Read our overview of xanthan gum – a highly versatile product gaining popularity throughout various industries. Learn about its production process and a range of interesting properties finding use in numerous products. Discover the market insights and recent major developments.
What is xanthan gum?
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide discovered by American scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the early 1960s and approved in food production at the end of the decade. It is widely used as a food additive due to its range of texture-altering properties. The product is a soluble fiber, it is indigestible but may be broken down in the intestines. Xanthan gum is suitable for keto, gluten-free, and vegan diets.
Xanthan gum is produced usually from plants such as corn or cane sugar, but may also be obtained from lactose. The process relies on the fermentation of simple sugars with the use of Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. The fermentation broth is purified to eliminate foreign particles and other microorganisms. Later the product is centrifuged or filtered, dried, and milled. The final product is a free-flowing white powder without foreign odors and characterized by a high solubility rate in water.
Application and properties
Xanthan gum is an ingredient commonly used in the food industry due to its range of texture-modifying properties. It is applied as a thickener, texturizer, and stabilizer among others. In the EU, it is listed under the code E415 in food production.
The chemical structure of xanthan gum provides clean organoleptic properties, especially in liquid and fluid items. It stabilizes emulsions, suspensions, and aqueous dispersions and prevents the products from thickening upon cooling, thus allowing a smooth flow in products such as salad dressings, condiments, and syrups. Xanthan gum also allows suspending spice particles and flavor enhancements in dressings free from oil, marketed as ‘light ‘or ‘reduced-calorie’ goods. Its stability in low pH environments makes it an ideal ingredient of various sauces, gravies, and dips. A popular application of xanthan gum is bakery mixes and flour-based preparations to improve fluffiness, ensure moisture retention, and increase cake volume. Many frozen foods contain xanthan gum, as it provides excellent stability in very low temperatures. Xanthan gum is also resistant to acids and stable in high temperatures. It is used in gluten-free products to improve texture and suspension. In vegan products, xanthan gum provides viscosity that would normally be achieved by using eggs.
Another major application of xanthan gum is in the oil and gas industry. It is widely used in large quantities as a drilling fluid to maximize oil recovery. In the cosmetic industry, xanthan gum is used as a stabilizer and emulsifier in toothpaste, gels, creams, and lotions. It improves viscosity, helps maintain the shape, and ensures a smooth string in pumpable and squeezable items. In medicine, xanthan gum is used in anti-constipation tablets and medicaments for diabetics. Additionally, the product is applied as an ingredient of paints, textile dyes, fungicides, fertilizers, and adhesives.
In 2021, the global xanthan gum market was valued at over $602 million. The annual production of the product amounts to around 20,000 tonnes. Based on application, the food and beverage sector accounts for the largest market share of around 45%, while oil and gas industry places second with around 44%. The largest producing country is China, accounting for over 32% of global supply. The Asia Pacific region dominates the market due to the popularity of xanthan gum in food and beverage items. Notably, the bakery and confectionery sectors are driving the product demand in the APAC countries including India, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Furthermore, government-supported initiatives and projects are propelling market growth. However, the North American region is expected to experience the fastest growth in the upcoming years owing to the consumers’ shift towards gluten-free foods and high-quality ingredients as well as the developing pharmaceuticals sector. The North American market is projected to reach a value of $445 million in 2026.
The global xanthan gum market is projected to further develop at a CAGR of 4.7% throughout the next 7 years, reaching over $827 million in 2028. The market growth is propelled by increasing demand for gluten-free items and natural food additives, as well as the multi-functionality of the product and its application in various industries. The opportunities for market expansion are opening with the increase of production capacities and advancements seen in the oil & gas industries. However, the market development is expected to see some challenges such as growing interest in guar gum as a substitute for xanthan gum, price volatility of the raw materials, and anti-dumping policies.
In October 2021, CP Kelco – one of the key global suppliers of nature-based ingredients for food production, announced its partnership with Azelis distribution company. CP Kelco owns production units of xanthan gum in the U.S. and China, as well as other facilities offering various food additives. The company will entrust the new partner exclusively with the distribution of its goods to regions of South Africa and the Middle East and other buyers in Northern Ireland, Russia, Egypt, and Nigeria.
In November 2021, a Chinese leader in xanthan gum production – Fufeng Group Ltd., announced an investment in a new facility located in North Dakota in the U.S. The company has not yet disclosed which products will be manufactured in the new unit, but the plant is set to require a supply of 25 million bushels of corn per year.
In 2020, it was discovered that some imported products on the European market have been contaminated with ethylene oxide – a product that is not permitted in the EU. In July this year, more such cases were confirmed in products containing locust bean gum and therefore measures to withdraw these items from the market were adopted. Recently, experts from the EU Member States have agreed on regulations on the control of ethylene oxide in various imported goods, including xanthan gum. The new protocol is planned to be implemented beginning January 2022.