Acacia gum has become a popular replacement for artificial thickeners, enjoying 2.5% growth annually, according to the Centre for the Promotion of Imports (CBI), which helps small and medium-sized companies in developing countries secure export avenues for their domestic products.
Europe imports and exports about 80% of the world’s 54k tonnes of acacia gum. The trees tapped for this natural thickener grow primarily in northern Africa, from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. Most, however, originates in Sudan, Chad and Nigeria.
Alland & Robert wants to be a ‘major player’ in India, Anne-Sophie Alland, head of strategy and development, told ConfectioneryNews.
The French company has imported acacia gum for more than 130 years, exporting it to 70 countries through a network of three-dozen distributors. Sayaji Industries Limited has supplied sweeteners, thickeners and stabilizers to the food industry since 1941.
“With Sayaji on our side, we have gained a strong and trustworthy local partner that has a great knowledge of the growing Indian market,” said Alland, noting that India and the US are two of the largest importers of acacia gum.
She added that the two companies already share ‘many common customers.’
Sayaji will be able to leverage the ‘technological know-how’ of its new partner, said Priyam Mehta, chief managing director. With headquarters in Ahmedabad in western India, the supplier also has offices in Mumbai and Delhi, as well as Chennai in the south and Kolkata in the east.
Though Sayaji also supplies other sweeteners and stabilizers, including glucose, dextrose and corn syrup, the joint venture will focus solely on acacia gum, Alland confirmed. Products will also be marketed to Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The natural thickener
Acacia gum harvest occurs from January to April. Farmers make an incision on the Acacia Senegal (or closely related) tree, a process known as tapping, which coerces the acacia sap out of the tree to cover the opening. It dries upon contact with the air and progressively grows into a pale white to orange-brown nodule resembling fractured glass. A few weeks later, farmers cut the tear-shaped extrusion and allow it to dry before exporting to production factories.
In candy, acacia gum is often used for gumdrops, boiled candies, pastilles and medication confectionery. When combined with sucrose and glucose, it thickens and acts as an anti-crystallization agent.
Sugar-free coatings, especially for chewing gum, benefit from acacia gum.
It is the most commonly used water-soluble gum, comprised of potassium, magnesium or calcium of acidic polysaccharides.
Not only does acacia gum allow for clean labels, studies also show that it could have potential as a dietary fiber.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) approved acacia gum for daily intake as a food additive in 1969, revisiting it in 1997. In 2017, the European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated the additive and found ‘no safety concern for the general population.’