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Published: February 2013
Nearly 75% of the world consumption of citric acid is in beverages and food, primarily as an acidulant; carbonated soft drinks account for most use. Citric acid is used to control the growth of microorganisms, provide pH adjustment, provide sourness and tartness, and to enhance flavors. As an acidulant, citric acid competes with phosphoric, tartaric, DL-malic, fumaric and lactic acids. In household detergents and cleaners, citric acid is used as a cobuilder, mainly in concentrated liquid detergents, with zeolite builder systems as a replacement for phosphates. Citric acid provides a less harmful formulation than phosphates in water systems. Citric acid is used in pharmaceuticals because of its safe and nontoxic nature, pleasant acid taste, high water solubility, and chelating and buffering properties. The major applications include prescription pharmaceuticals, antacids, dentifrices, and use as a flavoring and stabilizing agent in pharmaceutical preparations. Shampoos and conditioners account for most consumption in cosmetics and toiletries. Metal finishing and cleaning is the largest industrial use for citric acid, followed by plasticizers, lubricants, chelating agents and animal feeds.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of citric acid:
Although there are regional differences in beverage and food tastes and preferences, the major trends driving demand for citric acid in beverages and food appear to be similar in many regions:
- Food safety (preservation)
- Desire for convenience (increased popularity of ready-to-drink beverages and processed foods)
- New beverage and food introductions, mainly fruit-flavored beverages and foods, including ethnic and exotic fruit flavors and flavor blends
Asia is the largest consumer of citric acid, accounting for approximately 28% of world consumption in 2012. China is the largest single participant in the citric acid market, accounting for 59% of world production in 2012; it also accounted for 69%, 74% and 12% of world capacity, exports and consumption, respectively, in 2012. This trend is expected to continue during 2013–2018, as significant growth in Chinese consumption and continued export opportunities will result in the commissioning of additional capacity. China is forecast to experience the fastest growth rates and volume increases in citric acid consumption during 2012–2018. Consumption of citric acid in Other Asian countries is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of about 4% during 2012–2018, largely as a result of use in beverages and food. In Other Asia, India, Indonesia and Thailand are the largest consumers.
As a region, North America is the second-largest citric acid market, accounting for 24% of world consumption in 2012. During 2012–2018, citric acid consumption in North America is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 2.5%, largely the result of increased consumption in beverages, mostly in Mexico and the United States.
Western Europe is the third-largest regional citric acid market, accounting for nearly 23% of world consumption in 2012. Consumption growth during 2012–2018 is forecast at an average annual rate of 1.7%. As in North America, growth in beverages has moderated because of the maturity and saturation of the carbonated soft drinks market.
In developing markets, higher growth is forecast during 2012–2018. Consumption of citric acid in Africa and the Middle East is expected to grow at average annual rates of 2.7% and 3.3%, respectively. Consumption in Central and South America is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 3.9%; in all developing markets, beverages and food applications account for most growth.