World leader in acacia Gum

Thanks to its continuous presence in Africa for over 120 years and strong partnerships in gum producing countries, Nexira has become an expert in acacia gum at all levels: raw material sourcing, supply assurance, quality and traceability.

 Gum acacia nodule

The R&D team at Nexira continues to improve the functional performance of acacia gum in order to innovate and develop new products for high value-added applications.

We guarantee a high quality product, coming from environmentally-friendly cultivation (no use of pesticides or fertilizers) and for which the traceability of each batch can be proved from the tree to the customer. Acacia gum is a food ingredient recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is labeled as acacia gum, arabic gum or acacia fiber.

 

The Origin and History of Acacia Gum

 Acacia Gum (traditionally known as Gum Arabic) has a long history and is one of the most famous natural gums in the world. But what is it and where does it come from? And how is it helping to drive sustainable development in some of the world’s poorest countries? Let’s find out.

 

What is Acacia Gum?

Gum acacia nodule on tree by Nexira

Acacia Gum is a dried exudation obtained from the Acacia Tree, a hardy perennial plant that thrives is semi-arid climates.

When the bark is damaged it exudes a sticky sap that dries in the sun. It is then harvested, processed and used in a wide variety of applications from lithography, to watercolour binder, to ceramic glazing.

Nowadays Acacia Gum is also commonly used as a scientifically-proven safe additive in food, beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Not only is it used for its functional benefits (which are many and varied), it’s also valued as a natural ingredient that appeals to the ethical and health-conscious consumer.

 

The history and origin of Acacia Gum

Acacia Gum has a long and varied history going back thousand of years to ancient Egypt where, among other things, it was used in the process of making inks. It was also used in Sudan and Arabia as a thickener for beverages; a source of dietary fibre; and a medicine. It’s from these regions that Medieval Europe derived much of its Acacia Gum supply, which is probably how the term ‘gum arabic’ found its way into the English lexicon.

Gum acacia history

In the 15th c., intrepid European seafarers discovered a rich supply of Acacia Gum along the Saharan Coast in Northwest Africa. This became a vital new source for Europe and its burgeoning economic adventures. However it wasn’t until the 18th c., when cotton-cloth manufacturers found more uses for Acacia Gum in their production techniques, that trade from the ‘gum coast’ really took off.

 

In the 21st century, most Acacia Gum is produced in the Sahel region

Gum belt

These days most of the world’s Acacia Gum is harvested in the Sahel region, which is a sub-Saharan belt of land that stretches across Africa. It includes Senegal and Mauritania in the West, through to Sudan and Tanzania in the East.

Because of its prolific Acacia Gum production, the Sahel region has been dubbed the ‘gum belt’, with around 66% of the world’s supply coming from Sudan.

Over the last twenty-five years demand for Acacia Gum has grown substantially. It’s estimated that around 102,000 tonnes of crude Acacia Gum is exported from Sahelian countries (2014-2016), compared to just 35,000 tonnes in the 1992-1994 period.

 

 

 

 

The Acacia Tree’s role in driving development in the Sahel region

According to the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development, Acacia Gum harvesting ‘has the power to drive development in the African nations that produce it’.

Fundamentally, this power is derived from the unique characteristics of the Acacia Tree, which is an incredibly hardy perennial plant that thrives in semi-arid environments.

 

One of the main ecological boons it offers the region is its ability to help prevent desertification (the process by which fertile land becomes barren). It does this by fixing nitrogen in the soil, thereby acting as a natural fertilizer. 

By keeping the soil nutrient-rich it encourages biodiversity i.e. other plants are able to grow and those plant attract other animals and so on. All of this biodiversity has a knock on effect in terms of climate and the regulation of surface water, which are factors in preventing desertification. Its roots are also able to go deep in the ground and find water which it then stores in its leaves, meaning it can survive droughts and continue to fertilize the land.

Not only does the Acacia Tree help stem the tide of desertification, it also means local populations are able to use the land to grow and sell food. It acts as shelter for crops and provides fodder for cattle during hard times as well.

On top of that, Acacia Trees produce Acacia Gum which enables developing nations to trade on international markets, thereby giving the people a further economic boost in terms of job-creation and revenue.

 

Today: The benefits and applications of acacia gum

 

Acacia Gum is growing in popularity thanks to its many functional applications.
It’s particularly useful in food and beverage manufacturing where it’s commonly used as a

● carrier for encapsulation,

● stabilizer for colloidal systems,

● texturizer in sugar and polyol mediums,

● binder for sugar and polyol compressed products,

● and as an emulsifier for oil in water emulsions.

 

 


Another reason for its growing popularity is its reputation for being an extremely safe food ingredient that appeals to the ethical and health-conscious consumer.

Cereal bars with acacia gum

For example, Fiber from acacia gum is a good prebiotic i.e. it ferments in the intestines which promotes the growth of friendly microorganisms that contribute to gut health.

It’s also suitable for vegans and vegetarians; pesticide free and non-gmo; gluten free; and very low in calories.

All-in-all, Acacia Gum is a highly versatile food and beverage ingredient.