suitable for a particular industry.  

Alginates are primarily known for their texturising benefits, so in relation to the pharmaceutical industry, for example, certain products from Cargill’s Satialgine US line can be used to make a syrup more viscous or tablet more chewable. However, there are also those products that possess drug delivery characteristics and can be used as an excipient, dispersant and controlled release agent.

Bente was keen to highlight the many advantages brought by alginates to a wide range of applications. They are also commonly used as absorbing and gelling agents in wound dressings and, more recently, to create dental impressions. Describing the dental impression process, Bente said: “If you lose a tooth, the dentist presses a product that is highly viscous — a key ingredient being alginate — into the area where it has been lost to create a perfect imprint, which he then uses to create an accurate artificial replica tooth.”

Alginates are also known for their cold solubility, especially popular with the food and pharmaceutical industries. As outlined by Bente, an alginate product recently launched for bakery cream perfectly demonstrates this property: “If you apply alginates to a bakery cream, which is then added to the dough, the bakery cream maintains its texture on removal from the oven.”

As well as the amazing versatility offered by alginates, Cargill also places huge emphasis on their having been derived from nature. The natural origin of ingredients is becoming an increasingly meaningful factor for the pharmaceutical and personal care industries. “Yes, alginates bring all these functional elements to our customers’ products, but the added benefit is that this is a nature derived and approved ingredient,” affirmed Bente. “Of course, it all began with the food industry, but now a lot of pharmaceutical and personal care products benefit from adding texturing or active components that are nature derived.”

A huge undertaking, the project is scheduled for completion in two years, by which time Cargill may well have claimed the title of leading worldwide alginates supplier. Bente concluded: “Alginates constitute a very important part of our portfolio, and we are exceptionally proud to announce this major step forward."

Cargill Texturizing Solutions, +32 15 400 532.

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September 17, 2013

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