As consumer interest in organic foods grows, market shares of some natural ingredients are expanding at unprecedented speeds. Silvateam's managing director Alessandro Di Mase and Thomas Colleoni, product manager, discuss the increasing demand for pectins and tara gum, and the significance of sustainable production processes.
Alessandro Di Mase: Silvateam is a 150-year-old privately owned Italian business with manufacturing operations in Argentina, Italy and Peru. We export to over 70 countries, have a global turnover of around €120 million and employ approximately 800 people.
Originally involved with the production and manufacturing of tannins, in 2001 Silvateam invested in the ingredients industry, focusing specifically on pectin and tara gum.
ADM: The global market for tara gum has grown exponentially, from around 100t to 3,000t today. This is primarily due to the increasing number of applications in which it's used, such as certain meat, cheese and ice-cream production processes.
In addition to being a good investment, tara gum is easy to grow organically. It is native to Peru, where we are working, and doesn't require any treatment - just some fertilisation to increase production. Having a genuinely natural product like this is important in today's market, and also makes it easier to ensure that production remains sustainable.
ADM: We are highly focused on environmental sustainability in Peru. As well as operating without pesticides or other chemical products, we have developed our manufacturing and packaging processes to be as green as possible. We recycle, use natural gasses rather than fossil fuels and ensure the appropriate filters are in place to limit dust emissions.
At a social level, our investment in the area provides work for communities that live in some of the most inaccessible parts of the Andes; there are cases where harvesting tara gum doubles a small farmer's income. It is particularly beneficial since processing costs - tara gum only requires milling - are so low. This means a significant part of the price paid by customers in Europe and the US goes directly to local workers.
ADM: Our pectin manufacturing plant in Rende in Calabria, Italy, is compliant with EU environmental standards and ISO-certified, employs 60 people, and is an important element of the local job market and economy. We are constantly working to make the plant a closed cycle and an energy efficient unit.
Thomas Colleoni: Pectin is usually made from apples or citrus peels, but Silvateam only use the latter. Our pectin is 100% natural and customers tend to react positively when they see pectin written on an ingredients label because they associate it with fruit.
There are three main types of pectin: high methoxyl pectin, which is suitable for high-sugar jams, jellies and beverages and has a good flavour release; conventional low-methoxyl pectin, perfect for organic and bakery jams; and amidated low-methoxyl pectin, which is best used in low-sugar jams, fruit preparations, and reversible jellies in both hot and cold conditions.
At Silvateam, we supply all three types of pectin under the registered name Aglupectin; however, we are particularly interested in amidated low-methoxyl pectin because we believe it has the greatest potential for market share expansion. As well as low-sugar jams, it can be used to produce low-fat mayonnaises and yoghurts, which are likely to become more popular in future.
TC: Lately, we have been developing pectin solutions that are more closely tailored to our customers' requirements. A common request was for high-viscosity jams in hot conditions - not easy to achieve with amidated low-methoxyl pectin alone - so we developed a blend with conventional low-methoxyl pectin to make this possible.
A key future trend is the likely move of the Chinese and Indian populations towards more processed foods. They will want jam, bakery products and cakes, and - as a leading pectin provider - we hope to be involved in meeting this burgeoning demand.
Silvateam produces a full range of pectin, Tara gum and tailor-made stabiliser blends complimented with an extensive line of high quality tannins suitable for wine and beer and natural extracts to give the customer a products portfolio suited to modern market requirements.
These ingredients and processing aids enhance the taste, the texture and the appearance of finished products, extending their shelf life, optimising the food safety and enabling cost effective production. It is essential that Silvateam meets the needs of its customers in terms of global quality assurance and legislation.
With an annual turnover of more 120 million € in 2012, Silvateam is recognised worldwide market leader in vegetable extracts. Thanks to more than 150 years of history, the company has grown considerably during the last few years through a programme of acquisitions and product differentiation. Today the company is based in Italy and South America with six manufacturing facilities and approximately 800 employees. Its extended sales and distribution network allows it to serve over 10,000 customers in 60 countries worldwide.
Silvateam has invested significantly in research and development to study the properties and applications of its ingredients, using extensive laboratories and pilot plants. This allows our customers to develop their products using the best technical support and to achieve the correct results.