Malaysian palm oil producers should focus on developing palm phytonutrient-based products, which have attracted good demand in the global nutraceuticals market.
The proven scientific health benefits of palm phytonutrients, such as tocotrienols and carotenoids, augur well for growing health awareness and food safety concerns. More consumers and manufacturers are now looking for natural products that are free of preservatives and genetically modified organisms.
Hovid Bhd managing director David Ho said demand for palm phytonutrients in the nutraceutical segment is increasing but is still in its infancy.
The global tocotrienols (mainly palm tocotrienols) market was an estimated 45-55 tonnes in 2015. However, it is projected to grow by about 8-12% over the next three years, to about 70-80 tonnes (worth US$28-32 million).
This is in contrast to the conventional Vitamin E alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene markets, which are already well developed.
Global consumption of tocopherols stood at an estimated 10,900 tonnes in 2013, compared to 10,300 tonnes in 2012. By 2020, the volume is projected to grow to 18,100 tonnes, thereby generating a compounded annual growth rate of 7.3% between 2012 and 2020.
Ho said: “These numbers show a significant potential for palm tocotrienols provided that hurdles such as regulatory approval, clinical studies and consumer awareness are addressed immediately.”
Carotino Sdn Bhd executive director UR Unnithan said the health properties of palm phytonutrients are unique. Crude palm oil (CPO) and refined red palm oil (RPO) are the richest sources of natural carotenoids.
He said the invention of a patented process for refining CPO to RPO based on pioneering work by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) – and commercialised by Carotino Group in the early 1990s – had led to the extraction of palm phytonutrients.
Today, natural palm carotenes in 20% and 30% concentration, and palm tocotrienols in 50%, 70% and 92% concentrations, are sold in the main markets including the US, Japan and the European Union.
Last year, the global nutraceutical market was estimated at a value of US$182.6 billion. This is expected to rise to US$278.96 billion by 2021.