This from the
now defunct Sudanese Government web site.
Gum Arabic: The Ancient Ingredient for the 21st Century!
This extraordinary gift from nature exceeds
all synthetic imitators in the quality of emulsions it forms. For
the difficult jobs, gum arabic is the product of choice. The product
is plentiful now and readily available for delivery commitments
over the short and long term. Modern quality control assurance and
a price less than half of levels of only two years ago add to its
appeal for producers of beverages, confectionery, diet foods, encapsulated
flavors, and pharmaceuticals.
Gum arabic, or acacia gum, is the resin
exuded by Acacia Senegal trees. The tapping and harvesting of the
trees in the semi-arid regions of the Sudan are colorful but physically
demanding activities that are vital to the economy of the Sudan.
Several million people must be mobilized to make the industry function
effectively. Under the guidance and financing of the Gum Arabic
Co., Ltd., major strides have been made is establishing reliable
procurement programs and large buffer stock inventories to protect
against supply interruptions.
Gum arabic is a superior emulsion former
that has no substitute among synthetic additives. It provides excellent
shelflife stability to oil in water emulsions and does not mask
flavors with a filmy texture or off-flavor on the tongue.
Produced in nature, Gum Arabic is 95% soluble fiber calculated on
a dry basis. Its calorific value is arguably less than half that
of starches and maltodextrins. Unlike synthetic additives, Gum Arabic
is labeled in the United States as "ADI Not Specified",
allowing unlimited use in food products.
1. Executive summary
The study investigated the US and EU market for gum Arabic for the
1989-1993 period. The supply varies from year to year and consequently
the price fluctuates. The supply can be controlled to a certain
level with buffer stocks. Political and economic unrest together
with climatic problems in many producing countries are the major
reasons for supply variations. Therefore market trends should be
analyzed over 3-5 year periods. Sudan dominates the world market
with about a 60% market share.
The major user of gum Arabic is the food
industry. Gum Arabic is also used in pharmaceuticals and the printing
industry. Based on the research data the demand for gum Arabic at
this moment appears to flat or only slightly increasing. However,
its many important functions and uses will ensure its demand in
EU imports totaled 23.2 thousand metric
tonnes in 1993. US imports for the same period were 5.5 thousand
metric tonnes. About 40% of the US imports were processed gum Arabic.
European imports consisted mostly of crude gum Arabic. European
countries (mainly France) re-exports processed gum Arabic to the
2. Product description
Considered the oldest and best known of the gums, gum Arabic or
gum acacia, as it is also called, can be traced back to about 2650
BC Gum Arabic is the natural gum exuded by various species of Acacia.
The main source of commercial gum Arabic is Acacia Senegal L. Willd.,
also called Acacia verek. According to suppliers, it is also the
best quality gum Arabic. Gum from A. seyal, known as gum talha,
is not approved for food use in the US and Europe and it is mainly
used in non-food products. Minor quantities of gum are obtained
from A. laeta and other Acacia species. Throughout the world there
are more than 1000 species and sub- species of the Acacia tree which
The trees grow mainly in the sub-Sahara
or Sahel zone of Africa but also in Australia, India and South America.
The main producing and exporting countries in the ‘gum belt’
include Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan. Sudan dominates
the world gum trade with a market share of about 60%.
Gum Arabic has a very special place in
the food sector, having been a major ingredient for years especially
in a number of confectionery products. It has tremendous export
potential as long as attention is paid to quality and consistency
Gum is exuded from A. Senegal trees in the form of large (5 cm diameter)
nodules or tears. Mature trees, 4.5-6 m high and 5-25 years old,
are tapped by making incisions in the branches and stripping away
bark to accelerate exudation. The gum dries into rough spheres which
are manually collected. Collection takes place at intervals during
the dry season from November to May and two main harvests are taken
in December and April in major producing areas in the northern hemisphere.
In general the higher the average temperature, the greater the production
of gum. However, the yield from each tree rarely exceeds 300 g per
Acacia trees are grown from seedlings
which are planted when they reach the height of 15- 20 cm. Gum production
can begin when the trees are 5 years old although gum may be tapped
from the trees after 3 years. However, the quality and yield are
consistent only after 5 years. Also according to a British importer,
old crop gum Arabic has a better viscosity than new crop gum.
Gum production from wild stands of Acacia
trees is being replaced by the cultivation of uniform stands of
monocultures of A. Senegal. According to Chemical Marketing Reporter
a Sudanese research project started in 1990 is trying to develop
new, drought-resistant acacia trees which will bear higher yield
and more consistent quality. Gum Arabic from other African countries
may be variable in quality due to the mixed species of Acacia trees
found in the collection areas. A US food industry consultant emphasized
the fact that the soil composition of different regions together
with varying climate conditions affect the color and quality of
gum Arabic. Therefore gum Arabic from different regions might not
necessarily be interchangeable in food production.
2.2. Standards and specifications
Sudanese production of gum Arabic is fairly tightly controlled and
the grading system of the Sudanese production is used as an industry
standard. Different grading systems are operated in the other exporting
countries but supplies from reputable dealers can match Sudanese
material. The two main grades are ‘hand-picked-selected’(HPS)
and ‘cleaned’. Other grades may be offered as shown
in Table 1.
