Starch is a carbohydrate consisting of glucose units and is one of the most abundant natural polymers. It has many unique properties that make it valuable in industrial processes. Properties of starch vary depending on its source; those extracted from cereals are different than those extracted from vegetables. Some major differences include amylose-amylopectin ratio, granule size distribution, mean granule size, mineral content, and presence of naturally occurring non-carbohydrate impurities.
With its unique properties and versatile nature, industrial starch plays a key role in a wide range of applications. It is obtained from various sources, including corn, cassava, potato, wheat, and rice, all which collectively represent more than 95% of the global production. Amongst different sources, starch from corn is the most popular.
Industrial starch extraction starts by crushing or grinding starch-containing tubers or seeds, followed by mixing the pulp with water. The resulting paste is then freed of its remaining impurities and then dried to obtain the final product. There are two types of Industrial starch: Native and Modified/Hydrolysed. Native starch is generally used in the thickening and food texturing, while modified starch is widely used in the production of dextrin, adhesives, drilling fluids, biodegradable plastics, binders, etc. They are act as emulsion stabilizers, textile sizing agents and excipients in tablets for pharmaceutical applications.
The usage of starch is broadly categorised into consumer goods, feed, paper & packaging, chemicals & pharmaceuticals, textiles, and other industries. The industrial use of starch requires physical, chemical, and enzymatic modification, or their combinations, to improve its technological properties, such as hydration, rheological, and thermal properties, among others. The partial enzymatic hydrolysis of starch is a surface modification method, which allows obtaining porous starch.
Industrial starch plays a key role in the textile industry, used in the sizing and finishing of fabrics, improving its strength, printability, and abrasion resistance. Other advantages of its usage in the textile manufacturing include enhanced productivity and reduced waste, enabling the industry to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. With rising demand for eco-friendly adhesives, starch is increasingly preferred over its petrochemical-based alternatives in the paper and packaging industry, reducing the environmental footprint.
In the pharmaceutical industry, industrial starch is employed in drug formulations as an excipient, aiding in the controlled drugs release, enhancing stability, and improving patient compliance. Biodegradability and biocompatibility of starch also make it an ideal choice in several drug delivery systems. Given the growing demand for personalized medicines, industrial starch is likely to play an even greater role in advancing drug delivery technologies and therapeutic outcomes.
Cargill Incorporated, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Ingredion Incorporated, Roquette Frères S.A., Tate & Lyle PLC are some of the major producers of industrial starch globally. Asia, on the back of major consumers like China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan dominates the global demand.