Oleochemicals are emerging as a popular alternative to petrochemicals. While petrochemicals are derived from limited resources of petroleum, oleochemicals are derived from plant and animal fats and are thus more accessible, biodegradable, environment-friendly, and economical.
By means of diverse chemical and enzymatic reactions, the feedstock is converted into basic oleochemical substances such as fatty acids, fatty alcohols, fatty amines, and glycerols. The raw materials for oleochemical synthesis include vegetable oil, soybean oil, linseed oil, castor oil, animal oils, animal fats, and petrochemical feedstock.
An effective substitute for many petroleum-based products, oleochemicals are widely used in food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, soap, laundry detergent, candles, waxes, lubricant, and paints. In comparison to petrochemicals, oleochemicals have lower toxicity levels. The oleochemical industry outlook is positive as the global market is oversupplied with 3 MMT (million metric tonnes) of alcohols and fatty acids, encouraging wider applications of oleochemicals and further replacement of petrochemicals.
Oleochemicals in Food Industry
Oleochemicals are in great demand in the food industry and are used in a variety of products, ranging from breads and confectionaries to cooking oils and margarine, and in food processing. In addition, oleochemicals are used as nutritional supplements due to their health benefits.
The food industry is growing at a rapid pace to match the demands for nutrition enriched, easy to prepare foods, which are met by the use of oleochemicals, especially those from natural raw materials. Not only do oleochemicals in food enrich the nutrition value, but they also improve the taste, and extend the life of food products.
A hectic lifestyle has become the norm for people around the world, and people often turn to processed food as a quick solution to hunger pangs. Food processing by use of preservatives, however, may not be ideal to maintain optimum health, in which case food processed by oleochemicals gives a healthier alternative.
As people become more health conscious, it’s necessary for the highly competitive food industry to innovate with the use of healthier chemicals such as oleochemicals to develop food products that are healthy and quick. Effective food processing also expands the consumer base for sellers as the food can be sold across a wider demographic with a later expiration date.
Biodegradable and Sustainable
A marked awareness of the environment and stringent regulations on the part of governments, manufacturers, and consumers worldwide has led to an active preference for biodegradable products. Since the food industry has a massive production turnover and generates large amounts of waste, it becomes even more important to opt for biodegradable products, such as oleochemicals.
In addition, as oleochemicals are derived from plant and animal sources, they are a sustainable resource as compared to petroleum-based chemicals which have a limited supply. Already, the global market for oleochemicals is oversupplied, and even if the demand grows, the supply chain can be refurbished. Oleochemicals can also be generated anywhere in the world, without restrictions of location based on raw material supplies.
Oleochemicals are a useful alternative to petrochemicals and are used across various industries with more applications yet to be discovered. However, the surging demands from the food industry can be considered to be driving the oleochemicals market. The large-scale implementation of oleochemicals and the variety of roles they play have made the food industry an important driving force in the field of oleochemicals.