Wacker expands production and R&D capacities in China

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10 Nov 2017 --- Wacker Chemie AG is set to expand its production capacities in China and continue to reinforce its research and development capability in order to further strengthen its market position in the region. 

Karen Yang, Director Food Ingredients Wacker Greater China told FoodIngredientsFirst: “The Chinese food market is one of the most dynamic markets in the region. With our local food laboratory, we have the possibility to come much closer to the local food customers and support them with our unique solutions.”

“The food lab in Shanghai will be especially dedicated to technical service and application development of cyclodextrines, cysteine and curcumin. It caters to the increasing needs of the Chinese beverage, bakery, confectionery and dietary supplement industries.”

The lab will also work on chewing gum applications based on Wacker's new CANDY2GUM technology. With CANDY2GUM, it is possible to produce chewy candy that turns into chewing gum after a short time. The new technology does not only alter the texture of confectionery. It also opens up new opportunities for flavors and ingredients that, until now, were unheard of for chewing gum, fruit juice, coffee, milk, caramel, chocolate, coconut and plant extracts and VINNAPAS polyvinyl acetate (PVAc), a key ingredient in all modern types of gum base worldwide. Gum base is the water-insoluble component of chewing gum and serves as the carrier for sweeteners and flavoring.

The Munich-based chemical company is expanding its solid silicone rubber manufacturing facility in Zhangjiagang as well as its production capacity for vinyl acetate-ethylene (VAE) copolymer dispersions at its plant in Nanjing. Wacker’s technical center in Shanghai will also be expanded. This includes new R&D labs for silicone fluids and resins, pyrogenic silica and room-temperature-curing silicone elastomers. A food application lab for products from the Wacker Biosolutions division is also scheduled. A total investment of €20 million (US$23.2 million) has been earmarked for these expansion projects. 

Most of the funds will be used for technical measures to eliminate production bottlenecks and to expand capacity. One investment focus is on the Zhangjiagang site, where Wacker manufactures pyrogenic silica and several silicone products, including solid silicone rubber. By building a new production line, the company will be able to add several thousand metric tons of solid silicone rubber capacity in the future. At the Nanjing polymer site, process-engineering improvements for the manufacture of VAE dispersions will boost the annual production capacity by up to 30,000 metric tons. The announced expansion and debottlenecking measures are expected to be completed in the second half of 2018. 

“Greater China is one of our most important business regions. With annual sales of well over €1 billion, it is Wacker’s largest single market and stands for one-fourth of group sales,” says CEO Rudolf Staudigl, speaking to customers in Shanghai. The demand for silicones and polymer products in China has been growing steadily for years. However, due to high plant capacity utilization, additional volumes are almost impossible. “That is why we are now expanding capacities at our Chinese sites in Zhangjiagang and Nanjing. This will help us support our customers’ growth and strengthen our market position in the region long term,” explains Staudigl. 

Paul Lindblad, President of Wacker Greater China, also announced an expansion of the company’s R&D facilities in Shanghai. Wacker already operates a technical center there. By year-end 2018, Shanghai will have additional silicone labs for the development of new products and applications in areas such as coatings, construction, and consumer care. The expansion project also includes the R&D lab for room-temperature-curing silicone elastomers which develops adhesives and sealants for construction and industrial applications. A new application lab catering to the growing needs of the local food industry will also be built.  

“In recent years, Wacker has further strengthened its R&D cooperation with Chinese customers to develop sustainable products and solutions suitable for the Chinese market,” says Lindblad. Earlier this year, Wacker had already doubled its local synthesis capacity for polymer dispersions needed for research and development. “The expansion of our R&D facilities will boost our innovation capability in the region,” Lindblad emphasizes. 

“Accordingly, our R&D staff will continue to grow by a double-digit percentage in the next few years,” he adds.  

By Elizabeth Green

Wacker Chemie AG

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WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS, WACKER’s life science and biotechnology division, offers a broad range of innovative tailored products and solutions for the life science sector – particularly for the functional food and nutraceutical industries. 

These include CAVAMAX® W6 alpha-cyclodextrin, a natural, starch-derived oligosaccharide. It can be added as a fully fermentable dietary fiber to foods and beverages, including carbonated and non-carbonated transparent soft drinks. CAVAMAX® W6 is scientifically proven to significantly reduce the post-prandial glycaemic response – an effect officially acknowledged by EFSA. Besides, it interacts with triglycerides building up a surfactant-like structure that stabilizes oil-in-water emulsions efficiently. With CAVAMAX® W6, WACKER thus offers manufacturers a possibility to replace emulsifiers with a soluble fiber.

Furthermore, WACKER offers molecular encapsulation solutions based on our cyclodextrin technology for odor or taste-masking, to stabilize food ingredients against heat and oxidation and to increase the bioavailability of functional ingredients. We have over 15 years of experience in manufacturing and formulating alpha-, beta- and gamma-cyclodextrins. 

Additionally, WACKER produces a high-quality range of non-human, non-animal derived L-cysteine products. WACKER is the world’s only manufacturer of vegetarian-grade cysteine using a patented biotech process.

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