WASHINGTON — Nearly two decades ago, Kemin Industries began toiling in its labs with rosemary, convinced the perennial herb had a future beyond its traditional use as a fragrance or flavoring additive in popular food dishes.
Today, the Des Moines-based nutritional ingredients company produces extract from rosemary that is used by Fortune 500 companies to extend the shelf life in pet food, cereal, meats, salad dressings, skin creams and other products — replacing chemicals produced synthetically in the lab.
The growth of renewable chemicals such as rosemary extract has been spurred by a volatile marketplace for petroleum, a common ingredient used to make packaging.
|Marigold plant is used in dietary supplements, |
food, personal care and cosmetic products.
Photo by Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Consumers also are demanding more natural ingredients in their favorite products without having to pay more for them.
Major companies such as Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble are among the business giants that have taken notice, using renewable chemicals to replace those made with petroleum in packaging, cleaning products and cosmetics.
Food companies have joined in the move by spending millions of dollars on research to develop new ingredients produced by Mother Nature for their packaged goods.
Kemin’s work extends beyond rosemary to include the marigold, which contains a molecule, lutein, that helps protect and maintain eye and skin health. The company also has done work with a potato that has a protein used by dietary supplement makers in weight management products. The protein signals to a person’s brain that his stomach is full.
A decade ago, less than 5 percent of what Kemin sold came from plants; now it’s 35 percent — totaling $200 million in sales annually. It’s expected to hit 50 percent by 2016.
The overall renewable chemical ingredient market is expected to top $83 billion by 2018, compared with $57 billion this year, according to the research firm Markets and Markets. In the United States alone, the Agriculture Department estimates more than 3,000 companies currently manufacture or distribute biobased products.
To be sure, renewable chemicals face their own series of obstacles before they can be widely used in the marketplace. Researchers and manufacturers must prove to their buyers that the replacement chemical performs as well as or better than its traditional counterpart and can be made for at least the same price.
Similar to many new technologies, the initial cost can be prohibitive and restrict broader use of the technology. But over time, changes and improvements help foster wider use.
Editor's note: This article has been edited for length.
Source: Des Moines Register
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