14 January 2021 - In the field of choline products a key differentiating factor is the varying quality and purity of different offerings which can affect the efficacy of the additive in feed.
Balchem is a leading producer of choline products for use in human and animal nutrition and company research in this area has culminated in PuraChol, a new line of choline chloride products which is being launched in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia this month.
We spoke to Samuel-Pierre Camus, EMEA Director of Balchem Animal Nutrition & Health and Lidia Bruno, Quality Assurance & Regulatory Manager, to learn more about the differences between choline chloride products available, the new PuraChol line for livestock, and how Balchem managed supply chain challenges during the COVID-19 disruption last year.
[Feedinfo] Firstly can you tell us about Balchem’s expertise in the production of choline products?
[Samuel-Pierre Camus] Balchem has invested over 50 years developing solutions to create choline ingredients for the feed, food, pharmaceutical and industrial products industries. Our businesses supply essential nutrients to people and animals around the world, with approximately 1.3 billion people positively impacted in some way by our products. We operate in more than 70 countries and have 1,400 employees worldwide, and it is our aim to apply proven science and industry-leading technologies to address our customers’ needs.
It is our view that Balchem produces the animal nutrition industry’s broadest range of choline products at our manufacturing locations in the US and Europe. We use the same practices and expertise required to manufacture choline for infant formula to produce choline for animal diets, which means we follow strict rules to ensure the highest quality. This can only be accomplished through rigorous process control and thorough employee training which is reflected in our extensive list of quality certifications. Our European manufacturing site in Marano Ticino, Italy, serves as the regional headquarters for customers in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia. The site started production in 1968 and stands out as the only backward-integrated choline chloride manufacturer in Europe, producing a wide range of liquid, dry and specialties choline grades to meet customer needs.
[Feedinfo] What makes the PuraChol different to other choline chloride products on the market?
[Lidia Bruno] While choline is a simple molecule, delivering a high-quality ingredient suitable for animal and human consumption is anything but simple. We work hard to set the highest industry standards for choline production, and we do this by sourcing the highest quality raw ingredients, manufacturing them in technically-advanced facilities, maintaining complete supply chain control and holding ourselves to the strictest manufacturing standards.
Balchem Corporation launched the new PuraChol line of branded choline products in the US market at the beginning of 2020 and is building on that success by introducing it in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia regions starting in early 2021. One of the biggest issues we see in the animal nutrition market is the purity of choline products. By adhering to rigorous quality testing protocols, maintaining complete supply chain control and manufacturing our products in our own production facilities, we can create confidence in PuraChol’s purity. Balchem’s extensive quality control testing program analyses raw materials and finished goods for a range of contaminants including dioxins, mycotoxins, pathogens and pesticides to ensure product quality and purity. In February 2020, we began sharing the results of this testing program with customers on a regular basis to offer transparency and instill trust in our work.
The PuraChol difference also extends beyond product-based characteristics to include intangibles like the consumer-driven areas of social responsibility, industry research support and environmental stewardship which we know are a key focus for animal agriculture value chains.
[Feedinfo] For those who believe all choline chloride products are pretty similar, why would you say this is this not the case?
[Lidia Bruno] While all choline chloride products are formulated using the same basic molecule, significant differences exist among commercial choline brands and the companies that market them. We strive to differentiate our choline products in four primary areas: manufacturing expertise, quality control, research and sustainability.
When looking at manufacturing we have refined our process and continue to leverage the latest manufacturing technologies that improve purity, consistency, reliability and concentration options. We maintain high industry standards for choline chloride production, through consistently maintaining target levels of choline while monitoring and reducing undesirable contaminants.
The integrity of our products starts with the selection of only the most reputable suppliers of high-quality raw materials. Traceability is guaranteed from the raw material to the finished product. The emission of the certificate of analysis seals a series of product and process controls, certifying the quality of the finished product. Particular attention is paid to the sampling method, always representative of the lot, the management of analytical data, the validation of methods, calibration of instruments and to the training of personnel. Quality does not stop at the analyses but also includes the supply of all documentation supporting the products: technical data sheets, declarations of conformity, statements, and regulatory support on specific questions at the request of customers. We ensure our Quality Management System is regularly audited by certification bodies, health authorities and customers. We also conduct regular supplier audits to encourage and ensure compliance and new suppliers are required to go through a comprehensive evaluation and approval process.
