Santiago-headquartered Gelymar is the largest global producer of cold water carrageenans, supplying texturizing hydrocolloids made from carrageenan, alginates and vegetable fibers worldwide. Latin America accounts for around half of its sales.
Andres Hohlberg, who has been CEO of the company for the past 26 years, told FoodNavigator-LATAM Chile is "a privileged country with a high diversity and richness in terms of seaweed".
"The Humboldt current flows in the pristine cold waters of the Chilean coast and provides favorable conditions that stimulate and protect the marine biomass as well as being a protection against climate change," he said.
Gelymar says the environment in which Chilean seaweed grows give it “unique” functional properties that are not found in seaweed sourced elsewhere, such as Lambda carrageenan extract or KII carrageenan.
“Kappa II carrageenan obtained from Chilean seaweed possesses distinctive functional properties that are beneficial for its applications: it has high reactivity with all types of proteins, high tolerance to the presence of cations and higher water retention capacity than Kappa I, among others."
R&D: ‘We’re developing a completely new apple fiber product range’
The company’s R&D efforts are currently focusing on finding new functionalities of carrageenan and apple fiber.
"Innovation on hydrocolloids is the core of our business [and] we face functional challenges every day. Texture is a subjective attribute that is influenced by the cultural background of an individual.”
Currently, our efforts are concentrated on new carrageenan extracts to reach specific functionalities in the nutraceutical industry.
"[We are] optimizing our alginate product range for pharma applications and developing a completely new product range based on apple fiber to broaden even more our texture spectrum.”
Gelymar is also aiming to be a certified Responsible Sourcing supplier under SMETA (Sedex) by 2020 and to have ISO 20400 on Sustainable Procurement by 2021.
According to Hohlberg, adhering to sustainability guidelines will ensure its portfolio is in line with what consumers are looking for in processed food ingredients.
“’Next generation’ hydrocolloids [must be] natural, unique and sustainable,” he said. “These are the three pillars that will dominate the hydrocolloids industry in the future.”
“We wanted to demonstrate our corporate social responsibility through one of the most recognized standards,” Hohlberg said. “We were looking for a way to certify our commitment to sustainability and checked all the applicable regulations.”
It considered the certification standard and front-of-pack logo launched in 2017 by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) but decided this was less suitable for its operations.
“It [turned out to be] difficult to apply to our supply scheme because our raw material is purchased from a significant number of fishermen, from very different geographical origins [that are] sometimes very difficult to assess. That’s why we decided to go for ISO 20400 on Sustainable Procurement.”
ISO 20400 is not a certification standard but a set of voluntary guidelines on sustainable sourcing developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Gelymar said it has already identified several aspects it must improve in order to comply with the guidelines.
“Among the most relevant gaps, we need to work more on identify the requirements of our customers in relation to the business practices. We need to set a system to report in a confidential way and to treat the accusations of bad practices. Our company has not a certification for its environmental management system.”
Since 2015, Gelymar has supplied alginates and carrageenans to European markets through a strategic tie-up with French group Algaia. On the back of this collaborative success, both companies recently announced a joint commercialization channel in the US, marketing products through the US distributor, AIDP.