Beneo, a manufacturer of functional ingredients for private brand and branded manufacturers, has increased its production capability by 50% in its Wijgmaal, Belgium facility, responding to a rise in demand for rice starches. The two-stage expansion is valued at a $56 million improvement and be ready by March.
The producer, based in Parsippany, N.J., said there’s a growing demand for natural and clean label products in the Americas and Europe, particularly with the production of rice for confectionery manufacturers, since it’s widely recognized as a natural starch for those clean label candies.
Rice starch is capable of filling up all of the micropores on the surface of coatings due to its very fine particle size, providing a “smoothing effect” that confectionery manufacturers can leverage during the production process for a no-crack or splintered look.
“We fundamentally believe in the value of this investment with demand for rice starch coming from both natural and organic growth, as well as from new projects and applications,” said Roland Vanhoegaerden, operations managing director, specialty rice at Beneo. “One of the key reasons for our confidence is the ‘clean label’ trend, where food manufacturers are moving away from artificial additives and replacing them with natural alternatives, such as rice starch.”
Technical trials by Beneo have demonstrated that clean label rice starch can also play an important role in other applications like baked goods, sauces and dressings, and pet food.
The Wijgmaal plant has been around for 160 years, and BENEO has been significantly investing in the facility in recent years to satisfy sustainability requirements. A recent investment into its docking station means that the company can now accept two barges at its plant, rather than one. As a result, two-thirds of rice raw material is now received by barge and just one-third by truck.
“The impact is on cost saving, but also on the environment, due to lower carbon emissions and a reduction in traffic. Our factory is in the middle of an urban area and by increasing barge use we can reduce congestion and noise levels in the neighborhood,” Vanhoegaerden said.
Rice starch production consists of several phases: rice cleaning, soaking, milling, sieving, separation, dewatering, and finally, drying. Beneo’s investment at the Wijgmaal facilities will increase the number of production lines from two to three. The first phase of the investment will take place at the tail-end of the production process for existing lines. The installation of a third drier and dewatering line allows the company to reduce bottlenecks and further increase efficiency. The second expansion phase will involve the front-end of the production process, starting from soaking through to the separation of the starch from the proteins in the valorization step.
The facility, which currently employs 180 people, will add up to 20 full-time positions during the course of the expansion.