Alginate is a polysaccharide, anionic in nature, found in cell walls of brown algae. In cell walls of brown algae alginates form a viscous gum through binding with water. The compound is a linear copolymer with covalently linked homopolymeric blocks of 1-4-β-D-mannuronate and its C5 epimer α-L-guluronate residues. When alginates are extracted it is capable of absorbing water quickly in amount of 200–300 times of its own weight in water. In commercial market alginates are sold in granular, filamentous or powdered forms.
The major commercially available derivatives of alginates are generally sodium, calcium or potassium salt of the compound derived naturally (sodium alginate is extracted in gum form from cell walls of brown algae and potassium alginate is extracted from seaweed) or synthetically by replacement reaction (calcium alginates are produced by replacing sodium salt with calcium salt in sodium alginates). PGA and other salts (zinc, magnesium, ammonium, etc.) of alginates are also used in various applications.
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Alginates & derivatives find applications in various end-user industries. In industrial sectors the compound is used as additives in dehydrated products like slimming aids and for producing paper & textiles as it absorbs water in faster rate. The compounds are also used as waterproofing & fireproofing agent, gelling agent and thickener in personal care and food & beverage industry. In pharmaceutical sectors alginates are used in pharmaceutical formulations. Alginates & derivatives are predominantly used as impression making material in prosthetics, dentistry, lifecasting, etc. Alginates & derivatives are also used for various research purposes and tests due to its water absorbing characteristics. In cosmetics industry alginates & derivatives are used as thickening agent to manufacture lotions, creams, etc.
Alginates & derivatives are low volume high value chemical compounds catering to commodity end markets. As demand of alginates & derivatives is directly dependent on high volume and commodity market and the supply is comparatively limited because of low volume production from natural sources, its price is expected to be at higher side, especially from manufacturers in developed regions such as North America and Europe. In price sensitive but developing regions such as Asia Pacific and Middle East, demand of alginates & derivatives is lower in comparison to demand in developed regions. Higher price may also act as a constraint for growth in alginates & derivatives market in Asia Pacific and Europe.
Global alginates & derivatives market is primarily dominated by developed regions such as Europe and North America. North America has largest share in global alginates & derivatives market followed by Europe. On the other hand, producers of alginates & derivatives in Asia Pacific and Middle East regions are more focusing on developed markets such as Europe and North America to sell their products in a cheaper price and capture a major portion of that market.
Alginates & derivatives market in North America and Europe are growing at a modest rate in comparison to demand in Asia Pacific and Middle East. This is mainly because of matured industrial sectors in those regions. The textile and food & beverage industries are main end-markets for alginates & derivatives and are expected to act as primary growth drivers for its demand in developed as well as developing regions. Food processing industries and huge potential of alginates & derivatives to be used in those industries are expected to act as most important growth drivers in Asia Pacific region. Asia Pacific region is projected to have faster growth rate than developed regions in future once this industry is explored.
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Some of the major companies involved in the alginates & derivatives market are Cargill Inc. (USA), DuPont (USA), FMC BioPolymer (USA), KIMICA Corporation (Japan), Mytech, Inc. (USA), Shandong Jiejing Group Corporation (China), SNAP Natural & Alginate Products Pvt. Ltd. (India), SNP, Inc. (USA), etc.
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