Hidrocoloides

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J Appl Phycol DOI 10.1007/s10811-010-9529-3

A decade of change in the seaweed hydrocolloids industry
Harris J. Bixler & Hans Porse

Received: 29 March 2010 / Revised and accepted: 26 April 2010 # Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Abstract Seaweed hydrocolloid markets continue to grow, but instead of the 3–5% achieved in the 1980s and 1990s, the growth rate has fallen to 1–3% peryear. This growth has been largely driven by emerging markets in China, Eastern Europe, Brazil, etc. Sales of agar, alginates and carrageenans in the US and Europe are holding up reasonably well in spite of the recession. However, price increases to offset costs in 2008 and 2009 have begun to have a dampening effect on sales, especially in markets where substitution or extension with lessexpensive ingredients is possible. These higher prices have been driven by higher energy, chemicals and seaweed costs. The higher seaweed costs reflect seaweed shortages, particularly for carrageenan-bearing seaweeds. The Philippines and Indonesia are the dominant producers of the farmed Kappaphycus and Eucheuma species upon which the carrageenan industry depends and both countries are experiencingfactors limiting seaweed production. Similar tightening of seaweed supplies are beginning to show up in brown seaweeds used for extracting alginates, and in the red seaweeds for extracting agar. The structure of the industry is also undergoing change. Producers in China are getting stronger, and while they have not yet developed the marketing skills to compete effectively in the developed world markets,they have captured much of their home market. China does not produce the red and brown seaweeds needed for higher end food hydrocolloid producH. J. Bixler (*) Ingredients Solutions, Inc, 631 Moosehead Trail, Waldo, ME 04915, USA e-mail: pbixler@isinc.to H. Porse 2InterColloids Rodtjornevej 37, 2720 Vanlose, Denmark

tion. Stocking their factories with raw material has led to the supplyproblems. Sales growth continues to suffer from few new product development successes in recent years; although some health care applications are showing some promise, i.e., carrageenan gel capsules and alginate micro-beads. Keywords Hydrocolloids . Agar . Alginate . Carrageenan

List of country abbreviations
AR AU CA CL CN ES FR ID IE IS JP KR MA MX MY NA NO PE PH PT TZ UK US VN ZA Argentina AustraliaCanada Chile China Spain France Indonesia Ireland Iceland Japan Korea Morocco Mexico Malaysia Namibia Norway Peru Philippines Portugal Tanzania (Zanzibar) United Kingdom United States Vietnam South Africa

J Appl Phycol

Introduction The principal commercial seaweed extracts continue to be the three hydrocolloids: agar, alginates, and carrageenans. However, biologically active compounds suchas plant and animal nutritional supplements are growing in importance, and seaweeds as food and seaweed-derived food flavors, colors and nutrients are attracting considerable commercial attention. The processed food industry is still the primary market for the seaweed hydrocolloids where they serve as texturing agents and stabilizers; although agar and its derivative products agarose andbacteriological agar have long enjoyed attractive markets as microbiological and electrophoresis media, respectively. Alginates continue to be used in textile printing, paper coating and other relatively low margin industrial applications, but their use in restructured meat products for pet and human foods offer better profit margins. Interest is growing in the use of alginate beads for controlled drugrelease, and this could develop into a profitable niche market. Carrageenan has long enjoyed a small share of the personal care toothpaste binder market and has started to make inroads into cosmetics and pharmaceuticals e.g. drug capsules and excipient formulations. The last decade has not been an easy one for this industry. Seaweed costs have escalated, particularly in the last year or so as...
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