The first commercial oxygen scavenger was introduced by the Japanese firm Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals Company in the 1970s. Oxygen scavengers, also known as oxygen absorbers, are chemical agents that reduce the concentration of oxygen by reacting with it. They remove oxygen from packaging and inactivate impurities and unwanted substances, thereby inhibiting various oxidative reactions that could deteriorate food quality. They also prevent the rancidification of oil and fat and forbid the growth of aerobic microorganisms.
Oxygen scavengers are gaining popularity among food manufacturers and retailers and widely used in industrial boilers systems and steam raising plants to eliminate oxygen related corrosion. The use of oxygen scavengers is essential where fluids are to be circulated in the wellbore. Oxygen absorbing technology is based on the combination of the following elements: iron powder, ascorbic acid, photosensitive polymers, enzymes, etc.
Most of the oxygen scavengers available in the market are in the form of small sachets containing various iron-based powders containing an assortment of catalysts. Apart from the food and beverage industry, oxygen scavengers are used in the pharmaceutical, power generation, oil and gas, chemical, and pulp and paper industries to improve the shelf-life and safety of products.
The global oxygen scavenger market size was valued at USD 1.99 billion in 2022. It is projected to reach USD 3.15 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 5.2% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Among the segments by form, the sachets/canisters/bottle caps and labels segment dominated the oxygen scavenger market in 2018, primarily due to easy availability and low cost. In addition, the oxygen scavenging speed of labels and sachets is relatively higher than that of other oxygen scavenging materials directly incorporated into the packaging. The liquid form segment is expected to grow at a relatively faster pace over the forecast period since liquid oxygen scavengers effectively discard oxygen in boilers and prevent corrosion of other parts.
Among the segments by type, the metallic segment dominated the oxygen scavenger market in 2018. Bisulfite ions, metal halides, iron powder, and sodium bisulfite are a few of the prominent metallic oxygen scavengers that contain metal in their composition. The use of these scavengers to inhibit mold growth, spoilage and color change drives the segment’s growth. In addition, they are effortless to handle and offer quick reaction compared to non-metallic scavengers.
The non-metallic segment is expected to witness healthy growth during the forecast period. The low toxicity of non-metallic oxygen scavengers and the need for oxygen scavengers that do not trip off metal detectors in certain packaging applications drive the segment’s growth. Non-metallic oxygen scavengers cost more than metallic ones, which somewhat hinders their adoption. Some examples of non-metallic oxygen scavengers include hydrazine, ascorbic acid, activated carbon, citrus, and glucose oxidase.
While oxygen scavengers are used in an array of industries, from pharma to chemical, their foremost application remains the food and beverage industry, where they’re used to elongate the shelf life and preserve the natural efficacy of food products by preventing oxygen deterioration. The use of an oxygen scavenger eliminates the need for preservatives, which vastly improves the quality of food products. It halts the growth of aerobic pathogens, oxidation of vitamins A, C, and E, and degradation and rancidity of polyunsaturated fats and oils. It also detains the non-enzymatic browning of fruits and some vegetables.
Increasing disposable income and shifting lifestyle patterns of the middle-class population in developing economies are expected to surge the demand for high-quality convenience products such as packaged food, creating growth prospects for the oxygen scavenger market. Further, rising awareness reduction in food wastage and the introduction of cutting-edge technology in packaging are also creating opportunities for the oxygen scavenger market. For instance, active packaging involves the use of oxygen scavengers, ethylene scavengers, and carbon dioxide scavengers that extends the life of perishable items such as fruits, vegetables, beverages, processed food, nuts, and bakery items.
The oil and gas industry is another key end-use industry for oxygen scavengers, where they’re used for oxygen removal from acid stimulation, seawater injection facilities, and the drilling fluid transportation of wet gas fluid.
Post recovery of the economic crises in 2007–08, the consumption of oxygen scavengers have increased as their role is crucial in downstream processing. The effective application of oxygen scavengers provides low oxygen concentrations to protect topside equipment, injection wells, and flow lines from oxidative corrosion. Downstream production activities are constantly increasing in financially emerging nations, which is subsequently increasing production capacities and total production volume of petrochemicals, thereby augmenting the consumption of oxygen scavengers globally.
As per the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association, the production capacity of the GCC countries reached 166.8 million tons, up by 7% year on year. The region’s performance was invincible and improved on all fronts — revenue, employment, production capacity, and exports. Increased adoption of oxygen scavengers as corrosion inhibitors in industrial boiler systems in the oil and gas industry is further broadening the scope of their use in the industry.
The power sector is also a key application area for oxygen scavengers. The industry held a significant value share in 2018 and is expected to garner substantial revenue share in the upcoming years. Oxygen scavengers are used to control corrosion in power plants. The rising energy demand globally is expected to positively influence the segment’s growth.
Need to Enhance Drug Stability Drives Growth of Pharma Segment
Oxygen scavengers are used in the pharmaceutical industry to secure packaging from moisture, mold, and oxygen and prevent quality degradation and color transformation of pharmaceutical products. Moist free packaging and newer drug formulations are the applications with the highest potential in the near future. Oxygen scavengers deplete humidity levels and maintain required oxygen levels from packaging, thereby retaining drug stability for longer periods.
As per the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance Report 2019, the Indian pharmaceutical industry has attracted more than USD 2 billion in FDI inflow over the last three years, making it one of the top eight sectors attracting FDI. Rapid growth in the pharmaceutical sector is anticipated to propel the growth of the oxygen scavenger market during the assessment period, 2019–2026.
North America dominates the global oxygen scavenger market. The U.S., one of the largest exporters of food products, is a key contributor to the regional market. North America’s strong pharma and O&G sectors also positively influence market growth. As per the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), North America accounted for more than 45% of the global pharmaceutical market in 2017, which indicates the potential the regional pharma sector possesses on a global scale.
Urbanization and the strong demand for packaged food are expected to drive double-digit growth in the Asia-Pacific oxygen scavenger market. Strong innovation led by industry participants, modernizing trends associated with packaging technology, rising disposable per capita income, and evolved standards of living are expected to further augment market value in the region in the upcoming years.
Increasing demand for oxygen scavengers from industrial boilers application has unfolded lucrative growth prospects for the market. Oxygen scavengers reduce the possibility of system failure and enhance the productivity of industrial boilers. Thus, the growing adoption in industrial boilers will reflect positively on the growth of the oxygen scavenger market.
Some of the key players in the global oxygen scavenger market include
Product differentiation, mergers, acquisitions, widening of distribution networks, and expansion of sales channels are the key strategies adopted by manufacturers to increase their market shares.
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