Beneo invests US$56m in rice starch facility to increase production capacity

BELGIUM – Beneo, a functional ingredients company, has announced a US$56 million investment into its Wijgmaal rice starch facility, which it claims will see production capacity increase by 50%.

Located in Belgium, the Wijgmaal plant will see the addition of a new production line which Beneo says will cater to the rising customer demand for its rice starches.

The company claims that its trials have shown that clean label rice starch can play an important role in applications such as baked goods, confectionery, sauces and dressings.

Beneo will install a third dryer and dewatering line that will reduce bottlenecks and increase efficiency. The second phase will involve the front end of the production process, starting with soaking and going through to the separation of the starch from the proteins in the vaporization step.

“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 ingredients 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.”

Rice starch may fill all the micropores on the surface of coatings because of its very fine particle size, according to Beneo. This smoothing effect, when used in confectionery manufacturing, ensures a stable result where edges do not crack or splinter.

Rice starch also may replace titanium dioxide since it helps preserve a brilliant white color for months. Beneo technical trials have shown rice starch plays a role in a variety of applications, including baked foods and products that undergo severe processing conditions like sauces and dressings.

Since January 2020, titanium dioxide, which is used to fill microscopic irregularities in coatings, is no longer permitted for use in food products in France. Beneo says there are expectations that other EU markets may follow the country in banning the additive.

The investment consists of a two-stage expansion process valued at US$56 million and will reportedly lead to increased capacity by March 2022. The first phase of the investment will include the installation of a third drier and dewatering line, which will allow the company to reduce bottlenecks and further increase efficiency.

In recent years, Beneo has invested in the docking station at its Wijgmaal plant enabling two-thirds of its rice raw material to be 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 neighbourhood,” added Vanhoegaerden.

During the course of the expansion, 20 full-time positions will be created, adding to the current 180 people working at the factory.

The recent investment closely follows Beneo’s announcement to US$56 million to expand the production of chicory root fibre at its factory in Chile.

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