Sustainability is at the heart of Balchem’s mission to make the world a healthier place. The PuraChol line helps deliver on Balchem’s sustainability promise through higher concentration formulations that provide more choline while reducing transportation costs and lowering fuel consumption. PuraChol also improves production efficiency of each animal, helping them produce more with fewer overall inputs.
[Feedinfo] A lot of companies in our industry faced supply issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you address these challenges?
[Samuel-Pierre Camus] As global concerns surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak began to escalate, our primary objective was to ensure the safety and security of our dedicated employee teams, while continuing to provide an adequate supply of key products to our customers. To safeguard product availability, Balchem increased inventories of both raw materials and finished product at our European and US-based manufacturing facilities, and staged products at multiple locations throughout Europe. We also worked with customers to help them build adequate safety stock at their own manufacturing sites. As an additional safeguard, we began shipping additional inventory from our US-based facilities to our European customers to help mitigate any potential supply chain disruptions.
[Feedinfo] You mentioned how important working closely with your customers is. How have you put your customers at the heart of your business decisions?
[Samuel-Pierre Camus] Multiple manufacturing and warehouse locations allow us to be close to our customers, guaranteeing continuity of supply and flexibility and a sustainable approach. The PuraChol line helps deliver on Balchem’s sustainability promise through higher concentration formulations that provide more choline, while reducing transportation costs and lowering fuel consumption which we know is an attribute our customers are looking for in feed additives.
By listening to our customers, we have created products that better meet their needs. In several cases, we have worked closely with customers to co-develop new products to overcome specific issues like hygroscopicity and product caking and in creating custom solutions for special applications. For example, CholFlow, a high-performance granular choline chloride 70% on non-GMO vegetable carrier was designed to provide superior flowability and reduced interaction with other ingredients. CholFlow is less hygroscopic than standard choline chloride and is recommended for use in critical premixes with high concentration and high trace mineral levels, which can have destabilizing effects on vitamins.
Another product from our specialty range is CholFine, unique to the industry with a particle size that is 30% finer than other dry choline products. The smaller particle size is ideal for direct dosing and ensures the homogeneity of the mix required for extruded pellet preparation. This makes CholFine the optimal choice for extruded feeds manufactured for aquaculture and pet food to help maintain superior pellet quality.
CholFine flows through production equipment evenly and consistently under the most challenging production circumstances. It allows for the precise and consistent dispersion of choline into premixes and complete feed mixes while avoiding caking issues as well.
[Feedinfo] Can you talk to us about some of your recent, ongoing or future R&D projects in the field of choline research for livestock?
[Samuel-Pierre Camus] Balchem has taken the lead on global choline research, in both the human and animal spaces. We have established and support a scientific advisory board with participating researchers from Cornell University, Syracuse University and UC Davis. The advisory board was created to help direct research toward better understanding choline’s role in infant cognition, age-related cognitive decline and liver health and has enabled us to invest in cutting-edge independent research to better our knowledge base.
Balchem scientists continue to monitor choline levels in standard feed ingredients to ensure rations contain adequate levels to deliver optimal animal performance. The latest data, presented by our scientists at the 2019 Poultry Science Annual Meeting, showed that analyzed choline levels were 24% lower in soybean meal and 9% lower in modern corn samples than those reported in the current NRC (Poultry 1994). This discrepancy, coupled with a potentially greater choline requirement of today’s genetically superior production animals, could be seriously compromising productivity and producer profitability and is an area we continue to investigate.
As regards to ongoing and future projects, we continue to work to increase the choline concentrations in our products and have a strong R&D focus on aquaculture and companion animal applications. With continued investment into this area we hope to learn even more about choline so it can effectively support animal husbandry around the world.
Published in association with Balchem