Omya eyes a bigger slice of the calcium carbonate pie

By Paul Rackstraw
Published: Monday, 25 January 2016

Food growing area of CaCO3 consumption; Omya seeks to enhance presence in nutrition.

Swiss speciality mineral producer Omya AG has indicated it will intensify efforts to target the food industry as an end market for calcium carbonate (CaCO3) this year.

Following its recent entry into the market for high quality calcium carbonate in food products, the company launched an analysis project last year into how best to improve its reach in the sector, Stefan Lander, Omya’s vice president of food, pharma and cosmetics, told FoodIngredientsFirst.

"We’re not starting from scratch, but there is potential to become more active and this includes working with regional management teams to improve sales and the company’s distribution portfolio," Lander said.

However, he conceded that the company "is not yet known in the food ingredients world". 

Calcium is an essential mineral for the health of bones and teeth and is also beneficial to nerve construction, hormones and muscles. Nutritional scientific consensus states that children and teenagers between the ages of nine and 18 need 1,300mg of calcium daily, while adults need 1,000-1,200mg.

The principal sources of calcium carbonate are limestone, marble and sedimentation of crushed marine shells – all of which are used to extract the mineral commercially. Calcium occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products and nuts, but can be added to other foods to enhance their nutritional value.

Omya operates three food-grade calcium carbonate processing facilities, in the US, France and Turkey. Its Calcipur and Omya-Cal brands are used as a source of calcium in fortified foods and supplements. 

The products serve a number of technical and functional purposes beyond the primary nutritional role, including as a whitening pigment, carrier, extrusion aid, anti-caking agent, pH buffer and gelling agent. 

But Lander describes calcium carbonate as a "versatile product" and said the company means to reach beyond these current functions. It is now moving into the areas of infant nutrition and functionalised calcium carbonate (FCC).

"The infant nutrition market is increasing and becoming a big part of our business. Natural calcium carbonate is used a lot now to replace the precipitated product. It has very low levels of aluminium and, as well as appealing to a natural market, has a low carbon footprint and high purity, which is very much in demand," Lander said. 

The company describes FCC as "a new generation of minerals", which it plans to bring to the food market under the name "Omyafood FCC", a product that can be used as a carrier, anti-caking agent and as a new excipient for tablet formulations. It won the Gold Award for Best Innovation in APIs and Excipients at the CPHI exhibition in Madrid in October last year, owing to its "multifunctional benefits".

"Its recrystallised surface gives it a greater surface area, which, in turn, gives it a high loading capacity and allows it to be used as an effective carrier for many types of liquid, including oils that need to be transferred into a powder," Lander said, adding: "The resultant product is easily compressed into a tablet if required and can be used as an anti-caking agent to capture moisture."

The production and marketing of FCC began quite recently, in the summer of 2015, and demand for it is tipped to grow strongly over the coming years.

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Calcium occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products, almonds and figs, but it is also added to other food items to enhance their nutritional value (source: Eliza Adam, via Flickr). 

Industrial demand to grow steadily

While the food industry is a fast expanding but presently small volume market for calcium carbonate, the wider market for the mineral, covering both ground ground calcium carbonate (GCC) and precipated calcium carbonate (PCC), is expected to grow at a stable rate over the coming years.

A recent study carried out by Transparency Market Research, entitled "Calcium Carbonate Market Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2013-2019", predicted that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for calcium carbonate over the period will be 7%, with GCC expected to grow at a rate of 2.9% and PCC at 3.9%.

The expansion of the market is likely to be driven by "significant growth" in the pulp and paper and plastic industries, with developing regions such as Latin America and Asia Pacific providing greater demand than Europe and North America. 

Asia Pacific, which accounted for almost 49% of the market in 2012, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.9%, fuelled by industrial expansion in countries such as India and China.

Europe accounted for 23.7% of global demand in 2012, with the US making up 20.7%. But the closure and restructuring of several paper mills in these regions will most likely lead to a sluggish demand for the material over the period, the report found.