Glycerin - A vital part of our lives
Our days start and end with glycerin. Just after waking up we clean our teeth, shower, moisturize, get dressed and feed the cat. Even if we can’t see it – glycerin is involved in all of these activities. The odorless, colorless and slightly sweet-tasting sugar alcohol is an extremely useful and versatile commodity.
There are different ways of obtaining glycerin. It is commonly generated as a by-product during the production of bio-diesel or the saponification of oils and fats. This vegetable glycerin is the most commonly traded form of the raw material. But it can also be of animal origin and extracted from animal fats or as conventional glycerin produced synthetically on a petroleum basis. The substance is also available in organic quality, which is usually obtained from plants like soya from certified organic cultivation.
Even the human body contains glycerin
Glycerin is present in the human body too. It is contained in our skin. Together with amino acids, urea and salts, it is part of the skin’s own hydration system. Because it is a substance occurring naturally in the body, glycerin does not cause any irritation, and even people with sensitive skin can benefit from the hydrating properties of glycerin. This is one reason why the substance is used in many cosmetic products.
Glycerin in cosmetic products
Firstly, glycerin helps skin to stay supple, stops it from drying out and protects it from the surfactants contained in shampoos and shower gels which can dry out skin. Secondly, glycerin stores moisture in personal care products and ensures that toothpaste, shower and cleansing gels do not dry out, helping gels and pastes to remain soft and last a long time.
Did you know that toothpaste for example often contains 20 to 30 percent glycerin? This helps it to stay supple and improves the taste. Glycerin also helps to make teeth shine. The trivalent alcohol is the perfect basis for perfume too, because it is odorless and can be used as active substance carrier.
In salves and creams, glycerin helps to remedy dry, cracked and itchy skin by penetrating the skin and forming a slightly oily protective film on the skin’s surface.
When I started at CREMER I thought: Glycerin; how boring! What can you do with that? Now I know that it’s one of the most versatile raw materials imaginable."
Technology, pharmaceuticals, food
In cars, glycerin is used as a lubricant in brake fluid and included in anti-freeze for windshield washers. It is also used to produce paper, textiles and lubricants.
The pharmaceuticals industry often uses glycerin in the form of suppositories administered for constipation or hemorrhoids. The moisturizing effect of the substance softens the stool and stimulates bowel movements. Glycerin is also added to eardrops to help reduce itchy and painful inflammations of the ear canal.
Ever heard of E422? This is the name for glycerin when added to food. In Europe, E-numbers are used to designate food additives in chemically, physically or physiologically processed foods. Glycerin is mainly used to preserve moisture in food. The substance is often seen on the list of ingredients in meat products, chewing gum and dates.
Used as a preservative, stabilizer or flavor enhancer, it also acts as a solvent for flavorings and food colorants in drinks and confectionery. In candy, cakes, chocolates and cheese rinds, glycerin is used as a softening agent and humectant.
CREMER is a key player in the glycerin market
Glycerin is needed in a myriad of industries. It is estimated that roughly ten million tons of it are bought and sold annually. CREMER OLEO is one of the major players in the global glycerin market.
As a glycerin producer, supply chain service provider and dealer, the family business mainly buys from producers in South East Asia and South America, and sells the commodity to different industries on every continent. CREMER also covers its own glycerin needs for animal feed and oleochemical production.
The team behind CREMER's glycerin business
"When I started at CREMER I thought: Glycerin; how boring! What can you do with that? Now I know that it’s one of the most versatile raw materials imaginable,” says Roberto Echeverr.a Botero, product manager for glycerin at CREMER OLEO in Hamburg. His team is where all the threads run together when it comes to global trade in this transparent liquid substance that plays a role in so many parts of our lives.
Seven colleagues in Hamburg make sure that all our customers around the world get enough glycerin for their production. But the oleo product has a crucial role in other CREMER companies, too. Peter Cremer Singapore, for instance, runs our glycerin business in Asia. Peter Cremer North America, based in Cincinnati, OH, looks after our producers and customers on the American continent.
Half of the global glycerin market is in refined and the other half in raw glycerin. CREMER’s core business is in refined glycerin. The majority of raw glycerin purchased by CREMER is therefore destined for refining. Glycerin raffinate is produced in more than 20 plants across Europe with whom CREMER OLEO collaborates.
This allows CREMER to cover an everincreasing share of global glycerin demand – a raw material that we might not be able to see, smell or taste, but one that enriches our everyday life on a continual basis.