Table 1. Gum Arabic: equivalent commercial
Sudanese grade Alternative terms Nigerian grade Clarity Color
-- Superior selected* -- Clear Very pale color
Hand-picked-selected (HPS) Selected sorts -- Clear Pale yellow
Cleaned and sifted Cleaned, sifted sorts No. 1 Clear Pale-dark yellow
Cleaned Cleaned amber sorts or cleaned Kordofan No. 1 Slight haze
Siftings -- No. 2 Cloudy Yellow-amber
Dust -- No. 3 Opaque Dark amber- brown
* Processed powder only.
Source: Imeson, A.P. 1992. Thickening and gelling
agents for food. p. 69.
Variations in consignment quality and
a lack of local cleaning facilities have been addressed by importers
in the US and Europe who purchase material on the basis of approval
of pre-delivery samples and then process to ensure product specifications
The three main specifications that are
widely used by the importers when importing raw gum Arabic are:
moisture content 12-14%
optical rotation -25- -35
foreign matter < 3-5%
These specifications must be met before
exporting is possible. Also the microbiological count for Salmonella,
Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus must be negative.
2.3. Processing, packaging, shipment
Historically, gum Arabic was simply sold in its natural state with
little or no processing. Much raw material continues to be sold
but it is now pre-cleaned to remove bark, sand and impurities. Material
sold in kibbled (coarsely ground), granulated or powder form is
also usually pre-cleaned to improve quality. After cleaning, the
bark and foreign matter is below 0.5% in food grade powdered Acacia
Sudan now exports only semi-processed
or processed kibbled variety gum Arabic instead of crude gum lumps.
The kibbled variety can be used as such or further processed. It
must also be noted that European countries import more crude material
than the US. European countries re-export a lot of processed gum
Arabic to the US. In 1993 40% of US gum Arabic imports were processed.
The percentage for European imports of processed gum Arabic is lower
than for the US but an exact figure was not available.
The crude gum Arabic is exported either
in burlap or jute sacks. The US regulations require that only new,
unused jute sacks are used. Semi-processed and processed kibbled
variety, granules and powdered gum Arabic is exported in drums,
polyethylene lined multi-wall paper bags or polyethylene lined cardboard
boxes. Gum Arabic, when stored in cool (21 -24 C)7 and dry place,
has in reason an unlimited shelf life.
Exported gum Arabic is mostly transported
by vessel which is much cheaper than transport by air. For example
in 1993, 70 % of the US imports of gum Arabic was transported by
vessel. Since the shelf-life of gum Arabic is virtually unlimited,
the slower transportation by vessel compared to transportation by
air is not a limiting factor.
2.4. Usage overview
By far gum Arabic is mostly used in the different sectors of the
food industry. Other areas where gum Arabic is used are pharmaceuticals
and the printing industry. The use of gum Arabic in non-food use
has been estimated to grow about 4% (on volume basis) between 1988-1995.
The use of gum Arabic in food use has been estimated to decrease
about 3.5% during the same period. Xanthan gum use in food products
is predicted to grow about 11% (on volume basis) between 1988-1995.
These predictions concern the market in West-Europe.
However, the demand for gum Arabic and
for hydrocolloids in general varies significantly between food and
non-food applications and, in the food industry, between sectors
and individual product groups within a sector. Also the demand varies
from country to country and this complicates the evaluation of current
and forecast demand.
2.5. Applications and uses
In food products gum Arabic is used as a functional ingredient,
which means that the typical functions of gum Arabic are:
• flavoring agent
• surface-finishing agent
• retards sugar crystallization
In addition gum Arabic has water solubility,
is insoluble in alcohols and forms colorless, tasteless solutions.
The food applications of gum Arabic have been developed from its
unequaled combination of properties. Emulsification, acid stability,
low viscosity at high concentration, adhesive and binding properties
and good mouthfeel characteristics have been used in five main food
areas (worldwide) in descending order of importance:
• beverages and emulsions
• flavor encapsulation
• bakery products
3. Market overview
Characteristics of demand
It is stated by importers that the major
factors affecting demand are price and supply fluctuations. Growing
consumption of products that include gum Arabic would also have
a positive effect on demand. Since 1991 cold weather, foliage attack
by locusts and changes in export duties (in Sudan) on gum Arabic
have reduced exudation and gum supplies coming to market. Also in
1993 much of the price increase was a direct result of an effort
within the Sudan to privatize the gum Arabic industry, a move that
led to both hoarding and reduced procurement of the gum. Another
cause of concern for importers has been the erratic nature of the
Sudanese supply. Although the Sudan is the major gum Arabic producer
in the world..
This effect of the problems concerning
the Sudanese gum Arabic can be seen in the following figures of
gum Arabic SPOT prices. The SPOT prices include list prices of suppliers
either on a New York or producing shipping point basis. The quotations
are based on prices reported in the market or obtained from suppliers
and other sources. They do not necessarily represent prices at which
transactions have actually occurred. They do however give a good
overview of the price development. Also the price for crude gum
Arabic would be expected to be a little lower than for processed
Table 2. SPOT prices for powdered and
spray dried gum Arabic June 1990-April 1994 in $US per kg.
