Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns in Asia have resulted in increased demand for food-grade lubricant blenders’ products, industry insiders said.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many families are unable to eat out,” said Suzuki Yutaka, director of Suzuki Kikoh Co., a Japan-based manufacturer of industrial and food-grade lubes. “So, factories for frozen, canned and packaged foods, breads and others are operating at high capacities,” The company expects an increase in demand for food-grade lubricants and is discounting its H1 food-grade lubricants through the end of June.
“The food industry is running at full capacity since the lockdown,” said Norman Kum, CEO and director of Sumber Petroleum Cemerlang Sdn., an industrial and food-grade lubricant manufacturer in Malaysia.
In March, supermarkets in Japan sold 13 percent more or about 7 million more cups of instant noodle than in March 2019, according to data reported by Nikkei POS, a sales performance data service in Japan. Shelves for canned and processed foods like biscuits and snacks, and frozen foods were often empty in supermarkets in Singapore. Some shelves empty by the end of the day.
“However, the [Malaysian] government did impose certain restrictions on manufacturers by reducing the number of workers by at least 50 percent and changing operating procedures like maintaining safe-work distance, so this is also quite challenging to many industries,” Kum added.
He said some manufacturers reduced activities due to the movement control order but “within the entire products range, the highest demand is usually for food-grade hydraulic oil.”
NSF International is an independent third-party organization that registers non-food compounds such as lubricants found within processing facilities for food, beverage and pharmaceuticals. Lubricants that meet the H1 food grade lubrication classification must be non-toxic and have neither taste nor smell and are intended for applications where there is potential for the material to have incidental contact with food. Food-grade lubes are typically used for machinery such as pumps, conveyor belts and mixers, and for applications like canning, cooking, cutting, slicing, peeling, bottling and brewing.
Processors generally have discretion to choose if and where to use food-grade lubes. One of the most common reasons for using them is if exposed food or beverages passes under lubricated equipment, thereby posing the possibility of leaked or thrown lubes falling onto the food.