New analysis from Frost & Sullivan forecasts that US demand for antimicrobials -- chemicals used to wash equipment and foods to ensure they are free of food borne pathogens -- will reach $215.8m in 2012, from $161.7m in 2005.
Increased food safety regulations and the cost of recalls due to contaminated foods are driving processors to search for better solutions to reduce pathogens in their plants. The market segments demanding more and more antimicrobials include dairy, bakery, beverages, and meat processors.
"In the wake of changing lifestyles, modern-day time-starved consumers are on a constant look out for convenience foods that are safe for consumption over a long storage period," Frost & Sullivan stated in a new report. "This has heightened the role of shelf-life extenders such as antimicrobials in ensuring food safety, thereby driving growth in the US food antimicrobials market."
Overall, the well-demonstrated functional efficacy, improved delivery methods, competitive pricing, as well as the increasing introduction of value-added products and services are trends driving the growth in the use of antimicrobials.
In addition to the continuous demand for food with extended shelf life, rebounding food production is also serving to further the demand for antimicrobials, the analyst stated. The demand for novel and value-added foods, such as sausages, low-carb foods, and functional drinks, is also driving the growth.
The shipment of food products suffered a decline in recent years but is likely to register significant advances through 2009, the analyst stated,
"The market for antimicrobials in the United States remains dynamic and the overall increase in food production along with the rising number and variety of processed foods in the market is likely to have a high positive impact throughout the forecast period of 2006-2012," stated Frost & Sullivan research analyst Sangeetha Srinivasan. "Additional drivers include the rebounding growth of convenience food, which is likely to exert a high impact in the short term and medium impact in the long term."
A growing preference for foods free of additives is likely to be a significant challenge for suppliers, the analyst noted.
In keeping with such consumer preferences, food manufacturers are beginning to focus on the 'clean label' to better market their products. The 'clean label' clause clearly restricts the use of chemical additives, thus hindering the growth of the synthetic antimicrobials market.
"In catering to the growing preference for additive-free natural foods, food manufacturers are exploring the use of newer processing and preservation technologies such as ohmic heating, high-pressure, pulsed electric field, bright light, and aseptic processing that can limit the application of synthetic antimicrobials," stated Srinivasan.
However, these trends are creating new market opportunities for natural antimicrobials, such as nicin and natamycin, whose application scope is gradually extending to areas such as baked, meat, and convenience food products.
"Despite the challenges, the global distribution pattern of food, the upsurge in the growth of the processed convenience food market, and increasing food safety concerns with the outbreak of the mad cow disease and the avian flu, are making the use of antimicrobials imperative in the food industry," Srinivasan stated.
He suggests that processors and suppliers should undertake awareness programs to educate consumers on the importance of adding synthetic antimicrobials to food products. A meticulous evaluation of the safety of antimicrobials and outlining the risk of food poisoning in the absence of preservatives will all help strengthen consumer confidence, he said.