Manufacturing xylitol from oat hulls is a circular economy innovation which uses a completely new technology. Vast volumes of oat hulls are a by-product of Fazer’s oat mill, and xylose contained in the hulls can be harnessed to make xylitol. The manufacturing process is unique, since this will be the first time the raw material is used to commercially manufacture xylitol.
According to professor Kauko K. Mäkinen, it is natural that this innovation was developed in Finland, of all places, since Finland has long traditions in research into xylitol. Mäkinen believes in the worldwide potential of xylitol made from oat hulls. “I am sure that this xylitol will be in demand, since Finnish xylitol has a good reputation internationally. Finland is known to be a country where xylitol is widely used, and the product is still strongly associated with Finland. In this respect, our country is unique”, Mäkinen says.
Finland, a model country of xylitol use
Xylitol is a sweetener that is manufactured from xylose found in many plants in nature. Xylitol differs from many other sweeteners in that bacteria causing dental cavities cannot use it as nutrition. Instead, xylitol blocks the activity of these bacteria.
The benefits provided by xylitol in promoting dental health have been known in Finland for decades. The forces behind this insight are professor Kauko K. Mäkinen and his colleagues, who conducted groundbreaking research at the University of Turku in the 1970s and discovered the preventive impact of xylitol on dental cavities for the first time.
“Xylitol is used all over the world, but its benefits are best known in Finland. Finland might be the only country in which nearly 100% of the population are familiar with xylitol. Therefore, we are a model country in terms of xylitol use”, Mäkinen says.
In addition to Finland, xylitol is actively used in the other Nordic countries as well. It is also widely used in Germany, Switzerland and Italy. In Asia, interest in xylitol is high in Japan, Korea and China, in particular.
“Xylitol is also known in Canada and the USA, but there it is mainly considered to be a product that is available in health food stores”, Mäkinen says.
Hundreds of different applications
Finnish consumers know xylitol mainly through the confectionery industry, especially in chewing gums and drops. However, according to professor Mäkinen, xylitol has hundreds of different applications. For example, it is an important raw material in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
In many European countries, xylitol has for a long time been used as a sweetener suitable for diabetics. In hospitals, it can be mixed with infusion fluids in parenteral nutrition therapy. Xylitol also suits skin care products and has been shown to be beneficial in the care of atopic skin.
The daily use of xylitol is globally recommended by many dental associations to reduce the risk of caries. The recommended daily dose is a minimum of 5 grams. According to professor Mäkinen, xylitol provides the most benefits in products which remain in the mouth the longest. “Chewing gum is an ideal carrier for xylitol. Drops also work well”, Mäkinen says.
High potential in research and product development
During his career, professor Kauko K. Mäkinen participated in several international research projects on xylitol. According to him, research into xylitol is actively conducted all over the world. Xylitol is an interesting topic for researchers since it offers plenty of applications not only for the food industry but also for many other industries and fields of technology.
We at Fazer believe that xylitol manufactured from oat hulls offers plenty of potential for product development. Our new factory in Lahti will manufacture several types of xylitol that can be used in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Our objective is to be the only company in Finland to manufacture xylitol from a plant-based Finnish/Nordic raw material. The factory manufacturing xylitol from oat hulls will be part of the Fazer Lifestyle Foods business area.