Sime Darby plans major investment in oils and fats
expanding its value-added oils and fats presence in Europe,
including upgrading its existing Unimills facility and setting up
new palm oil facilities.
Major shifts are taking place in the marketplace at present, however, as emphasis on healthier products means there is greater demand for healthier, unsaturated oils and fats from food manufacturers - as opposed to harmful saturated- and trans-fats. Sime Darby, which targets a slate of industrial growth sectors, has said the investment will "strengthen its position in oils and fats in Europe". At present its Unimills business, located in Zwijndrecht, The Netherlands, produced in excess of 450,000 tonnes of tailor-date vegetable oils. It has recently effected a transformation from a commodity-based company to one based on delivering high-value tailor made products. Sime Darby president and group chief executive Dato' Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid said that this transformation, and the positive uptake by customers, were influential factors in the investment decision. "We…see an opportunity for Unimills to conduct further research to develop a more comprehensive range of such high-value niche products," he said. To this end, Unimills' part of the investment fund will go towards a new innovation centre consisting of a laboratory and pilot plant - one of three such centres to be established across the Sime Darby group - as well as a new 10,000 tonne capacity yard tank, and an enzymatic arrangement plant. The group has not disclosed how the €34m will be carved up, but it has said that some of the fund is earmarked for the creation of new palm oil processing, refining and bulking facilities. It is understood that possible locations for these facilities have already been identified, but Sime Darby has not yet said where. It is known, however, that they are intended to complement the Unimills facilities in Zwijndrecht. Unimills has not been working in isolation on its healthy oils development, however. In summer 2006 it entered into a four-year research agreement with Nizo food research. The aim is to jointly dvelop new food products that fit with a healthy lifestyle. The European subsidiary of a Malaysian plantation giant is set to sign a four-year deal with Nizo food research in order to tap the latest innovations in vegetable oil. It said that the agreement should boost innovation projects in the areas of margarines, spreads, bakery, spray-dried products and ice cream resulting in shorter lead times and higher success rates than before. Unimills already boasts a rather diverse range of processes it uses to deliver its tailor-made oil and fat offerings - including refining, double-fractionation, interesterification and hydrogenation. It has a strong emphasis on partnering with its food company customers to develop new products; however its core products are grouped under several brand names. These include Delico hardstocks for margarines and spreads; GoldBake dough fats; and Priflex premium flaked fats. According to the latest available figures from Fediol (the EU Oil and Protein Meal Industry), EU consumption of vegetable oils and fats was 19.8m tonnes in 2006. This was a 19.8 per cent increase in consumption in 2005. In 2000 EU oil and fat consumption was estimated at 12.0m tonnes.