Photo: Ulrik Jantzen

Citrus peel to ensure healthy stomachs

Friday 07 Apr 17
by Morten Andersen

CP Kelco

CP Kelco is headquartered in Lille Skensved on Zealand. The company produces two types of ingredients which are primarily used to improve the texture of food and other products. Pectin is produced from citrus fruit peel, while carrageenan is extracted from red algae. The company has research and development activities in Denmark, the USA, and Finland and production facilities in many places around the world, including in Lille Skensved. A total of approx. 340 people are employed with the company in Denmark. CP Kelco is a subsidiary of the American company J.M. Huber.

BIOPRO—a biotechnological initiative

Established in 2013, the Biopro collaboration is intended to boost Denmark’s strong position in the field of biotechnological production. DTU and the University of Copenhagen are academic participants, while the industry is represented by several companies, including Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, DONG Energy, CP Kelco, and Chr. Hansen. The collaboration is supported by Capnova, Region Zealand, Innovation Fund Denmark, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as the participants.

Recently, Biopro succeeded in raising DKK 128 million, thus ensuring continued collaboration up to and including 2019. Biopro aims to generate eight new enterprises and around 100-200 new jobs over the coming years.

@ Krist Gernaey, Professor, DTU Chemical Engineering,

CP Kelco is a leading international supplier of gelling agents for foods. Focus has now shifted towards the health benefits of the ingredients

CP Kelco, based in Lille Skensved on Zealand, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of pectin which is a complex sugar compound extracted from especially citrus fruit peel. Pectin is primarily used as a gelling agent in a wide range of foods. CP Kelco is owned by the American company J.M. Huber.

“J.M. Huber’s management is aware that there’s a unique environment in Denmark due to our close collaboration with universities and other companies. It’s an important argument for maintaining development activities in Denmark. The development work leads to new processes and products which strengthen and develop our production facilities. These unique networks thus contribute to creating and safeguarding Danish jobs—not only in the development department, but also in production,” says Karin Meyer Hansen, Senior Manager for Product & Analytical Method Development at CP Kelco.

Among others, CP Kelco collaborates with Biopro, which has partnered up with DTU, the University of Copenhagen, and five different companies.

“In addition to the direct research collaboration, the universities play an important role acting as a link between the companies,” says Karin Meyer Hansen.

“When we participate in projects together with the universities, other industry partners are often also involved. This provides a good network which can be built on.”

Ingredients improve animal welfare

The Biopro collaboration also benefits the company’s recruitment,” explains Karin Meyer Hansen:

“The pharmaceutical industry attracts a lot of attention among new graduates, while it’s less known that the ingredients industry also offers many exciting jobs. We would especially like to attract more engineers. In this connection, it’s valuable to us that we can promote ourselves through Biopro and other partnerships.”

In addition to pectin, CP Kelco produces another sugar compound, carrageenan, which is extracted from red algae. Just like pectin, carrageenan is used as an ingredient in foods and other products to ensure the right texture. The company is now taking a new direction by extending the scope of application of its products.

“Studies have been published which indicate that certain fibres may have a positive effect on the intestinal flora in animals and humans. In connection with animals, this means that better use is made of the feed. It ensures a higher level of growth, while also preventing diarrhoea or other digestive disorders. Especially pectin appears to have a positive effect. We think it’s worth examining in more detail,” says Karin Meyer Hansen.

Reaches out to universities

CP Kelco’s ambitions are part of a global trend—that ingredients are not only assessed based on their functional properties, but also to a large degree on their health value. However, there’s a lot of work to do first,” says Karin Meyer Hansen:

“We wish to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the health benefits. Primarily to give our customers the best and most well-documented description possible of our products, but also because it will probably allow us to adapt our products, so they will have an even more significant effect. Our main focus is to modify pectin and carrageenan to meet the demands of the food industry in terms of use. When the substances are used for new purposes, they are likely to require different structures.”

"J.M. Huber’s management is aware that there’s a unique environment in Denmark due to our close collaboration with universities and other companies. "
Karin Meyer Hansen, CP Kelco

Health-promoting ingredients for animal feed are most relevant, says Karin Meyer Hansen, adding:

“In the long term, human nutrition will certainly also be of interest. In future, we may be able to develop products particularly suitable for food intended for specific groups of people, such as the elderly, children, athletes, etc. Requirements in relation to both food texture and other effects on the digestive process will vary from one group to another.”

The new focus on health and animal welfare is an example of work requiring external collaboration,” says Karin Meyer Hansen:

“The functional properties are our core competence. We don’t have the laboratories needed to perform nutrition tests etc. That’s why we’re dependant on our collaboration with universities and with other companies.”

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