Read our overview of citric acid and learn about how it is produced. Take a look at versatile applications of the product in several industries and discover the market highlights including projected growth and key players.

Production methods

Citric acid is naturally found in citrus fruits but can also be manufactured. Industrial citric acid is produced mainly through fermentation or by chemical reaction. The latter method is applied to around 90% of global production and involves fermentation with the use of enzymes and microbial strains, most commonly of Aspergillus niger.

The is ongoing research for new methods of citric acid production using industrial wastes and by-products to introduce a manufacturing process that would be both sustainable and cost-effective. Citric acid is commonly available in powdered or granulated form as an anhydrous citric acid or liquid form.


Citric acid has a versatile range of applications in different industries. Around 75% of the industrially produced citric acid is used in the food and beverage sector. The product is an excellent preservative commonly added to canned and jarred goods to help preserve their freshness. It also serves ad a binding agent and thickener in sauces, creams, jellies, marmalades, and jams. Moreover, citric acid serves as an acidulant, antioxidant, and flavor enhancer in fruit-based products. In confectionery and baked goods, it improves the leavening of baking soda. The product is also used to adjust the pH of solutions in the process of beer brewing and wine manufacture.

In the dairy sector, citric acid is used for cheese manufacture and processing. It supports the stabilization of emulsions and prevents fat separation. Citric acid has also been found to have a beneficial effect on animals. Its supplementation to animal feed has showed a positive influence on the improved performance and bone mineralization in broilers, as well as enhanced growth in weaning piglets.

Citric acid is also commonly used in other industries including its application as a chelating agent and water softener in detergents and soaps and as fertilizer in the agricultural sector. In the pharmaceutical industry, the product is used as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient of medications.


The global citric acid market reached a volume of 2.55 million tonnes in 2020. The global market is expected to reach the value of $3.2 billion by 2023 with a projected CAGR of 5.1%. Europe is the largest regional market for citric acid with almost 35% share, while in the Asia Pacific region the market is growing at the fastest pace. The popularity of the product within European countries is owed to the increasing interested in natural additives and food preservatives such as citric acid.

The largest global importer of citric acid is the United States, while China is the key exporter. The U.S. market was valued at $783.5 million and owed over 27% of the global market share in 2020. Chinese citric acid market is expected to be worth $837.4 million by 2027. In China, the market is developing due to the growing interest in packaged foods and beverages. In Europe, the production of citric acid has been steadily growing over the last 5 years and amounted to a value of over $605.5 million in 2020. Within EU-27, Germany is projected to grow at the fastest pace of a CAGR of 3.4% in the next 6 years. In Latin America, the citric acid market is expected to reach $520 million within the next 5 years growing by over 30% from the estimated value of $390 million in 2020.
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Technical aspects

Citric Acid is in the form of white, odorless crystals and has a rather pronounced sour taste. It is an acidity regulator – when added to production, it is responsible for lowering the pH and thus also acts as a preservative, as acidification can extend shelf life. Citric Acid then makes it possible to enhance the sour taste of foods, so that the products have a more acidic taste. It is an antioxidant and has a bleaching effect that affects the color of fruits and vegetables. It has the ability to stabilize emulsions and prevent fat separation.


Citric Acid as a food additive functions as E330. It is an excellent preservative added to canned and preserved products to keep them fresh. It also serves as a binder and thickener in sauces, creams, jellies, jams and marmalades. In confectionery and baked goods, it improves the leavening power of the baking soda. It is also an important ingredient in cheese and beer production.

Citric Acid is also used in other industries, including as a water softener in detergents and soaps and as a fertilizer in agriculture. It is also added to feeds – the addition of Citric Acid has been shown to have a positive effect on broiler performance and bone mineralization, as well as better growth in weaners. In addition, thanks to citric acid, feed stays fresher longer and is tastier for the animals, which contributes to weight gain.

In the pharmaceutical industry, it is found in dietary supplements and in the formulation of drugs. Citric Acid masks their bitter taste, also has effervescent properties and stabilizing functions.

Citric Acid is also widely used in the manufacture of cosmetics. Since it has a whitening effect, it can be found in cosmetics for blemished skin. In addition, it acts as an antioxidant and prolongs the shelf life of cosmetics. Cosmetics also benefit from the fact that citric acid smoothes wrinkles and has an exfoliating effect.

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