8. Market analysis for trimyristin and myristic acid

Nutmeg fixed oil if obtained from nutmeg after initial removal from the nutmeg oil (essential oil) will contain up to 84% trimyristin. Trimyristin is a fat which is made up of a C14 fatty acid, which is myristic acid, and glycerol. There are three major other natural sources of trimyristin coconut oil (17.5%); palm kernel oil (14.1%) and babassu oil (19.9%).

The two most prominent fats (triglycerides) found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil are glyceryl trilaurate and trimyristin (glyceryl trimyristate). Together these fats account for 65.5% and 63.7% of all fats found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil, respectively. However, these fats are never isolated and sold individually because it would be tedious to separate them from the six additional fats present in these oils. What is done in the oleochemical industry with these oils is that all the fats in these oils are split by a single hydrolysis process into their different fatty acids and glycerol. The crude fatty acids are then fractionally distilled to produce the individual fatty acids which are then sold.

Presently, the main use of trimyristin is for research and development. In a survey taken of some chemical companies asking them about the quantity of trimyristin they sell, most reported that the amount sold is small and only as a laboratory reagent. The name, location of the company and the price listed in their catalogues are given in Table 18:

It is not clear whether these companies are extracting the trimyristin from natural sources or producing the trimyristin synthetically. Trimyristin can be produced synthetically by esterifying myristic acid with glycerol, i.e., the reverse process of splitting. The myristic acid can be obtained from the distillate of fatty acids from either coconut oil or palm kernel oil. Thus, there is a small potential market for the sale of relatively pure trimyristin.

One can estimate this sale at present to be about one or two kilograms per year. It is conceivable that the high cost at which trimyristin is being sold presently limits its availability/accessibility to other potential buyers.

The choice of fats and oils used directly in the manufacturing of soap and indirectly for oleochemicals depends on their relative proportions of individual fatty acids. Fats and oils containing fatty acids of chain length between C12-C14 serve best as raw material for the soap, detergent and oleochemical.61 The two fatty acids occurring in natural fats and oils of this chain length are lauric and myristic acid. There are therefore only four natural sources for C12-C14 fatty acids: coconut oil, palm kernel oil, nutmeg fixed oil and babassu oil.

Table 18: Listed Catalogue Price for Trimyristin



Catalogue Prices

Indofine Chemical Co. Inc.

New Jersey, USA

500 mg

$ 45.00

1 g

$ 68.00

Macali Tesque, Inc.

Kyoto, Japan

Extrasynthese S.A.

Genay, France


New York, USA

5 g

$ 38.50

99% pure (GC)

25 g


99% pure (GC)

50 g

$ 44.80

97% pure (GC)


New York USA

Accurate Chemicals

New York, USA


Montana, USA

1 g

$ 11.70

99% pure

5 g

$ 36.65

99% pure

25 g

$ 149.80

99% pure


$ 5.90

90+% pure

5 g

$ 15.45

90+% pure

10 g

$ 25.75

90+% pure


$ 51.45

90+% pure

Coconut, palm kernel and babassu oil are sometimes referred to as lauric oils. Lauric acid is a C12 fatty acid and myristic acid is a C14 fatty acid. "Lauric oils produce the best surfactant molecules due to their 12-carbon and 14-carbon chain lengths, which provide good performance properties for detergency," according to Bill Knodel, Manager of Chemicals for Procter and Gamble Co.62 Thus, fixed oil of nutmeg or trimyristin as a precursor of C14 fatty acid has a place in the soap, detergent and oleochemical industry if it can be produced at a reasonable price.

To estimate the present consumption of trimyristin as a fat source, it is necessary to make some assumptions. The world production of coconut oil and palm kernel oil are 2.85 and 1.53 million metric tons, respectively. Together, the total production of these two oils is 4.38 million metric tons.63 Assuming that half of this is for non-edible purposes, then 2.19 million metric tons of these oils are used industrially.64 If 16% of these oils is trimyristin, then about 0.35 million metric tons or 350 thousand metric tons of trimyristin is consumed annually.

