‘Efforts to replace it are in full swing now…’ Locust bean gum prices hit record highs

Dennis Seisun, founder of hydrocolloid market research and consulting firm IMR International​ and publisher of the Quarterly Review of Food Hydrocolloids​,​ told FoodNavigator-USA:

“Prices are now well over US$60/kg, if one can find it. Quotations, if you can get them, are valid for 24 hours or less. Some sellers actually expect an answer right there and then.”

‘The price is on a steep, almost exponential increase’

The problem has been building for some time given the peculiarities of the carob supply chain (it takes years for trees to become productive, while attempts to establish new plantations have delivered mixed results) and a steady depletion of inventory, meaning there’s “virtually no carryover feedstock from one year to the next,” ​said Seisun.

A recent surge in demand from plant-based beverages – where locust bean gum is frequently used with gellan gum to stabilize products and improve mouthfeel – has also compounded the problem, he added.

“Locust bean gum has been through drastic cycles several times in the past. The closest to this drastic ​[situation] was in 1994 but this is much worse. The​ [latest] crop will not be in until later this year, but indications are average so are unlikely to change the current tight situation by much, if at all.”

Nesha Zalesny, technical consultant at IMR International, added: “Last year the price was less than half of the current price, and five years ago it was a fifth of the current price. The price is on a steep, almost exponential increase.”

In a recent market update ​on its website, Swiss manufacturer Unipektin Ingredients said the locust bean gum market had become “more and more irrational and speculative.” ​It added: “Larger contracts for several hundred metric tons, which were normal, are impossible to secure at present.  Prices… have increased weekly, sometimes even daily, in the past two months.”

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