Nexira looks to locust bean gum to fuel plant beverage expansion plans
Nexira, a specialist in acacia fibre and natural plant-based ingredients for the food, nutrition and health industries, today announced its acquisition of the Swiss company UNIPEKTIN Ingredients, a specialist in natural hydrocolloids and premium ingredients – particularly locust bean gum (LBG).
LBG is extracted from the seeds of the carob tree and widely used as a thickening agent across the food and beverage industry. It’s a key functional ingredient especially for ice cream, cream cheese, and plant-based beverages, where it provides mouthfeel, stickiness, taste release, stabilisation, and heat resistance/crystallization.
Nexira told FoodNavigator the purchase of UNIPEKTIN (the terms have not been disclosed) will allow it to capitalise on growth it sees in the plant-based beverage sector.
“We want to develop potential new applications and new markets with the locust bean gum,” Nexira General Manager Mathieu Dondain told us. “Locus bean gum is an excellent ingredient for its natural qualities and can be used in the beverage industry in general. We are seeing a huge amount of alternatives in the US and Europe and - we can really see that this trend is something that will stay.”
UNIPEKTIN also produces tara gum, hydrolyzed guar gum, and beet fiber. Nexira is keen to embrace all the ingredients and together with its expertise in acacia gum and other natural ingredients to develop new sensory experiences for its customers and end consumers. With the addition of this new range of functional ingredients to its portfolio, Nexira is looking to continue expanding in the fast-growing market segments of plant-based alternatives, dairy alternatives, and meat substitutes
"This acquisition consolidates our position as a key player in natural plant-based ingredients – a dynamic market that caters to consumers seeking new sensory experiences and plant-based, natural, sustainably produced alternatives," said Nexira Managing Director Olivier Houalla.
Nexira’s portfolio of products includes highly functional and nutritional ingredients and a large number of active botanicals for health and nutrition applications such as weight management, stress management, sports nutrition, digestive health and cardiovascular health.
In that vein, the company is keen to explore the potential nutraceutical benefits of locust bean gum. Though more studies are needed, it is believed locust bean gums high level of soluble fibre may help decrease blood sugar and cholesterol levels and help improve gut health.
“We will be looking in the future to see if there are active compounds in locust bean gum which could be used in the nutraceutical industry too," said Dondain.
He added that Nexira’s size, scale and expertise allow it to capitalise on the market opportunity presented by locust bean gum. Nexira boasted a record turnover of more than €130 million in 2021, with 90% of that total coming from exports. Nexira further claims to guarantee a reliable supply chain and continued access to raw materials, with full traceability.
Most locust bean gum seeds are produced and harvested in the Mediterranean. Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece provide 70-75% of the world's total production.
“Nexira has a strong history of sourcing due to gum acacia, which comes from the same countries,” said Houalla. Robert Ackermann, member of the board of directors of UNIPEKTIN Ingredients said: “This is an excellent opportunity to provide UNIPEKTIN Ingredients with enhanced international exposure, highly skilled customer service, and expanded recognition for reliable sourcing.”
But prices are reaching ‘tipping point’
Nexira is for now unconcerned that historically high prices may hinder the development of the locust bean gum market. “Prices are extremely high, and we know it's a risk some end user might have the temptation to move to another type of product,” said Houalla. “But we don't think the situation will last forever and in the meantime the product has so many unique advantages it is still competitive even if the price is high.”