The Business of Palm Oil-Based Vitamins A & E Have a Great Potential
Currently, the utilization of palm oil and biomass/waste through three downstream channels, namely oleofood, oleochemical, and biofuel, has quite rapid development. However, along with continuous research innovation, it has succeeded in revealing other potentials contained in oil palm plants. One of them is the potential for phytochemical or phytonutrients contained in palm oil.
Many empirical studies that have been tested both nationally and internationally state that palm oil is a source of vitamin A and vitamin E. The beta carotene content in palm oil (CPO) is quite high, which is around 6700 μg retinol eq/100g edible portion, which have a role as a precursor to vitamin A in the body. This makes palm oil as the largest source of Vitamin A compared to carrots, oranges, bananas, and tomatoes.
Palm oil also contains Alpha-tocopherol or vitamin E reaching 1,172 ppm or higher than other vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil. And most of them consists of Tocotrienols, which can only be found in certain plant sources such as cereals crops.
The great potential of vitamin A and vitamin E contains in palm oil can be used as consumer products that have higher utility and economic value such as health products (supplements), food and beverage products as well as in cosmetic and personal care products. Various product market analysis institutes also show global market projection data in 2024 for vitamin A of USD 900 million and vitamin E to reach USD 2.14 billion.
The market potential for these products is expected to be even brighter, considering that the latest consumer trend for natural products (such as palm oil-based vitamins A and E) is being popular as an implication of the increasing consumer awareness of health. Moreover, the current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic which has made global consumers more concerned about their health is also a huge market potential for these natural vitamin A and E products from palm oil. However, the market potential for this product has not been touched by industry in Indonesia. Even though this country is the largest palm oil producer in the world.
In a webinar initiated by Agrina in December 2020, one of the speakers, Rapolo Hutabarat from the Indonesian Oleochemical Producers Association (APOLIN), explained that the volume of palm oil produced by Indonesian plantations which are around 45 million tons of CPO/year are saving very large potential of raw materials for vitamin A and E, which is around 13.5 thousand-22.5 thousand tons of beta carotene (for a content of 300-500 ppm) and around 27-45 thousand tons of Tocopherol (for a content of 600-800 ppm).
With this great potential, Indonesia also loses economic value due to the domestic industry’s untapped extraction of the two phytonutrients, which is USD 4.7 billion-USD 7.8 billion for Beta carotene and USD 2.7 billion-USD 4.5 billion for Tocopherol, where the price for natural carotenoid is USD 350/kg and natural tocopherol is USD 100/kg.
The large economic potential from the extraction of the two phytonutrients contained in palm oil is expected to be a stimulus for the domestic industry to develop vitamin A products based on beta carotene contains in palm oil and vitamin E products based on tocopherol contains in palm oil. Besides that, the development of these products also expected to be able can fulfill the domestic needs, which have been most of them sourced from imports.
Actually, the potential of palm oil to produce vitamin has been a topic discussed among palm oil stakeholders, both business actors, researchers, and the government. However, this discussion has yet to be realized. One of the inhibiting factors for the development of the palm oil-based phytonutrients industry is extraction technology.
In the Agrina Webinar, Prof. Nuri Andarwulan, explained the various phytonutrient extraction methods from palm oil. These extraction methods are preceded by a pretreatment method which is divided into: dilution method, transesterification method, saponification method, and hydrolysis method. After doing the pretreatment method, the extraction method is carried out which is divided into: Membrane Process, Molecular Destillation, Adsorption, Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE), Solvent Extraction, Solvolytic Micellization, Emulsion Liquid Membrane (ELM), and Integration and Combination of Extraction Methods.
At the end of his presentation, a lecturer in Food Science and Technology of IPB and she also as researchers at the SEAFAST institute concluded that in choosing an extraction method it is important to understand the characteristics of phytonutrients that are adjusted to the selection of appropriate extraction techniques by considering factors such as capital and utility costs, chemical toxicity, length of extraction, environmental impact, and scalability of operations.
If we compared to Malaysia as a competitor country, Indonesia is too late to developing an industry that produces phytonutrient products from palm oil. Malaysia with Excelvite as one of companies that has been producing palm nutraceutical products in the form of Tocotrienol (vitamin E) and mixed carotene from Virgin Crude Red Palm Oil since 2013.
However, as the the foreign proverb says, “Better Late Than Never”, which is this proverb is very suitable to motivate government, business actors, and others stakeholder to developing of the palm oil-based phytonutrients industry in Indonesia. Therefore to encourage this industry, one of which require support from Indonesian governement in the form of policies and funding incentives to downstream industries that produce palm oil-based vitamin A and E products.
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