Gum arabic, also known as acacia gum, meska, chaar gund/goond, is a natural emulsifier derived from hardened sap obtained from two species of the acacia tree (Senegalia senegal (Acacia) and Vachellia (Acacia) seyal). The acacia trees are found on the west coast of Africa and on the Indian Subcontinent. Gum arabic is a versatile emulsifier that is used in several industries including food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, textiles, inks, paper, ceramics, and paints. The gum has amber color and is sticky. It is extracted by skillfully peeling a thin layer of bark on the acacia trees without causing any injury to the tree. The sap slowly oozes out and is collected as amber-colored gum after it is exposed to air. The hardened gum/sap is treated to remove dust and sold in the form of syrup made by dissolving the hardened sap in water.
Gum arabic is mostly produced in the sub-Saharan coastal belt by local farmers. Although discovered and named in Senegal, the trees are farmed for production of gum arabic in Somalia, Sudan, and Senegal. Sudan is the largest producer of gum arabic, which is usually exported to Europe for treatment, refinement, and further sale to different parts of the world.
Gum arabic is widely used as an emulsifier in the food & beverages industry. It is one of the key emulsifiers used in the manufacture of syrups for soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Gum arabic ensures even distribution of sugar within the liquid and helps avoid precipitation of crystals at the bottom. Gum arabic is also used in several pharmaceutical formulations for holding the ingredients together in the drug. It has medicinal properties and can be consumed with water to treat stomach problems as it is rich in dietary fiber. It can be used as a laxative and helps in reducing cholesterol levels in patients. Additionally, gum arabic is utilized in traditional lithography and printing. It is used for printing on newspapers, providing the ink with adhesion properties aiding the permanence of the print. Gum arabic is used in book binding, photo printing, and paints for textiles and art due to its tacky characteristics.
The gum arabic market is fueled by rising demand in end-user industries, especially food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, and textiles. Additionally, major shift from synthetic chemicals and materials toward naturally sourced products is anticipated to increase demand for gum arabic in the food & beverages industry. However, political instability in Somalia and Sudan has caused loss of customers as the companies hesitate to associate themselves with such societies. Current sales of gum arabic have dropped to almost half of the all-time peak volumes. This can be attributed to climatic changes due to global warming, excessive exploitation of the acacia tree forests, and political instability of the chief producing nations. Furthermore, chemical manufacturers have developed several synthetic substitutes for emulsification applications. These substitutes, although they cannot match gum arabic’s superior emulsifying capabilities, can be manufactured securely as per market demand. Reacquisition of customers lost to political instability in Sudan and Somalia can help create an opportunity for the growth of the gum arabic market in the near future.
Geographically, Asia Pacific is anticipated to be the dominant market due to the rapidly growing industrial utility of gum arabic. North America is another large market for gum arabic; it is primarily used in the food & beverages industry. Latin America and Europe are estimated to see gradual growth during the forecast period. Small and medium-sized players hold a majority share of the market. Some of the players in the gum arabic market include TIC Gums, Inc., Gum Arabic Company, and Dar Savannah Gum Arabic Processing Company.
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