Dispatches from Vitafoods Europe 2012

EU market is 'difficult to penetrate' for Chinese ingredient firm

By Kacey Culliney from Geneva

- Last updated on GMT

A local Chinese company has developed a curcurmin ingredient for the global market but a sales representative told FoodNavigator-Asia at Vitafoods Europe that India is a strong competitor and Europe is a difficult market to penetrate.

The Xi’an-based joint-venture firm, Xi’An Haotian Bio-Engineering Technology, was set up in 2003 with a notion to release a new product each year.

This year the firm has cultivated a curcumin (turmeric extract) and colourant. The turmeric plant is native to India but can be grown in China as the weather and soils are suitable. It is widely used as an anti-inflammatory ingredient, a spice or colourant across the food, beverage and supplements industry.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia at Vitafoods Europe 2012 in Geneva, Denny Di, a sales representative for Xi’an Haotian said this latest product should be successful as it has vast application potential, although “Europe is a difficult market to penetrate.”

Di also acknowledged that the company is directly competing with India – a country with a vast raw material supply of turmeric.

The company has three curcumin products – a powder extract for functional food, beverages and supplements, a colourant for a variety of food and drinks and an oil soluble liquid.

“We are targeting the US and Japanese functional food and beverage markets with the curcumin extract,”​ Di said, and it can also be used in dietary supplements.

Xi’an Haotian is marketing this as an ‘active ingredient’ with a wide range of benefits, including restraining the proliferation of cancer cells, anti-inflammatory properties, reducing blood fat and cholesterol levels.

For the curcumin colourant, “we are targeting the European food and drink sector,”​ he said.

“In Europe there is a huge demand for natural colourants and so this form is suited for the markets here,”​ he added.

The US easier than the EU

In the US companies have a want to try and use new products, Di explained, “but in Europe firms are more reluctant to change. They want to keep ingredients they are familiar with and work with suppliers they know.”

“Europe is harder to penetrate than the US market,”​ he said.

The curcumin extract is natural, kosher and halal, Di explained, it is extracted with ethanol and the products are ISO certified. “We have full ownership of the supply chain from seed to product ensuring strong traceability and guaranteed quality – something important when working with functional ingredients.”

He noted that next year’s crop will be cultivated organically, as Europe wants and needs organic ingredients.

“We are focused on customers and the future,”​ he added, and so the company is eager to develop its products to fulfil demands.

Xi’an Haotian has eight raw material production bases for its ingredients, and two production sites – one in Xi’an and another in the Jilin province.

Production capacity for its curcumin is around 18 tonnes per year, Di said, but this is set to increase to 30 tonnes next year and between 60-100 tonnes in three years.

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