Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Corporate Member Blog Post Series: Corbion

Hello and welcome to the next addition to our new series, “AOCS Corporate Member Spotlights”!

AOCS is choosing different corporate members to feature to help us learn more about their company and what they do to improve the science and technology of oils, fats, surfactants and more!

This week, Sterling Bollman, the head of Advertising and Sponsorship Sales at AOCS, talked with Jim Robertson, the Commercial Director of the Emulsifier Business Unit of Corbion, a company based globally in Amsterdam and Lenexa, Kansas, USA. In this conversation, AOCS learned about innovations Corbion has developed and what really sets them apart from their competitors. So, please enjoy our next installment in the Corporate Member Spotlight series and learn more about Corbion.

Hello Jim and thanks for agreeing to be the next installment of our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight series. Let’s start this off with the basics. What types of products and services does Corbion provide?

Of course! We’re always excited to help people learn more about what we do. In addition to being the global market leader in lactic acid and its derivatives and a leading provider of sustainable preservation solutions, Corbion offers a diverse emulsifier portfolio using a range of fat and oil sources to help us deliver the specific functionalities in both food and non-food applications. Our functional blends of emulsifiers and complimentary ingredients provide solutions that are both synergistic and convenient. Our emulsifiers and surfactants, along with achieving consistency and efficiency in food applications, also allow the creation of personal care products with fewer ingredients that are non-toxic, non-irritating to the eyes and skin and easy to incorporate into formulations.

Thanks for that background information. Now, there are other companies that specialize in emulsifiers around. What differentiates Corbion from your competitors in the same field?

For starters, few companies have the kind of heritage in emulsifier technologies that Corbion has; in fact, we invented lactylates in the early 1950s, commercialized hydrated monoglycerides and developed award-winning Trancendim® crystal modifiers. Perhaps most important, however, is the way Corbion has used that heritage to provide leadership in the industry, as we did by proactively moving to eliminate all partially hydrogenated oils from our product portfolio before most others did. We have also helped lead the effort to drive sustainability improvements throughout the value chain because it is the right thing to do for the industry and the planet. As an industry leader, we have resisted the temptation to rest on our laurels; we have continually invested in research to keep the leading edge of emulsification technologies moving forward.

That’s interesting and good to know Corbion is such a leader in its field! With how much emphasis you put on staying on top, there’s bound to be some innovations coming from your company. What are some recent innovations you and Corbion are proud of? 

There are three major innovations that come to mind when thinking of what I’m proud we offer at Corbion.
  • While our Trancendim® emulsifiers are hardly new, they do play a big part in the ongoing innovation taking place around the world as companies use them to solve the challenges that come with removing trans fats from food products. This lipid structuring system also helps them reduce saturated fat content and increase throughout the manufacturing of margarines and shortenings As more countries make the move to create healthier diets, our crystal modifiers continue to be an important enabler of those innovations. 
  • When the FDA set a June 2018 deadline for the removal of all PHOs, Corbion beat that deadline by nearly a year and a half. We chose to lead the transition, developing and launching a complete, non-PHO portfolio of emulsifier solutions and giving its customers greater confidence and more time to make the transition themselves. 
  • Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Corbion and our emulsifier platform is no exception. We’ve been members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil since 2005 and are part of the North American Sustainable Palm Oil Network, helping drive the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the value chain. As of 2020, all Corbion products containing palm oil and its derivatives are RSPO Mass Balance Certified. The company also earned a 2019 Gold Sustainability rating by Ecovadis and was in the top three percent of all suppliers assessed worldwide in its sector. 
It seems like Corbion is really at the top of its field and prepared for any changes throughout the market, which leads me to my next question. How has the COVID-19 situation affected your company?

In terms of impact on our ability to supply our customers, the effects of the pandemic have been extremely minimal thankfully; however, that has come through a great deal of work on our part. Throughout the crisis, we have continually monitored the situation, staying in constant communication with our suppliers to anticipate possible supply issues and planning contingencies if any supplier would be unable to deliver on our agreements. But, as a global ingredient solutions provider, we have always taken a global view of our sourcing strategy. In the case of COVID-19, it has simply been a matter of staying on top of where the impacts have been on the rise and ensuring we have qualified alternative suppliers in regions dealing with less risk.
Still, there have been many challenges, such as keeping our employees safe and healthy, which is always a top priority. Travel bans have made it difficult to provide the level of technical services our customers are accustomed to and planning has been extremely difficult, given the unforeseen spikes in demand or the canceled orders when our customers have had to shut down due to infections in their plants. Historical data simply does not apply when navigating uncharted territory such as this. Our flexibility, agility and non-traditional ways of interacting with our customers have been critical in responding quickly to an ever-evolving pandemic environment.

With so much uncertainty floating around, what do you foresee being some challenges for Corbion in the next year?

The clean-label movement continues to be a challenge for us in our emulsifiers business, despite the value and benefits we can deliver through those solutions. Right or wrong, consumer perceptions of emulsifiers as something they should avoid for health reasons continue to prevent growth in that market. However, every challenge presents and opportunity and this is no different. Corbion is well-positioned to support our customers with other platforms such as enzyme solutions and other clean-label technologies.  Our functionality systems and high-value blending capabilities also contribute to strengthening our clean-label portfolio, move into new categories and expand geographically.

Well, Jim, this has been an enlightening conversation and I have learned so much more about Corbion and what your company provides. Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule! I have one more question before we wrap things up. Why is being an AOCS Corporate Member important to Corbion?

Sustainability and innovation are at the heart of what we do at Corbion. The only way for us to continue finding better, more sustainable solutions to the world’s challenges is to remain committed to ongoing research and innovation. I think I speak for everyone when I say the fastest way to innovate is to partner with the right minds. We need to collaborate, share insights and blend areas of expertise in ways that create breakthroughs. We must stay open to learning from one another and the AOCS community is one that time and again, helps to facilitate that openness.

Thanks for reading thanks to Jim Robertson and his colleagues at Corbion for taking part in our AOCS Corporate Member Spotlight Series. Make sure to visit their website and connect with them on LinkedIn! Join us next time to see who we feature next!

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