6/90 12/90 6/91 12/91 6/92 12/92 6/93 12/93 4/94
Powder High 3.63 4.41 3.96 3.96 8.26 7.05 7.16 8.81 6.72
Low 3.41 3.63 3.63 3.63 7.71 NA 7.05 NA 6.06
Spray dried High 5.07 7.71 4.52 4.52 8.81 7.71 8.23 10.46 8.23
Low 4.19 4.30 4.30 4.30 8.26 NA 7.71 NA 7.27
Source: Journal of Commerce June 1990-April 1994.
The effect of supply shortage after the poor growing season of 1991\92
can be clearly seen in the price fluctuation.
3.2. The US market
The US market shows a decline in total imports after 1990. However,
with a product with an extended shelf-life this kind of trend should
be considered normal and not alarming. Also the estimate for 1994,
shows a significant growth in imports. The value of total gum Arabic
imports follows the same path. No estimate for the total value of
gum Arabic imports in 1994 was made. The value ($US 1000)/metric
tonne shows a slight increase from 2.90 to 3.11 from 1989 to 1993.
The import totals by quantity fluctuate with the value ($US 1000)/metric
tonne. The lower the price the more is imported and vice versa.
Table 3. US total imports of gum Arabic
by quantity and value 1989- 1994.
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994*
metric tonnes 6 250 9 304 8 273 5 802 5 508 7 500
$US millions 18.4 16.4 20.0 18.2 17.1 NA
$US 1000/tonne 2.90 1.76 2.42 3.14 3.11 NA
*Estimate based on supplier survey.
Source: National Trade Data Bank.
Department of Commerce.
The two most important exporters to the
US since 1989 have been Sudan and France. These two countries have
dominated the trade with a market share of 85-95%. France mostly
re-exports processed gum Arabic after exporting crude gum Arabic
mainly from African producing countries. United Kingdom holds the
third place with a 3-4% share of the market (see appendices). As
stated previously, the US imports mostly processed gum Arabic from
3.3. The EU market
The European market, measured in both quantity and value, is 3-4
times bigger than the US market. Similar to the US market, a declining
trend after 1991 can be seen. However, it is to be noted that growth
should occur in 1994. The value of total EU imports do not seem
to have declined as sharply as the US imports. The EU market value
was originally expressed in ECU and since the dollar has weakened
this will explain some of the difference. All in all, the EU and
the US markets seem to follow the same kind of trend.
Table 4. EU import totals of gum Arabic
by quantity and value 1990- 1993.
1990 1991 1992 1993
metric tonnes 27 631 32 118 27 387 23 202
$US millions 65.9 75.8 78.9 75.7
Source: EUROSTAT. Monthly EU External
The most important European importers
are France, United Kingdom and Germany. Together they import over
70% of gum Arabic to Europe. As was noted earlier France and United
Kingdom are also the major exporters to the US. The major exporters
are Sudan and Nigeria who are responsible for 60-70% of the gum
Arabic exported to Europe. Chad, Cameroon and Mexico are also important
exporters with a combined market share of a little over 20%.
4. Opportunities and threats gum Arabic
The two natural disadvantages of gum Arabic are (1)their irregularity
of supply and consequently wide fluctuating prices, and (2)availability
of close substitutes. Also inconsistency in quality can be seen
as yet another threat. Substitutes such as modified starches, other
gums and biosynthetic polysaccharides also threaten the market for
Health conscious consumers demand natural
ingredients and this offers gum Arabic tremendous potential. The
particular properties of gum Arabic have been identified and utilized
in food applications over many years. The use of gum Arabic can
not be totally substituted by the use of other gums or starches
because they do not perform the same functions. Gum Arabic has a
long, safe history of use in foods and recent toxicological data
has been assessed and approved.
The market data indicates that the European
market would be easier to penetrate than the US market for exporting
crude gum Arabic. This assumption is based on the fact that 40%
of the gum Arabic imported to the US is processed. The US market
is dominated by Sudan and France with a combined market share of
over 90%. On the other hand the top five exporters have roughly
an 80-85% market share of the EU market.
Table 5. Opportunities and threats for
• Gum Arabic is the oldest and best known gum.
More than 1000 species and sub-species of the Acacia tree, that
exude gum, exist.
• Variations in quality exist.
• Has been a major ingredient in the food industry
for many years.
• Subject to climatic changes, insect attacks.
• No cartel exists, numerous producers/exporters
in the world.
• Other gums or starches can not totally substitute
gum Arabic because they do not perform the same functions.
• Irregularity of supply and consequently wide
• Demand for natural ingredients by health conscious
• Gum Arabic has a long, safe history of use in
foods, recent toxicological data has been assessed and approved.
• Advantages for food applications of gum Arabic:
emulsification, acid stability, low viscosity at high concentration,
adhesive and binding properties, good mouthfeel.
• The market for use in non-food products predicted
to grow ~ 4% by 1997 in Europe.