Located in Linares, about 200 miles south of the Chilean capital of Santiago, the facility is close to the where the the broadleaf evergreen soap bark tree (Quillaja saponaria) grows naturally. Quillaia the ingredient is derived from the milled inner bark and small stems of the tree that Naturex says is sustainably harvested.
Soap bark has a history of medicinal use in the region. Quillaia as an ingredient is used as a natural foaming agent and emulsifier, said Juan Jose Albarran, managing director of the facility. But it has other uses, too.
“Besides having a wide range of applications in the food and beverage industry, quillaia extracts are also well known in the pharmaceutical world where they are used as adjuvants in vaccines and in hemolytic diagnostic kits,” Albarran told NutraIngredients-USA.
After the acquisition of the company about a year ago, Naturex embarked on significant expansion of the facility, whose capabilities have grown tenfold, the company said.
The company said quillaia is sourced in accordance with its “Pathfinder” sustainability program. Other projects conducted under the program include a traveling dental vessel that offers care to children along the Ucayli River in Peru, another source of many of Naturex’s botanicals in South America. While the expanded Linares facility is devoted to quillaia, the company is looking into processing other ingredient there, too, Albarran said. Naturex is also looking into the various certifications the ingredient and plant might achieve, he said.
“For the moment, the question remains open as to whether the factory will be non-GMO certified.The process is 100% organic (the quillaia grows wild in the forest without the use of pesticides or herbicides, and is extracted by water). Plans are being made to obtain an organic certification for this factory,” Albarran said.
“We definitively want to manufacture other products using the new facility in Chile. First because we have a strategic location for sourcing and also because we have a factory with a large capacity. The new facility can produce up to 800 tons of concentrated extract per year,” he said.
Albarran said the initial target for the ingredient is the local market, but the company has wider ambitions. The ingredient has applications in functional beverages as well as color and flavor emulsions.
“Our first targets for this ingredient are the USA and Latin America where there are already a huge range of applications.
In Latin America, the instant drink market is a huge opportunity for quillaia. The ingredient helps to create a ring of foam on the top of the glass, providing a fresh-squeezed effect that’s particularly attractive to kids. It´s also a great opportunity to replace allergenic foaming agents (egg albumin, caseins, and gelatin among others) with a cost effective solution,” Albarran said.