Natural vitamin E suppliers improve offering for non-GM products

Related tags Natural vitamin Tocopherol Antioxidant

ADM, the leading supplier of natural vitamin E, is set to bring a
new supply of non-GM certified product onto the market early next
year in response to demand from European consumers. Until then,
smaller companies will continue to benefit from this important
niche.

ADM, like its main rival Cognis, has as yet been unable to offer IP-certified natural vitamin E due to difficulties in sourcing sufficient quantities of raw material - vegetable oil distillate - from traditional crops like soya.

However with pressure from leading retailers, particularly in markets like the UK, supplement makers are being forced to guarantee that their natural vitamin E is identity preserved (IP).

"Traditional sources of the raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce as planting of these crops continues to decline and costs associated with procuring and segregating these materials from mainstream GM varieties are likely to increase further,"​ Greg Dodson, ADM​ global product manager for vitamin E, sterols and tocopherols, told NutraIngredients.com.

The oilseed processor's first supply of vitamin E and mixed tocopherols from a fully accredited, IP system is expected during the first quarter of 2005 and will come from a variety of traditional crop sources.

"To limit supply to just one crop source would severely reduce availability and would impact further on production costs,"​ added Dodson.

But the majority of vitamin E offered by ADM will remain as it is currently, with supply of IP material from traditional crop sources primarily for the European market, he said.

This dual product offering - both regular and IP-certified vitamin E - may have played a role in slowing down the bigger players' access to the non-GM market.

The much smaller BTSA Biotecnologias Aplicados​, the main supplier of natural antioxidants to Spain's food industry, has been offering non-GM vitamin E for softgels as well as producers of vegetable oils and milks since last year thanks to a long-term, non-GM policy across its whole range.

It will be promoting the product, a blend of sunflower and soya oils, at HiE next month with its distributor Spectrum Organics.

"It was quite easy for us to establish a non-GM policy as we were not very big. We started to produce natural vitamin E last year in small quantities and are now producing 2 tons per month,"​ said general manager Ana Ugidos.

The company received its third party IP-certification from Applus last year although had previously been supplying non-GM natural tocopherols under the Tocoviol brand to major US firms like General Mills for several years.

"There was great demand from the US, with the strong organic movement there, and the clients were willing to pay more for the non-GM ingredients,"​ she said.

Making non-GM vitamin E, traditionally derived from soy oil distillate, has required the use of sunflower oil in a blend with soya sourced from the Middle East. BTSA is also studying mustard oil and corn oil as new sources.

Among those currently buying its natural vitamin E are milk brand Central Lechera Asturiana, which advertises the antioxidant activity of 'natural vitamin E', as well as many of the oil producers like Cargill, Bunge and Unilever.

The product remains a premium one - at between €42-50 per kg for an average of 1000 units, according to Ugidos - and with restricted supply, market prices will remain high.

BTSA is currently considering investment in further production capacity, after expanding 60 per cent this year. However natural vitamin E suppliers are not rushing into the non-GM market, perhaps unsure of how long this issue will continue to be important for consumers.

"The length of time we offer IP vitamin E depends on customer demand and their willingness to pay a premium for these materials. It is anticipated that the majority of our product will continue to be derived from un-segregated crop sources,"​ said Dodson.

However he added that the GM issue could help to further differentiate the product specifically for health foods.

"Naturally sourced vitamin E products have always been used by supplement manufacturers who are selling into specialist market segments, and this is likely to continue in the future. If anything, we could see this market segment becoming more differentiated than has been the case previously."

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