A squeeze on pectin

by Jeff Gelski
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Pectin
While the clean label trend increases demand, weather and processing bottlenecks limit pectin supply.

KANSAS CITY — Food and beverage formulators cannot seem to get enough pectin. The ingredient may serve as a thickener, a suspending agent or a gelling agent in such applications as ice cream, drinkable yogurts, fruit cups and acid-based beverages. Consumers tend to view pectin, sourced mainly from citrus peels, as a natural ingredient, too.

One problem has arisen, however. Food and beverage companies literally are having trouble getting enough pectin. Poor crops and processing bottlenecks are keeping supplies low and prices high.

High methoxyl (HM) pectin was priced at $9 per lb in the latest IMR Quarterly Review of Food Hydrocolloids, which was more than double its price in 2006. Low methoxyl pectin (LM) was priced at $10.60 per lb.

Dennis Seisun
Dennis Seisun, founder of IMR International

Dennis Seisun, founder of San Diego-based IMR International, which focuses on the hydrocolloids market, has produced the quarterly review for 25 years. He said pectin’s use in applications generally ranges from 0.1% to 0.5%.

“It’s not a huge thing, but at $10 a lb, when put into a yogurt or an ice cream, the price of pectin per lb is more than any of the other basic ingredients,” he said.

Waiting on this year’s crops

Pectin is sourced from the lemon crop in Tucumán, a province in Argentina, and from a lime-type of citrus around Tecomán, a city in the state of Colima, Mexico, Mr. Seisun said. Poor lemon crops in Argentina have affected pectin supply negatively in recent years.

Lemon fields in Argentina
Pectin is sourced from the lemon crop in Tucumán, a province in Argentina.

“Unless you have a contract, there’s really not that much available,” he said of citrus pectin.

While a freeze in Argentina damaged the lemon trees in 2014, a disease called citrus greening “devastated” the lime industry in Mexico that same year, said Karen Silagyi, product manager for TIC Gums, Inc., White Marsh, Md.

The next lemon crop in Argentina should start appearing in July-August, Mr. Seisun said. Harvest should be completed in September-October. A good crop, even if it does not make up for the supply shortfall, should at least bring the pectin situation closer to normal.

Consumer demand for fresh lemons and limes will affect pectin’s price, too.

“The availability of peel depends on the demand for the lemon oil and the lemon juice and most important, the demand for the fresh fruit,” Mr. Seisun said.

Albert Cianci, Cargill
Albert Cianci, product line manager for functional systems and hydrocolloids for Cargill North America

Albert Cianci, product line manager for functional systems and hydrocolloids in North America for Cargill, said, “The first use of lemon and lime and orange is always going to be fresh first and peel second.”

Once the citrus is harvested, processing facilities are needed to create HM pectin and LM pectin.

“We’re seeing ongoing challenges regarding capacity,” Mr. Cianci said. “For a couple years, we were having problems with raw material, the peel. As that problem has stabilized — it hasn’t really gotten better, but it has stabilized with the last good crop, and we’re expecting another good crop this year — we still see demand outstrip the existing capacity to refine that (peel) into pectin.”

Pectin processing facility
Efforts are under way to build more processing capacity for pectin.

Efforts are under way to build more processing capacity and alleviate the bottlenecks.

Karen Silagyi, TIC Gums
Karen Silagyi, product manager for TIC Gums

“Several manufacturers have announced capacity expansion projects and process improvement measures to increasing manufacturing capacity,” Ms. Silagyi said. “However, these projects can take longer than a year to complete.”

Atlanta-based CP Kelco last December said it intended to increase pectin production capacity in Europe. Previously the company completed projects that increased pectin capacity by 30% in a Brazilian manufacturing plant. Royal DSM, Heerlen, The Netherlands, in April said it plans to expand pectin capabilities at its Andre Pectin plant in Yantai, Shandong province, in China.

“Rebalancing supply and demand requires investment in peel washing and drying capacity at the peel producer level, as well as continuing to advance technology in pectin extraction,” said Valentina Gizzi, global product manager, pectin for DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kas. “At DuPont Nutrition & Health, we are constantly looking at making investments in these technologies. Additionally, diversifying the supply of peel, whether from new geographic areas or from new fruit types, helps to ease constraints.”

CP Kelco Europe pectin facility
Last December, CP Kelco said it intended to increase pectin production capacity in Europe.

Mr. Seisun said pectin also may come from the orange peel, but CP Kelco is the only major producer with a plant near where the oranges are grown in Brazil. Apple pectin is a secondary source and produced primarily in Europe with a major producer in China, he said.

“Apple pectin remains a good technical alternative to citrus pectin with less raw material constraints,” Ms. Silagyi said. “However, because the tight supply is largely due to manufacturing capacity of converting peels into pectin, it is not immune to the same supply issues currently being experienced with citrus pectin.”

Mr. Cianci said pectin may be sourced from oranges in Brazil, limes in Mexico and Spain, and lemons in Italy.

Orange and apple peels, pectin
 Pectin also may come from orange peel, and apple pectin is a secondary source.

Remembering grandma’s jam

Mr. Seisun said pectin has become a desired option as an ingredient for both food formulators, who like its functionality, and label-reading consumers, who may recognize pectin as something their grandmother used to make jams.

“It’s very versatile,” Mr. Seisun said. “It can be a thickener, a suspending agent or a gelling agent. So it has a lot of functionality, but I think the main reason is that when pectin is on a food label, there is absolutely no consumer concern.

“Right now consumers are big into reading labels and thinking ‘I don’t want this’ and ‘This is bad.’ Pectin is the blue-eyed wonder of the hydrocolloid world.”

Jams and jellies with pectin
Many consumers recognize pectin as something used to make jams.

Consumers may not know processing pectin involves an intense chemical process, he said.

“Pectin from a consumer standpoint is very, very user-friendly on a food label, but from an actual process and production standpoint, it’s really one of the more chemical products out there in the world of texturizers,” Mr. Seisun said.

Ms. Gizzi said the pectin market is growing at 3% to 5% per year, driven by clean label trends and dairy applications, such as low pH drinks in emerging markets, she said.

“As a clean label, pantry-friendly ingredient, it’s really coming into its own,” Mr. Cianci said. “We’re seeing more and more demand from the customer and the consumer in that label-friendly, clean label state. Pectin is ideally positioned for that.”

Pectin on nutrition facts ingredient panel
From a consumer standpoint, pectin is very user-friendly on a food label.

For one example, Nestle S.A., Vevey, Switzerland, replaced carrageenan and xanthan gum with pectin and other ingredients in its ice cream brands.

Common applications for pectin include jams, confections, beverages, yogurt and fruit preps, Ms. Silagyi said.

“Pectin provides many functions in various applications, including gelation, texture, viscosity, fiber enrichment and stabilization,” she said.

Each application may require different types of pectin and different functionality, Mr. Cianci said. LM pectin is a specialized highly functional product, and its yield is lower than HM pectin, he said.

Nestle Breyer's ice cream with pectin
Nestle recently replaced carrageenan and xanthan gum with pectin and other ingredients in its ice cream brands.

Mr. Seisun said HM pectin, which needs a high level of sugar to make a gel, works well in jams and jellies. LM pectin works better with milk protein and thus is a better fit for dairy beverages, Mr. Seisun said.

Mr. Cianci said pectin, since it is stable in acid pH situations, may work in acid-based beverages, too.

“From a functional perspective, it’s the ideal product,” he said. 

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