The German firm is best known for its silicones and polymers for the contruction and engineering industries, with its biosolutions business – which includes supplements and food products – responsible for only 5% of its global US$5.9bn sales.
But speaking in Singapore earlier today, Asia MD Patrick De Wolf said it had vast growth potential.
“This is why we are investing in the lab here,” he said. “Because we want to be closer to customers. Biosolutions is the youngest child for Wacker, so it is a huge step to have this technical centre because we have seen in our other areas that this really drives business.
“We have had big successes in Europe, so why not in Asia?”
The firm, which first opened its Singapore office in 1984, says the centre will focus on innovative food ingredients, dietary supplements and gum-based applications.
Key areas of focus include solutions for fat-free desserts, egg-free bakery goods, coconut milk powder without caseinate, vegan meat flavors and highly bioavailable curcumin.
“Asia is a focus market for the food industry and therefore for our innovative food ingredients and dietary supplements, too,” said Dr. Gerhard Schmid, president of Wacker Biosolutions.
“We are meeting our customers’ growing demand by enhancing our local services. With this facility, which is unique in the region, we can further augment our position as an innovative partner to the food industry.”
The company already operates dedicated food laboratories in the USA and Germany, and the Singapore lab will focus on applications involving cyclodextrins, cysteine and hydroxytyrosol suitable for the Asian market.
“The ring-shaped cyclodextrin sugar molecules, which Wacker bioengineers from corn and potatoes, can replace conventional animal-derived emulsifiers, and milk protein in instant coconut milk powder," added the company.
“Moreover, they can protect sensitive ingredients, such as vitamins and co-enzymes against harmful influences and increase the bioavailability of hydrophobic substances, such as curcumin.
In the supplement space, Wacker says its nature-identical hydroxytyrosol is suitable for use in hard capsules, energy bars and drinks.
“Hydroxytyrosol is a highly effective antioxidant that is claimed to have therapeutic effects on blood pressure and the immune and cardiovascular systems,” said the company.
Wacker is the latest in a long line of MNCs to base its main food and nutrition research facility in Singapore.
“With a highly fragmented Asia, it is clear that companies need tailor-made solutions to meet market needs. Consequently, the ability to innovate quickly becomes of utmost importance,” said Cindy Koh, director energy & chemicals, at Singapore Economic Development Board.
“Instead of opening labs in every market across Asia, economies of scale can be derived by having Singapore as a strategic base to drive application development for the region. Our access to markets and insights, as well as our research and development ecosystem of publicly funded research institutes and universities, offer opportunities for collaboration which can accelerate innovation yield and reduce cost.”