Myristic acid supply is extremely tight in the European market causing prices there to rise strongly. A producer says the US market is firm with strong demand, but prices have not surged.65

Most of this trimyristin used is in the production of myristic acid and myristyl alcohol splitting this fat. Myristic acid and derivatives of this C14 fatty acid play very crucial roles in the cosmetic industry. In May 1993, a Bristol-Myers Squibb's patent application for novel antiperspirant agents described esters of myristyl alcohol as important ingredients which reduces the skin/clothes whitening effect.66 Lancaster marketed a new brand of cosmetic "Le Futur" and myristyl lactate was an active ingredient in their lip colour formulation.67 Dr. Pearl Grimes, an associate professor of dermatology at the King Drew Medical Centre reported that isopropyl myristate and myristyl lactate are active ingredients found in cosmetics frequently purchased by the blacks. Moreover, black women spend over US $600 million annually on cosmetics in the US.68 Unichem North America of Chicago marketed Estol 1509 as an emollient for the skin care and cosmetic industry with the isopropanol derivative of myristic acid as an active ingredient.69. Although there are no worldwide statistics given for the production or consumption of myristic and myristic alcohol, the following table shows the commercial sale of fatty acid imported to the US.

Table 19: US Imports of Industrial Mono Fatty Acids from Coconut, Palm Kernel, and Palm Oil70


Quantity (kg)

Value (thousand $)

Quantity (kg)

Value (thousand $)

December 1992

January-December 1992

World Total










Germany, West


































The quantity of myristic acid landing in ports of New York and New Jersey during June-September of 1993 is given below (taken from Chemical Marketing Reporter):71,72,73,74,75

Table 20: Myristic Acid into Ports of New York and New Jersey


Net weight (kg)

Port of Origin

Date of Arrival




27 June




9 August




27 August



Pt Kelang

7 September




13 September

It is important to note that the above table is only for myristic acid imported into the U.S. through ports in New York and New Jersey. Much more myristic acid is expected to be imported on the pacific coast because of its proximity to the south-east Asian producing countries.

The prices of four major fatty acids listed in Chemical Marketing Reporter in November are given in the table below:76

Table 21: Prices of Four Major Fatty Acids

Fatty Acid


Price per kg


Commercial pure bags, truckload



Commercial pure bags, truckload


Tallow fatty acids

Technical non-returnable, carload



Distilled, railroad tank cars


If one used the estimate that 350 thousand metric tons of trimyristin is consumed indirectly through the use of coconut and palm kernel oil, and if 20% of all fats and oils are used to produce raw materials for the oleochemical industry, then 70 thousand metric tons of trimyristin is used to produce myristic acid and other raw materials for the oleochemical industries. Myristic acid is 71% and glycerol is 29% by weight of trimyristin. Thus, the approximate amount of myristic acid and myristyl alcohol from trimyristin estimated to be produced annually is about 50 thousand metric tons.

It has been stated that a major rule of thumb for pricing fatty acids is that it is twice the cost of the raw material.77 Thus, since myristic acid is sold commercially at US $2.75 per kilogram, then one would assume that the crude trimyristin can be sold at US $1.40 per kilogram. This, therefore, implies that there is a potential world market for trimyristin of 70 thousand metric tons annually to be used in the production of myristic acid and other raw material for the oleochemical industry. The estimated value of this market can be about $140 million US dollars.

9. Recommendations

The following recommendations are made based on the analysis given throughout the body of this report.

(a) The Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) needs to increase its share in the sale of nutmeg and mace in the US market. At present, the GCNA holds a 3% share of the US market nutmeg sales and 0% in mace sales. A more intensive marketing strategy must be put into operation to achieve this increase.

One suggestion is to have a marketing representative located in the Grenadian Mission in New York whose sole purpose is to liaison with all the nutmeg and mace brokers in the US. The representative should send these brokers information on the quality and prices of Grenada's nutmeg and mace. The brokers should be informed about how they can purchase nutmeg from Grenada. The marketing representative should keep abreast of the nutmeg and mace prices on the US market and inform the GCNA on a monthly basis of the US prices of nutmeg and mace. In addition, the representative should follow the market trends and update the GCNA on such trends.

A time limit should be given to this representative to achieve a certain percentage increase in sales of Grenada's nutmeg and mace to the U.S. The GCNA must be given a monthly report on the quantity of Grenadian nutmeg and mace that has been sold in the US.

