Evonik in Thai Sugar Substitute Project

05.04.2017 -

German chemical company Evonik is collaborating with Thailand’s Rajburi Sugar to produce sugar substitute isomalt. The partners have opened a demonstration plant at Ratchaburi, Thailand, using an improved high-yield process that Evonik has patented.

By streamlining conventional isomalt production technology, researchers at Creavis, the German company’s strategic innovation unit, have managed to reduce the number of process steps and use biotechnology to increase the yield. Ulrich Küsthardt, Evonik’s chief innovation officer, commented: “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 toward establishing a new line of business based on advanced food ingredients.”

Total investment costs in the facility, which is said to be the first in Asia to make isomalt, are in the “low single-digit million euro” range, according to Evonik. Output from the plant will be marketed in Southeast Asia under the brand name Risumalt, mostly for use in food and dietary supplements. Capacity details were not disclosed. Christian Kullmann, deputy chairman of Evonik’s executive board, who is designated to become CEO following the annual general meeting in May, said Southeast Asia is an important growth market for the company, and the sugar substitute has considerable potential.

Isomalt, a sugar alcohol derived from beet, has fewer calories and is regarded as kinder to teeth than sugar. Evonik said demand in Asia for sugar substitutes is high, and the incidence of diabetes and obesity is rising. Nearly one in ten Asians now are said to suffer from type 2 diabetes, and recent studies suggest this could double in the next 25 years. As a consequence, there is a growing need for low-calorie foods and confectionary manufacturers are increasingly turning to sugar-free products.