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Published: October 2010
Hydrocolloids are members of a class of materials known as water-soluble polymers, organic substances that dissolve, disperse or swell in water and, thus, modify the physical properties of aqueous systems in the form of gellation, thickening or emulsification/stabilization.
Starches dominate the hydrocolloids market, accounting for over 98% of the category on a weight basis. In the developed countries of the world, hydrocolloid consumption growth shows maturity. Between 2009 and 2014, the world aggregate growth rate for hydrocolloids consumption is expected to be in the range of 2.5–3.5% per year, with slow growth in Europe and Japan pulling down the global average growth rate, while North American consumption will be near the global average, and China and Other Asia (excluding Japan) will grow in a range of 5–6%, pushing the global average growth higher. Some hydrocolloids will exceed this growth rate, such as xanthan and carrageenan, while starches will be at the low end of the growth range. Overall, food is the dominant application for hydrocolloids, followed by oil field and pharmaceutical applications.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of hydrocolloids:
North American consumption of hydrocolloids is concentrated in the United States. Starch and starch derivatives make up the largest segment, followed distantly by higher-value hydrocolloids such as guar gum and derivatives, casein, gelatin and others. In most of the hydrocolloid applications, only modest growth is anticipated. An exception is oil field applications, where guar gum and derivatives have experienced exceptional growth following recent greater intensity of oil production. Hydrocolloids historically experience some intermaterial competition with other hydrocolloids, or synthetic and semisynthetic polymers. Many formulations that include hydrocolloids are prone to substitution as prices increase. U.S. hydrocolloids consumption, excluding starch, will grow at an average annual rate of 3.4% between 2009 and 2014, while consumption growth for Canada and Mexico will be about 3.0% and 4.0%, respectively.
Europe, especially the Western European market, is the most important market for specialty hydrocolloids in the world. The starch market in the region is second only to the Asian market. Starch is forecast to grow with recovery from the economic crisis. Furthermore, starch raw materials are very interesting as renewable raw materials for the chemical industry and fuel market and will become major growth areas. For the time being, biodegradable and renewable polymers is still a small, but fast growing market. The market for starches is forecast to grow 1.5–2% per year on average and the market for specialty hydrocolloids is forecast to grow 2–3% per year through 2014. Above-average growth is forecast for guar gum and derivatives, gum arabic, pectin and xanthan gum.
Most hydrocolloids in Japan are imported; exceptions are agar, alginates, carrageenan and gelatin. A slowly recovering economy is expected to slightly increase Japanese hydrocolloids consumption through 2014; however, consumption growth of 5.0–6.0% per year in China and Other Asia will boost consumption growth in the Asia region and the world.