Focus: Striving for sustainable production with gum, oils and fats

Creating product lines with natural ingredients with sustainability at their core is a prime goal of confectionery manufacturers, as Neill Barston reports

The trend for clean label products using natural ingredients that are aligned with the growth in healthier option ranges continues to gain huge market prominence.

According to recent figures from Grand View Research, the edible oils and fats market that has tapped into this surging area of product development is now valued globally at least £97 billion annually, making it extremely big business indeed. Consequently, a number of ingredients firms serving confectionery and bakery industries are devising enhanced range of products with a more nutritionally beneficial profile.

Among them, Netherlands-based Bunge Loders Croklaan, a global leader in specialty oils and fats solutions for the food industry (main image), is growing its organic portfolio in Europe. It is offering a steady and scalable supply of organic oils and fats, ranging from sunflower, rapeseed and soy to palm, shea and coconut.

The company is also broadening its select network of organic farmers. This new offering lifts a common barrier — the difficulty in finding a reliable organic supplier — hindering food companies from moving toward organic status.

Growing Demand for Organic Food

Food brands attuned to their consumers’ needs are avidly striving to align their products with sustainability values, including an increasing demand for organic products.

Last year, Mintel reported that globally, one out of eight food introductions was organic and in Europe this ratio was even higher at one out of five. Moreover, as the company notes, the European Commission has sharpened its actions on the Green Deal’s “Farm to Fork” strategy to move Europe into a more healthy and sustainable food system. The Commission has specified a desired target of seeing 25 per cent of total farmland dedicated to organic agriculture by 2030.

“Food companies increasingly view ‘organic’ as an expression of transparency and being closer to nature — messages that strongly resonate among the growing community of conscious consumers,” says Marcel Henneman, director of product management EMEA for Bunge Loders Croklaan. “To achieve an ‘organic’ label status, food manufacturers are required not only to ensure the ingredients in their products are sourced organically, but also that the manufacturing processes employed are certified organic.” “We invite brands to tap into our longstanding knowledge and experience in lipid processing,” adds Feike Swennenhuis, marketing director Europe for Bunge Loders Croklaan.

“Whether formulating from scratch or reformulating traditional products, we can tailor any kind of fat solution to meet our customer’s specific organic aspirations and our approach is centred around our ‘let’s create together’ principle. We deliver organic quality for both primary lipid sources and more specialty lipids, such as lecithins and fat formulations for infant nutrition, confectionery, bakery, culinary and plant based. We will continue to extend the options of customised organic solutions to a comprehensive range of food applications.”

Sustainable oil sourcing

Another significant area of focus for confectionery groups has been the issue of sourcing sustainable palm oil – which remains a core ingredient for a number of chocolate ranges.

As Confectionery Production recently reported, Ferrero is among those making notable strides in the sector, committing to using the Starling satellite monitoring and verification service for its palm oil sourcing operations.


According to the Italian-founded confectionery company explained, its chosen surveillance system is operated by non-profit organisation Earthworm Foundation and Airbus, and uses a combination of satellite imagery and on-the-ground expertise in order to examine land cover change and forest cover disturbance in near real time.

Palm oil has been widely used across the confectionery sector, including for Ferrero’s core Nutella brand, though the ingredient has come under the microscope in recent years over concerns regarding controls of crop harvesting and potential impacts on regional environments and native wildlife species in core areas of Malaysia and Indonesia, which reportedly accounts for around 90 per cent of market supplies. Meanwhile, Mars recently reported a key environmental breakthrough with its Palm Positive Plan, aiming for deforestation-free palm oil supply chains.

These are the culmination of a two-year scheme cutting the number of mills it deals, awarding longer contracts to those that operate within its environmental, ethical and social expectations. For its part, Cargill has also moved to enhance its environmental policies in becoming one of a small number of large-scale US suppliers of segregated palm oil certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO. As the company revealed, its latest initiative starts next month, with all its supplies from its Charlotte, North Carolina, refinery will be dedicated to the sustainably sourced product.

The venture adds to its recent report this summer detailing progress on another significant goal in terms of its palm oil sourcing from Asia, which targeted the elimination of deforestation with its supply chain by the end of 2020. “Palm oil plays a critical role in feeding and supporting millions, as it is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil,” said Reid Kinde, North American commercial leader for Cargill’s global edible oils business.

“With growing numbers of brands pledging to source palm oil responsibly, we are now positioned to supply North American food manufacturers with sufficient quantities of segregated RSPO-certified product to meet their sustainability commitments.” While responsibly-sourced palm remains a core choice for many manufacturers, companies specialising in supplying alternatives are also experiencing an uptake in demand.

One such firm is Swiss-based Grüninger, an established producer of industrial and commercial margarines. As the firm reported, it has developed a new technology to produce palm-free, vegan and vegetarian margarines in which any off-note flavours are effectively taste masked. At the heart of the process is a natural rosemary extract derived antioxidant extending products’ shelf-life and increases heat stability during baking.

Employed to overcome common hurdles that arise when replacing solid palm fat with alternative oils, the neutralised fats are subsequently custom-flavoured to match specific applications. In addition to stabilising the flavour of margarines, as well as vegetable and animal oils and fats, a key benefit is an optimised mouthfeel.

Gum developments

Within the gum segment, French-based Acacia gum specialist Alland & Robert is set to deliver an €11 million investment early in 2021 for a fourth production line at its plant in Saint Aubin sur Gaillon, Normandy, with wide application for the confectionery sector. As the company noted, its expanded facilities will significantly increase its capacity by around 9,000 tonnes per year, adding to its present tally of 20,000 tonnes currently processed each year.

This 45 per cent increase in production capacity responds to a sharply increasing global demand for acacia gum, which has increasingly been used as a stabilising ingredient for confectionery and related coatings, as well as being used within the bakery market. This significant investment comes as it is continuing to gain markets around the world and is now exporting natural gums to more than 70 countries. Its progress is linked to the further growth of the acacia gum market, which is also reportedly growing: this completely natural, vegetable and healthy ingredient is used in thousands of everyday products

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