Beneo has announced a €50 million investment into its Wijgmaal rice starch facility, which it claims will see production capacity increase by 50%. Located in Belgium, the Wijgmaal plant will see the addition of a new production line which Beneo says will cater to the rising customer demand for its rice starches. The company claims that its trials have shown that clean label rice starch can play an important role in applications such as baked goods, confectionery, sauces and dressings. The investment consists of a two-stage expansion process valued at €50 million and will reportedly lead to increased capacity by March 2022. The first phase of the investment will include the installation of a third drier and dewatering line, which will allow the company to reduce bottlenecks and further increase efficiency. According to Beneo, rice starch is an ideal ingredient for the development of products that responds to the clean label trend. It can be used to fill up all of the micropores on the surface of coatings, which reportedly benefits confectionery manufacturers since it ensures a stable result where edges do not crack or splinter. Since January 2020, titanium dioxide, which is used to fill microscopic irregularities in coatings, is no longer permitted for use in food products in France. Beneo says there are expectations that other EU markets may follow the country in banning the additive. Roland Vanhoegaerden, operations managing director, speciality rice ingredients at Beneo, said: “We fundamentally believe in the value of this investment, with demand for rice starch coming from both natural and organic growth, as well as from new projects and applications. “One of the key reasons for our confidence is the ‘clean label’ trend, where food manufacturers are moving away from artificial additives and replacing them with natural alternatives, such as rice starch.” In recent years, Beneo has invested in the docking station at its Wijgmaal plant enabling two-thirds of its rice raw material to be received by barge and just one-third by truck. “The impact is on cost saving, but also on the environment, due to lower carbon emissions and a reduction in traffic. Our factory is in the middle of an urban area and by increasing barge use, we can reduce congestion and noise levels in the neighbourhood,” added Vanhoegaerden. During the course of the expansion, 20 full-time positions will be created, adding to the current 180 people working at the factory. The recent investment closely follows Beneo’s announcement to invest €50 million to expand the production of chicory root fibre at its factory in Chile