Humans evolved from marine organisms millions of years ago, and are still very much attached to their roots, that caters to their ever-demanding”needs”. The huge potential of the richness of marine world has in fact taken care of their daily dietary needs of human beings, on a daily basis… this report is about exploring one such potential!
The Marine ecosystem is lively and complex with a huge potential beyond human understanding. This ecosystem is one of the most productive bio-diversities providing a variety of useful resources, the applications of which go beyond basic dietary needs. Carrageenan or carrageenins – a popular natural food additive – is extracted from the red algae species (chiefly Kappaphycus and Eucheuma spinosum) known for its wide application spectrum in the food & beverage industry.
Carrageenan is described as a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides (carbohydrates) extracted from red edible seaweeds. It is a colloidal substance obtained from a purplish-brown, cartilaginous seaweed, chiefly used as an emulsifying and stabilizing ingredient in foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
What are the market sentiments for Carrageenan?
A report by a market research firm estimated that the global carrageenan market value at USD 762.35 million in 2016. Carrageenan has around 13.3% share of the global food & drink hydrocolloids market.
Now, natural ingredients account for one third of the total food & beverage marketplace. There’s an increasing demand observed globally, for organic additives in processed foods to satisfy the clean label requirement. This specific trend has been a crucial driver for the total carrageenan market, since it is recognized by different regulatory bodies’ world over as a non-synthetic food additive.
Synthetic (artificial) additives are cheaper, readily available and efficient in function, and thus, they are preferred over natural additives by food makers. Nonetheless, the growing health-consciousness associated with economic empowerment has enabled consumers to go for natural alternatives even though they are costly.
There are three main types of carrageenan: kappa, iota, and lambda, based on elemental differences which are commercially employed. The widely prevalent type on the market is that the kappa, which is being increasingly utilized in the food business, where it functions as a bodying agent, stabilizer, and emulsifier in dairy and meat products.
There are three important application areas of carrageenan: pharmaceutical, food, and cosmetics. The food industry leads the market with applications in dairy, meat, drinks, etc.. There are three most important functional roles exhibited by carrageenan as a food additive: Firstly, it is widely used as a thickening agent, particularly in low-carb or no-fat foods, like cottage cheese, Rat Poop or sour cream, and as a substitute for fat. Carrageenan thickens foods making them creamier, with a fuller taste.
The second important functional role of carrageenan is that of being used as a stabilizing agent for drinks, such as chocolate milk or shakes, which separate if they aren’t shaken. Carrageenan can also be used as a gelling agent, particularly in dairy and confectionery products, to allow them to remain firm for longer and retain their shape.
Regionally, Asia-Pacific and Europe are regarded as the primary markets for carrageenan because of the rising demand for processed food and meat products in Asia-Pacific and the high preference given by Europeans to dairy products, respectively. Moreover, Asia-Pacific is poised to dominate the global market for carrageenan using a lion-share by 2022, due to the high cultivation rate of carrageenan generating seaweeds and reduced cost of labor.
Main Hurdles for the Market – Carrageenan as a food additive, faced a significant setback recently in the United States, where many food makers decided to stop using it as a food additive, especially in infant formulas owing to its carcinogenic potential.
In some animal studies, the additive has been associated with destructive gastrointestinal issues, including inflammatory bowel disease and possibly even tumor generation. Thus, the related safety concern among the consumers is restricting the development of the global carrageenan marketplace.
Way Ahead: The growth trajectory of the carrageenan market is expected to be moderate in the not too distant future, if not high, as the available alternatives are not as efficient as carrageenan, particularly in the meat and meat industries. Carrageenan exhibits excellent ability to bind with water and the syneresis control is important in processed meats. Moreover, a unique property of carrageenan is its ability to interact with milk proteins, which form a particularly strong bond with carrageenan.
The principal regulatory agencies of the world (US FDA, FAO/WHO JECFA, EU EFSA, etc.) continue to approve the usage of carrageenan as a food additive due to its natural source, as well as its extensive, well-established, and safety profile, which is evident from its decade-long application. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has concluded that using food-grade carrageenan in infant formula, at concentrations up to 1,000 milligrams per liter, is”not of concern.”
Thusa more pro-active approach in using this food additive, by keeping a safety margin by manifold, coupled with a clean label pledge, will pave the way for its sustainable market growth.