Lactic Acid, Its Salts and Esters
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Published: January 2013
Lactic acid, its salts and esters are consumed primarily in food and beverages as an acidulant and preservative, in industrial applications, pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Lactic acid consumption for polylactic acid (PLA) production and its industrial uses will be the main driving force behind worldwide demand growth.
The United States continues to be the largest consumer of lactic acid, followed by Western Europe and China. In the next several years, China is expected to become the second-largest consumer, with a high average annual growth rate. The United States and Western Europe will continue to show strong average annual growth of about 7% each. Other Asian countries will also experience significant increases.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of lactic acid, its salts and esters:
In the United States, lactic acid production and consumption has grown strongly as a result of the growing PLA market. A strong average annual growth rate of 6–7% is expected in the next few years, driven mainly by PLA use. PLA demand in fibers, packaging and containers will continue to grow. PLA is also expected to find new applications, have better performance properties, and be more supported and available, which will all result in high growth. U.S. lactic acid consumption for food and beverages will be somewhat limited by alternative antimicrobial solutions in the market. The pharmaceutical and personal care market segment will experience moderate growth.
Western European lactic acid use has also been driven by strong PLA use, as well as continued food and beverage consumption. An average annual growth rate of 7% is forecast for this region, driven by strong PLA growth. PLA use in packaging, bags, fibers and film will continue with improving product properties, PLA availability and favorable legislation. Remaining uses for lactic acid and its salts and esters will show moderate growth.
Chinese consumption of lactic acid, its salts and esters has increased in recent years as a result of increases in the processed food and beverages market, as well as strong exports. In the next several years, PLA use will be the main driving force behind the high double-digit growth. Future PLA production capacity and environmental legislation favoring the use of PLA-based products will both contribute to rapid lactic acid growth.
In Japan, only moderate growth is expected during the forecast period. Most lactic acid markets are mature, although it is possible that PLA may present promising applications. In Other Asia, significant growth (>20% annually) is anticipated as lactic acid demand for PLA is expected to support the growing global PLA market. In Other Asia, strong growth of 5–6% annually will also occur for the food and beverage market, as well as the pharmaceutical and personal care market.
In the last several years, lactic acid consumption for industrial applications has matched the food and beverage industry as the leading market for lactic acid use. Industry sources expect this shift to continue as growth rates for industrial uses will be much higher than growth rates for other uses. This is a result of the continued high growth of PLA applications. It is expected that by 2017, industrial applications will account for more than half of global lactic acid use.
Globally, lactic acid consumption will continue to increase significantly, at nearly 9% per year from 2012 to 2017.