Carrageenan is a common name for a family of gel-forming and viscosifying polysaccharides that are extracted from a species of red seaweed belonging to class Rhodophyceae. It is commonly found in the Atlantic Ocean near Britain, Europe, and North America. Carrageenan contains considerable amount of cellulose and sulfated polygalactan with 15% to40% of ester-sulfate content. It has off-white to brown appearance and is commercially available in powdered form. It is also known as seaweed flour or Irish moss.
Carrageenans differ in their chemical structure and properties, and therefore, they have varying utilities in application industries. Carrageenans of commercial interest are available in three different grades: Iota (ι), kappa (κ), and lambda (λ). For instance, iota forms elastic gels with calcium salts and is stable at room temperature, while kappa forms strong and rigid gels with potassium salts and brittle gels with calcium salts. Lambda does not participate in gel formation and is only used to form high viscosity formulations. Furthermore, a mixture of different grades of carrageenan is used in the application industry.
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Carrageenan is commercially produced by two methods: by recovery of itaconic acid from aqueous solution and by dissolving in alkaline solution. Extraction through aqueous alkaline solution results in semi-refined carrageenan (SRC), which is sold in powdered form. Carrageenan is largely used as a gelling agent in the food and beverages industry. It has obtained approval from the European Union as a food additive with E-number E407.Carrageenan gum is primarily used in several application industries such as pet food, meat & processed food, dairy products, air fresheners, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and others. Dairy products are the largest application segment of the carrageenan gum market as it prevents separation of fat from protein. It is used as a substitute for gelatin jellies in water-based foods. Carrageenan has a high melting point. Thus, it does not melt in hot climate, especially in tropical regions. Carrageenan is also combined with several other gums such as locust bean gum, konjac flour, and starch to produce a variety of melting and non-melting gels.
Carrageenan gum is obtained from a vegetarian source, i.e., seaweed. Hence, it is considered as an optimum substitute for gelatin jellies in the food and beverages industry. Additionally, increasing demand for processed food and dairy products is boosting the demand for carrageenan gum globally. However, rising concern over gastrointestinal and inflammatory disorders among consumers has significantly hampered the carrageenan market. Besides this, availability of other substitutes is restraining the market growth.
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Asia Pacific and Europeare key markets in the global carrageenan gum market. Rising demand for fast and processed food in Asia Pacific is expected to propel the demand for carrageenan gumin this region. Furthermore, significant consumption of dairy products in Europe is propelling the demand for carrageenan gum. Growth of the wealthy middle class in China, India, Russia, Brazil, and Indonesia is also projected to drive the market in Asia Pacific. China constitutes the largest market in Asia Pacific due to strong industrialization in the country. This has resulted in significant growth of the food and beverages industry in China. Pet food is one of major application segments fueling the carrageenan gum market in North America. Meat & processed food is the largest application segment in the Middle East & Africa. Latin America held key share of the global carrageenan gum market in 2014. Brazil and Argentina are major consumers of carrageenan gum in Latin America.
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