All the sweetness of sugar, but just half the calories is what Evonik aims to achieve through the recent joint venture with Thai company Rajburi Sugar by investing in isomalt is a versatile substitute used in candies, chewing gum and other products. To this end, the partners have officially opened a demonstration plant in Ratchaburi (Thailand). The facility will employ a special, high-yield production process developed and patented by Evonik. Total investment is in the low single-digit million euro range.
As Christian Kullmann, Deputy Chairman of the Evonik Executive Board, explained at the commissioning ceremony, “Southeast Asia is an important growth market for Evonik. We aim to develop new markets with innovative products and solutions that truly benefit people. We are the first to manufacture the sugar substitute locally, and I am confident that we have a product with considerable potential.”
Dr Sunthorn Arunanondchai, president and CEO of C.P. Land and chairman of Rajburi Sugar, said, “I am very pleased that Evonik, as one of the world's largest specialty chemical companies, will produce the sugar substitute isomalt together with Rajburi Sugar in Asia. The joint venture pools our competencies. We supply the raw material and will put all of our effort into marketing the product locally, while the innovative power of Evonik made the new demonstration plant possible in the first place.”
Rajburi Sugar is one of the key manufacturers of sugar in Thailand and for the entire region, and is increasingly engaged in producing low-calorie alternatives.
Demand for sugar substitutes is high in Asia, and incidence of diabetes and obesity is growing. Nearly one in ten Asians now suffers from type-2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Recent studies suggest this could double in the next 25 years. Consequently, there is a growing need for low-calorie foods, and confectionary manufacturers are increasingly turning to sugar-free products.
In contrast to other sugar substitutes, isomalt absorbs virtually no moisture from ambient air. Since it does not clump during manufacturing, or as an end product, sweets and other treats do not stick together – and therefore do not need to be packaged individually. Moreover, they fulfill consumers’ high expectations in terms of aesthetics and health. Isomalt is tooth-friendly and only has limited bioavailability, translating into fewer calories and less guilt when being indulgent.
Against this background, researchers at Creavis, Evonik’s strategic innovation unit, have linked up with process technology specialists to streamline the conventional isomalt production process. The new method comprises fewer steps, and employs biotechnology to raise the isomalt yield. Dr. Ulrich Küsthardt, Chief Innovation Officer at Evonik, emphasizes: “The new approach is the result of our ability to innovate and collaborate. Creavis initiated a successful project that required the unit to work closely with experts from Evonik’s operational segments and our Thai partner. The new demonstration plant is a further stepping stone towards establishing a new line of business based on advanced food ingredients.”
The activities of Advanced Food Ingredients focus on natural food ingredients with scientifically proven health benefits, and on formulation technologies for targeted drug delivery. The latter ensure that active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are taken up at the right location within the human body, at the right time. By leveraging its expertise in this field, Evonik can offer its customers solutions for high-quality dietary supplements and functional foods that ensure competitive differentiation.
The isomalt manufactured at the plant in Ratchaburi will be marketed in Southeast Asia by Evonik’s Pharma & Food Ingredients Product Line and Rajburi Sugar under the brand name Risumalt and primarily for use in food and dietary supplements.