(b) The marketing representative mentioned in (1) should play a similar role in the marketing of nutmeg oil from Grenada in the US.

(c) Because there is a large potential market for trimyristin as a raw material for the soap and oleochemical industries, the GCNA should begin looking further into isolating this material from nutmeg and marketing this material. The isolation of trimyristin should preferably be done from the remains of nutmeg after the nutmeg oil has been removed by steam distillation.

Note that the GCNA intends to use "defective" nutmeg as raw material for the steam distillation project. (Defective nutmeg is nutmeg that does not float when placed in water. It is termed defective because it is not as dense as the "sound" nutmeg that sinks when placed in water). It is believed that newer (or younger in age) defective nutmeg would have almost the same proportion of trimyristin as sound nutmeg. A laboratory evaluation of the yield of trimyristin from defective nutmeg after steam distillation of the nutmeg oil will have to be undertaken by the Produce Chemist Laboratory. This evaluation should examine the percentage of trimyristin that can be extracted from defective nutmeg of different ages (older versus newer nutmeg) and the quantity of solvent needed for extraction. It is strongly recommended that this study be done prior to a pilot study of the trimyristin extraction process because no full evaluation has been conducted on the "defective" nutmeg. This report and other previous evaluations have only focused on "sound" nutmeg.

In short, it will be economical to extract both nutmeg oil through steam distillation and the trimyristin from the remains after steam distillation because the same batch of nutmeg would be used to yield these two marketable by-products. Moreover, the equipment that would be used for extracting the trimyristin from nutmeg can also be used to extract coconut oil from copra. This would allow the equipment to have multi-purpose uses, and would save in having to purchase additional equipment to extract the coconut oil as well as other vegetable oils.

(d) In considering extracting trimyristin from nutmeg on a large scale, the GCNA should first look into a possible joint venture with a large company that already produces myristic acid and other oleochemicals. The GCNA should propose to this company the possibility of Grenada supplying them with trimyristin as a source of C14 myristic acid and myristyl alcohol. It should be stated that the advantage of using trimyristin over coconut oil or palm kernel oil is that you eliminate the distillation process of purifying the fatty acid since GCNA can produce trimyristin with greater than 90% purity. In Appendix 2, a list of prospective companies that would possibly use trimyristin to produce myristic acid and myristyl alcohol is given.

(e) The GCNA should immediately begin the isolation of trimyristin on a laboratory scale and send out samples to these different companies shown in Appendix 2. In addition, samples greater than 90% pure should be sent to companies that sell trimyristin for research and development purposes. This would require access to a gas chromatography (GC) machine to quote the purity of trimyristin. A GC would also be needed to test the purity of the nutmeg oil and any products sold. A price quote for a GC machine from Perkin Elmer is listed in Appendix 3. Appendix 4 contains a list of companies that offer trimyristin for sale as a laboratory reagent for research and development.

(f) A pilot study must be conducted to examine the following conditions on a commercial scale: (a) the quantity of trimyristin that can be obtained on a commercial scale from the remains of the "defective" nutmeg after steam distillation; (b) the quantity of trimyristin that can be obtained from pure nutmeg', sound or defective; (c) the possible use of one equipment to allow the extraction of oils from other sources such as coconut oil from copra; (d) the optimum conditions of solvent to nutmeg ratio and the best yield possible; and (e) the cost of producing trimyristin commercially under the optimum conditions and equipment recommended. A list of prospective companies that sell equipment for the extraction of fats and those who may also undertake a pilot study is available in Appendix 5.

The capacity of the equipment recommended to be used for the extraction of trimyristin on a commercial scale is capable of consuming about 320,000 kilograms of nutmeg per year. This was based on the quantity of nutmeg that would be consumed in the production of nutmeg oil and the expected remains of nutmeg after the nutmeg oil has been removed. This would imply that the plant should produce 96,000 kilograms of crude trimyristin per year if the yield is approximately 30% by weight. At an estimated price of US $1.00 per kilogram of trimyristin, the annual sales can conceivably be US $96,000.00.

An estimate for a pilot study to be conducted at Texas A and M University along with a description of equipments necessary for the production of trimyristin on a commercial scale and a price quote provided by Crown Iron Works is given in Appendix 6.