Challenge area: Zero-footprint surfactant platforms

One of the primary production processes of Cosun (via its subsidiary Suiker Unie) is the extraction of sugar from sugar beet pulp for the food industry. The beet pulp generated as a side stream was until now mainly valorized as feed product, but Cosun is looking at new higher value added outlets for this feedstock as part of a broader program of sustainability improvement.  

Various useful products can be extracted from beet pulp, including galacturonic acid (GalA). GalA is a very interesting building block for the synthesis of surfactants. Versatile, it can deliver non-ionic, anionic, or amphoteric surfactants. The presence of a carboxylate function is a unique feature and GalA is one of the rare anionic natural building blocks. It can especially lead to sugar- and bio-based surfactants with excellent and improved foaming properties. GalA thus constitutes a unique solution to replace controversial sulfate- and sulfonate-based surfactants while reaching a high level of mildness and biodegradability, making it desirable for multiple applications (e.g. detergents and personal care).  

Processing of surfactants from GalA has been studied for many years, but has never reached an industrial level due to lack of supply of sufficient, affordable GalA. Cosun is determined to go beyond this barrier and develop the full supply chain from biomass to end users.