A few days ago, a noted expert described the situation in guar with the most extraordinary phrase: “definitely in the doldrums.” That’s how Dennis Seisun of IMR International pegged a commodity ingredient that gave food industry purchasing agents fits just a few years ago.
Prices for guar, a baker-friendly food gum, scampered sky-high because of competing demand from the then-booming oil fracking industry. Guar thickens drilling solutions just as well as it thickens foods, and it became a game-changer in oil exploration technologies.
In 2011, guar prices easily exceeded $5.5 per kg for food-grade guar (a small market) and $6.3 per kg for oilfield grade (a much, much larger market). Today, it’s a different story. Oil prices around $30 per barrel would need to double to reach the $60 to $70 per barrel price level that would make fracking profitable once again. Raw guar gum now trades at $1.20 to $1.30 per kilogram, the lowest price in more than a decade.
As a budget breaker, guar has been replaced by gelatin, particularly that derived from beef hide. In the world of hydrocolloids, it’s always something. Users of food gums should acquaint themselves with Mr. Seisun’s Hydrocolloid News e-newsletter, available at www.hydrocolloid.com. He travels the world to track pricing, manufacturing capacity and other developments involving gums and hydrocolloids. His commentary is sometimes wonderfully snarky but always authoritative.