With rising consumer interest in clean labels and GMO-free processed foods, some food manufacturers are looking for alternatives to conventional corn starch (as well as many starch-derived ingredients; read our new study, “The GMO-Free Gamble,” to learn more). U.S. imports of specialty starches—that is, cassava, potato, wheat, and rice starch—are on the rise as a result.
Cassava starch (also called tapioca or manioc starch) and potato starch are popular alternatives to corn starch for products seeking non-GMO status. Both starches have similar properties in food applications, including lack of color. The U.S. has some domestic potato starch production and imports more volume from Europe and Canada. U.S. imports have increased about 18 percent since 2014.
The U.S. must import cassava starch—nearly all U.S. cassava starch originates from Thailand—and U.S. wet mills are working to ensure supply by increasing their production in cassava growing regions. Ingredion, for example, recently announced it will expand modified cassava starch production in Thailand by 20 percent and double the capacity of its Thai rice starch and rice flour operation.
U.S imports of cassava starch have increased nearly 60 percent over the last five years, during which time Thailand expanded its starch exports by 26 percent. The U.S. market accounts for just 3 percent of Thailand’s cassava starch exports, while China consumes over half.
U.S. monthly imports of specialty starches