Membrane Technology for Food and Beverage Processing

Published - Aug 2006| Analyst - Susan Hanft| Code - MST030B
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Report Highlights

  • Worth an estimated market value of $185 million in 2006, membrane sales to food and beverage processors is forecast to rise at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of about 4.6% during the next 5 years, reaching $230 million
  • Wastewater treatment will continue to be the primary pollution prevention focus for food and beverage processors. But, another industry trend for minimizing waste and improving the bottom line is converting food byproducts to value-added products. Many conversion activities offer opportunities for membranes: transforming salts in waste to useful acids and bases, recovering blood proteins from slaughterhouse wastes, or fermentating corn starch to ethanol, corn oil and other corn co-products.
  • Competitive technologies in food and beverage processing include a variety of media filters and other separation and purification methods including centrifugation, adsorption, evaporation, distillation, pasteurization and ion exchange.


Food and beverage processing is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the U.S., accounting for more than 10% of all manufacturing shipments. The industry also has considerable presence in the global economy, with more than one-third of the top 50 food and beverage industry processors located in the U.S. Leading processors include Archer Daniels Midland, Kraft Foods, Cargill, Pepsico, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Mars, ConAgra, Anheuser Busch, and General Mills. These compete with major overseas companies, including Nestle (Switzerland), Unilever (U.K.), Groupe Danone (France), Diageo (U.K.), Kirin Brewery (Japan), SABMiller (South Africa), Cadbury Schweppes (U.K.), Heineken (Netherlands) and Asahi Brewery (Japan).

Separation science is essential to manufacturing food and beverage products. Evaporation, centrifugation, media filtration, distillation, and solvent extraction are just a few of the traditional processes used in solid/liquid and liquid/liquid separations needed in the sector. Since their debut in the food industry about 30 years ago, membranes have found both large-volume and niche applications across a range of food and beverage industries, including fluid milk, cheese, and other dairy products; grain and oilseed products; beer, wine, and soft drinks; frozen, canned, preserved, and juiced fruit and vegetables; sugar and other sweeteners; meat, poultry, and seafood products; and various miscellaneous foods and food additives.


This study has been compiled to review the state of the art of membrane technology as applied to food and beverage processing, offer a valuation of the current market, and provide estimates of future growth for a market that has developed rapidly, but which also is becoming more fragmented.

The report will examine the crossflow membrane technologies: reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), ultrafiltration (UF), and microfiltration (MF), as well as dead-end UF/MF filtration. The smaller markets relating to ion-exchange membranes and membrane contactors also will be evaluated.

The market for membrane applications in process water and process fluids, wastewater treatment and water reuse, product recovery, and cleaner recycling will be considered. Membrane gas separations as needed in food and beverage manufacture will not be covered.


The use of membrane technology in the food and beverage industries was dominated for many years, and to a large extent still is, by applications in the treatment of milk and whey. This market, although large (and still increasing), has little published information relating to market size and growth. Application areas such as juice and wine clarification, and protein processing are also relatively undocumented from a marketing perspective. The primary reason for the dearth of information is likely the competitive nature of the business, which has increased with maturation of the market and as some degree of commoditization has become accepted.

Most companies are unwilling to share any dollar amount or market share information for fear of encouraging 'poaching' by their competitors. This has become more critical as standard products (e.g., spirals for dairy applications) have become widespread, along with multiplication of the number of suppliers of these standard products and the increased experience of users with the technology. All of the above point to a need for objective analysis of the field.


With the issues mentioned above as a background, this comprehensive report aims to better define the market and its opportunities for existing suppliers; those interested in investment, acquisition, or expansion into the membrane market; and end-user companies in the food industry. It seeks to provide these users with specific, detailed information crucial to making educated decisions. This study is an information source on the industry and a reference manual on this advanced technology, and a resource that provides information to decision makers who need to stay abreast of the state of the art.

This report is designed to be as comprehensive as possible, and to be useable by a broad audience of business, technical, and regulatory practitioners on a global scale. Senior marketing personnel, venture capitalists, executive planners, research directors, government officials, and suppliers to the membrane industry who want to discover and exploit current or projected market niches should find this report of value. Novice readers who wish to understand how regulations, market pressures, and technology interact in the membrane arena also will find this study worthwhile.


Technology basics will be reviewed so that every reader begins with some level of technical understanding. The report moves on to an analysis of applications of the technology in nine fields of food and beverage manufacture, and finally presents predictions for emerging applications in the industry. The report also contains some background on regulatory requirements for both membranes and modules used in sanitary applications.

Where appropriate, detailed information on specific products, supplier companies, and market information will be detailed for the specific application in order to present a complete and stand alone analysis. Five-year projections are provided for market activity and value. Industry structure, trends, pricing considerations, R&D, government regulations, company profiles, and competitive technologies are included.


Research for this report began with a re-analysis of the available technical and business literature, as well as an evaluation of the personal records of the membrane industry available to the author. Conversations with industry experts and company representatives, and a review of their published works provide the backbone for the market evaluation. Other sources of information include product literature from system suppliers, patent information, annual reports, and BCC Research's monthly newsletter, Membrane & Separation Technology News. Forecasts in this report are based on announced projects and anticipated capacity additions over the next 5 years. Costs are based on published data and interviews with industry participants.

The term "membranes" refers to sheet, hollow fiber, or tubular membrane material enclosed in housings (where relevant), which are packaged into modules, capsules, cartridges, or cassettes. Membranes used in crossflow systems, dead-end systems, and electrochemical systems are included.

Calculations are based on the retail price of products rather than the discounted costs available to large-volume users and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Sales of replacement membranes are included in market sizes and forecasts.


The information sources for this study include online research, patent literature, technical journals, and interviews with principals in the industry. The monthly BCC newsletter, Membrane & Separation Technology News, provides regular updates on industry and technology news events influencing the membrane industry.


During the past 6 years, Susan Hanft has authored more than 12 BCC Research reports in the fields of membrane technology and water/wastewater treatment. Hanft also serves as editor of the BCC newsletter, Membrane & Separation Technology News.

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