Locust bean gum’s newfound success in meals stymied by provide shortages

Locust bean gum is a sufferer of its personal success.

The ingredient, which comes from the locust bean tree, features as a thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier and gelling agent whereas offering texture.

Along with these purposes, locust bean gum hits on a variety of different attributes in demand with customers, together with the truth that it’s plant based mostly and pure. The tree, based on ingredient provider Worldwide Flavors & Fragrances, additionally reduces soil erosion, restores carbon to the bottom and requires little, if any, fertilizer or irrigation, making it a helpful software in terms of sustainability. 

Collectively, these attributes have created a spike in costs for locust bean gum following a scarcity out there for the favored ingredient that’s unlikely to finish anytime quickly.

“The limitation with [locust bean gum] is the availability is just not rising. There may be not sufficient quantity to fulfill the demand,” stated Jean-Baptiste Dufeu, a world enterprise supervisor at IFF who’s liable for overseeing the ingredient on the firm. “For the subsequent few years, the market goes to stay near what it’s proper now. We don’t have sufficient product.”

Dufeu stated whereas the scarcity has stymied the roll out of latest merchandise utilizing the ingredient, meals and beverage producers are working to develop merchandise utilizing locust bean gum in preparation for when extra is out there.

“I am satisfied that this product will additional develop,” he stated. “It’s the kind of product the customers need to get within the ingredient listing of the product moderately than a few of the others.”

Chris Rivard, senior R&D supervisor at Ben & Jerry’s who’s liable for overseeing the event of latest flavors, stated the Unilever-owned ice cream maker makes use of locust bean gum in its pint slices that want to resist “a bit extra abuse” like too-warm freezer temperatures and folks holding them of their fingers whereas consuming them.

Ben & Jerry’s nondairy ice lotions, which the model launched in 2016, additionally use locust bean gum as one of many methods to assist to supply stability and creaminess that usually is offered by dairy fats in conventional choices.

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Courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s


“It is an essential a part of our toolbox,” Rivard stated. “It positively fits the aim that we’d like it for within the client area basically.”

Ben & Jerry’s use of locust bean gum hits on two meals and beverage merchandise that depend upon the ingredient essentially the most: plant-based meals and ice cream. Many ice cream makers use it to supply a fatty mouthfeel and to scale back the dimensions of ice crystals that kind when the deal with thaws earlier than being frozen once more. Different merchandise utilizing the ingredient embody cream cheese, breads and bakery gadgets.

Rebuilding a decimated crop

The historical past of locust bean gum goes again 1000’s of years the place it has been discovered within the wrappings of Egyptian mummies in addition to in Pompeii from round 79 A.D. Locust bean gum is produced from the seeds of pods collected from the locust bean tree, or carob tree, which grows predominantly in Mediterranean nations comparable to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

A few of the bushes are greater than 200 years previous. An estimated 12,000 to fifteen,000 kilograms of locust bean gum are harvested yearly.

The recognition of locust bean gum hasn’t all the time been as sturdy as it’s right this moment, and that is a significant motive behind the present scarcity. Dufeu of IFF stated that 10 to fifteen years in the past, there have been many extra bushes. However with locust bean gum costs a lot decrease at the moment, farmers selected to take away the bushes for cattle to graze or to make room to plant higher-value crops like olives or almonds.

As demand began to surge, farmers moved aggressively to care for their current bushes. They planted new ones too, however it takes as much as 10 years for the locust bean tree to begin producing pods, so it would take a number of years earlier than their provide infiltrates the market.

“We’re assured that inside three or 4 years, some important quantity can be obtainable,” Dufeu stated.

Nesha Zalesny, a technical guide at IMR Worldwide, stated costs for locust bean gum are about as excessive as she will be able to bear in mind since her group began following the commodity in 1991. Within the second quarter of 2020, Zalesny stated locust bean gum averaged about $24 a kilogram, and for years had averaged nearer to $14.

Not too long ago, she stated a producer paid $85 a kilogram on the spot market — in contrast to commodities like corn or sugar, the place a consumer can hedge towards will increase within the value of an ingredient sooner or later sooner or later. 

With costs up fourfold from a 12 months in the past, some corporations are reportedly reformulating merchandise. However doing so may be dangerous and dear. It could possibly take important money and time to interchange an ingredient with one other that produces the identical attributes. And any adjustments to the label has the potential of scaring off customers who demand a easy components listing.

Tara gum is commonly used as an alternative, however its provide is smaller, with an annual harvest roughly a 3rd as massive as locust bean gum. Different potential choices like pectin, carrageenan or guar gum include their very own listing of challenges by way of their efficacy, must be blended with different components, or detrimental notion within the eyes of the patron. 

With these challenges and locust bean gum amounting to a small fraction of the overall value for a product, producers thus far look like keen to soak up the worth improve for the ingredient. 

“There is a couple different substitutions that you are able to do however every considered one of them brings their very own issues to the desk,” Zalesny stated.

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