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Thickening agent in food safety trust crisis in China

Thickening agent, as an important food additive, is applied in the process of many food productions. However, the financial crisis in 2008 and the gelatin incident in April brought challenges for the thickening agent. Enterprises are recommended to rebuild the faith and the investors are suggested to find new directions.

Thickening agent is a kind of food additives mainly used for improving and increasing the viscosity of food. It maintains the color, aroma, taste and stability of fluid food and jelly food, improves the physical properties of the food products and brings a smooth and palatable texture to the food. Currently, there are 29 varieties of thickening agent with approval in China.

The application range of thickening agent is wide. Different thickening agent has various effect and advantages. For example, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, with its function of thickening, suspending, emulsification, stabilizing, are mainly applied as the thickening agent of pulp juice, emulsion stabilizer of protein beverage and the stabilizer of yoghurt drinks. Agar, with its transparency and unfixed shape, is used as thickening agent of ice cream, pastry and salad in production. The target client is large therefore.

However, under the shadow of financial crisis in 2008, the market couldn’t recover in short term. Adding up the decline of GDP growth rate of China and the inadequate consuming faith, the pressure on the operation of thickening agent business increases. According to the research, the domestic thickening agent enterprises lack the economic scope benefit. In recent years, with the increasingly intense market competition, the process of merger and acquisition among the enterprises and the brand operation is accelerated. Scale operation is primarily formed. As the major mode of scale operation, group and brand chain enjoy the advantage of expanded and stable client source, higher user loyalty, lower cost and so on.

Moreover, as one of the major food additives in the production of jelly, thickening agent playes an important role. According to the statistics of CNFIA, by the end of 2011, the number of domestic jelly manufacturer with approval reached 490, and the total output of China’s jelly industry exceeded 1 million tons, with the sales revenue of over CNY 15 billion and the export amount of over USD 100 million. However the jelly enterprises suffered from a food safety trust crisis in April. The public questioned the enterprises for adding industrial gelatin as food additives ( in production.

Correspondingly, Mi Chou, the executive director of the Candy Professional Committee pointed out that jellies have been favored by consumers with its crystal appearance and soft and smooth texture; if industrial gelatin were added, the quality requirement couldn’t be fulfilled for the stability of it was low especially in acidic conditions. As nutrition evaluation director of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out, the major thickening additive used in jelly production was carrageenan and konjac flour. The former one was extracted natural polysaccharide colloid, and the latter one was a flour product processed from an herbal plant. Therefore, the gelatin incident of jelly industry is probably a myth.

Under the shock of the financial crisis, facing the trust crisis of client industry ahead, the thickening agent enterprises need to rebuild the faith among the consumers, and reduce people’s misunderstanding about the food additives. Moreover, the future investment of thickening agent should return to ration. The second and third tier cities are the recommended directions for the market in the developed cities has almost saturated. What’s worth mentioning is that more and more enterprises have realized the huge potential and bright prosperity of thickening agent market, and the future trend has reached the common cognition. Hopefully, it will bring more vigor and vitality to the thickening agent market.

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by S. C.
10 august 2012, World News > Asia