For the average person, licorice is a sweet candy with a distinct flavor. In the manufacturing realm, licorice extract has long been considered a substance that enhances tobacco products. Actually, because of its inherent distinctiveness, licorice extract and its derivatives are versatile ingredients that find application in several industries, including foods, beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Mafco Worldwide Corporation is directly responsible for broadening practical applications of licorice extract products. Now 159 years old, the Camden, N.J.-based company is the leading global supplier of licorice extracts and its pure derivatives, a position it achieved through experience in obtaining and processing licorice root, as well as its ability to develop and manufacture applications for a wide range of consumer products.
Founded in Turkey in 1850 as MacAndrews & Forbes, the company moved to its current Camden location in 1903, where it provided a reliable supply of licorice extract products to the then growing tobacco industry. “Our original plant is still operating,” informs Ken Simone, Mafco’s Vice President of U.S. Operations and Corporate Affairs. “We also have two other locations, one in France and the other in China, which help make us the world’s largest manufacturer of licorice extract and its pure derivatives.”
The tobacco industry still represents a portion of Mafco’s sales. Companies apply licorice products in the manufacture of American blend cigarettes, moist and dry snuff, and chewing and pipe tobacco. However, the company also sells to confectioners, food processors, cosmetic companies, beverage companies and pharmaceutical companies, who benefit from licorice’s unique flavoring and masking attributes. “Throughout our history, we’ve developed many proprietary products and worked closely with customers to better understand their product development and application needs,” says Simone.
EXTRACTING THE SWEET ESSENCE
Licorice products are derived from licorice root. Commonly called “sweet root” because of its natural sweetness, it grows wild in the Middle East, Central Asia and Western China, informs Simone. The company’s overseas suppliers ship the root to the Camden plant for extract processing. “Specifically, we extract the soluble component from the root and provide it in three physical forms: powder, block and semi-fluid,” he explains.
Along with producing licorice extracts, Mafco manufactures pure licorice derivatives, which form the base for the company’s very successful and widely used trademark Magnasweet® product line. “We first developed the line over 30 years ago and now sell it in 51 countries and to more than 600 domestic and international customers,” reports Simone.
Magnasweet® products are based on two primary derivatives: mono-ammoniated glycyrrhizinate, which is the ammonia salt form of the pure active ingredient in licorice root, and ammonium glycyrrhizinate which is the ammonia salt form of the crude active ingredient in licorice root. Significant attributes contribute to Magnasweet®’s enormous success. First, it serves as a masking agent that reduces bitterness and aftertaste. “It works well in cough and cold remedies and other over-the-counter products such as chewable aspirin and vitamins,” indicates Simone. In the health-food market, Magnasweet® diminishes unpleasant aftertastes commonly associated with high-protein and amino acid-based powders, found in many of today’s foods and beverages. Magnasweet® also reduces the characteristic chemical aftertaste of high-intensity artificial and natural sweeteners. In particular, it synergizes well with Stevia in food and beverage products. As far as cosmetics, it diminishes any lingering unpleasant taste that comes with lip balm usage and is used for its anti-inflammatory properties in skin creams.
ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANT ATTRIBUTES
But Magnasweet® is far more than a masking agent: It also serves as a sweetness enhancer, extending and intensifying the desired sweetness of customers’ products. “This enables product developers to reduce primary sweetener dosages,” Simone points out. “By extending and intensifying sweetness in high-intensity sweetener applications it provides a uniformly consistent sweetness profile. This is particularly noticeable in chewing gum products, as well as in low-caloric applications that require sugar reduction.”
Moreover, Magnasweet® enhances a product’s characteristic taste. “It can synergize with other ingredients in flavoring systems to optimize a consumers’ taste perception,” says Simone..
If all of that isn’t enough, Magnasweet® also achieves what Simone describes as a better “mouth feel,” particularly for products characterized by a “chalky consistency.” Mouth feel translates into a silkier and smoother taste sensation. “This attribute is important in low-fat and fat-free products. It makes them taste like a normal fat content product. Yogurts or other dairy products greatly benefit from this attribute,” Simone says.
Simone adds that Magnasweet® produces a dense foam in specific dosages, which improves oral-care products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. “This foaming capability also works well with beverages such as cappuccino and hot chocolate drinks.”
THREE MAGNASWEET® SERIES
Magnasweet® has evolved through several development phases. The Magnasweet® 100 Series represents the traditional product line that offers all of the aforementioned attributes, providing beneficial characteristics with no licorice flavor. The 300 Series delivers the same benefits but with a slight, and intended, licorice aftertaste. “It synergizes well in products that have the strongest characteristic flavor, such as tomato-based products, seasoning blends, as well as chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon,” Simone points out.
Mafco recently developed its Magnasweet® 200 Series specifically for increasingly popular natural beverage applications. “The 200 series’ products effectively masks the typical bitterness associated with other natural sweeteners,” says Simone. “It also enhances sweetness profiles and flavors as well. Further, the series exhibits superior solubility, especially in low pH environments often found in beverage systems.”
Ultimately, Magnasweet®, in all versions, accomplishes its “magic” by improving the product quality perception of consumers. “It has found wide-ranging uses across many applications,” comments Simone. “It solves our customers’ product development problems.”
That’s why the company considers Magnasweet® a “key ingredient” in applications. “It represents a solid development tool that offers unique solutions for challenges experienced within our customers’ industries,” says Simone.
RISING ABOVE THE COMPETITIO
That ties in nicely with one of Mafco’s main services. It readily assists customers in product development through in-house technical support and its own product development.
“Other services include superior manufacturing and distribution support to customers. All of our employees are totally dedicated to providing the customer with the solutions they need, when they need them,” says Simone.
Further, the company has positioned itself to meet customers’ supply needs. For years Mafco has maintained a three-year supply of raw materials. “By storing a three-year supply on site, we maintain a secure supply with consistent quality, no matter what the current social or economic circumstances.”
Such efforts have garnered Mafco more than 60 percent of the market share for licorice extracts and pure licorice derivatives. The company has witnessed double-digit growth in Magnasweet® for the past seven years, and development continues at a robust pace. Investment in facilities worldwide contributes to this growth. The company’s main extraction facility in Camden services all business segments. The Gardanne, France plant is a fully equipped operation that services the European customer base for sales and deliveries. Pure licorice derivatives used for Magnasweet® are produced at the Zhangjiagang, China plant, which is 100-percent owned and operated by Mafco and is equipped with state-of-the-art processing capabilities. The operation also serves Asian customers for licorice extract and Magnasweet® sales and distribution. Recently, Mafco opened a new sales office in Dubai, which services customers in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with sales, product development and distribution.
From these multiple locations throughout the world, Mafco is positioned to readily assist customers with product development and in-house support. In this way, it helps customers realize the full potential of their own product offerings, and it has moved licorice extract far beyond historical tobacco applications. Clients can never look at “sweet root” the same way again.