Seaweed derived extracts makes up almost 40% of the worlds hydrocolloid market in foods. Carrageenan is the most important seaweed extract with the largest markets being in pet food, dairy and meats. Agar is largely a traditional foodstuff produced in Asia for the local market. A lot of agar is still produced by relatively small producers who target the high value food market as opposed to the ingredients or additives market. Both Agar and Carrageenan have relatively small non food sector markets. Carrageenan has some uses in the pharmaceutical market but very few applications in the industrial sector.
Alginate is quite different from the previous two products in that the alginate market has a large industrial segment which accounts for about 60% of the overall market size. Historically the alginate business developed a large market in the textile printing industry on the back of the growth in reactive dyestuffs invented by Imperial Chemical Industries in the 1960’s. Textile printing is still one of the major markets for non food grade alginate.
Hydrocolloids food market segments
The food market itself is quite evenly split between different segments. However different hydrocolloids are not evenly distributed amongst the segments. Carrageenan usage is predominantly in the dairy and pet food areas with a significant volume in savoury especially whole muscle meat products such as injected or tumbled meats. Alginate is used in the bakery segment for bake stable fillings and restructured fruits. In dairy alginate has a significant usage in ice cream and low fat spreads. Propylene glycol alginate, a chemically modified alginate, has a large market in conjunction with Xanthan gum in the dressings market where it is used as a suspending and emulsifying agent.