Corn refiners produce a variety of sweeteners. All the sweeteners share advantages–stability and crystallization control, for example–but each offers special qualities to food manufacturers and consumers.

Corn Sweeteners Are Natural. Read more about the natural status of corn sweeteners.

More about High Fructose Corn Syrup

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Through different combinations of steepwater, corn germ residues, fiber, and corn gluten, corn refiners produce four major feed products: gluten meal, gluten feed, corn germ meal, and condensed fermented corn extractives (steepwater).

Corn gluten meal supplies vitamins, minerals, and energy in poultry feeds; pet food processors value it for its high digestibility and low residue. Steepwater is a liquid protein supplement for cattle and is also used as a binder in feed pellets, and corn gluten feed provides protein and fiber for beef cattle.

Corn derived feed ingredients are one of America’s leading agricultural exports. More than $760 million of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal are exported each year, strengthening the U.S. balance of payments.

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Starch is one of nature’s major renewable resources and a mainstay of our food and industrial economy. Basic consumer necessities such as paper and textiles are major uses for corn starch in sizing, surface coating, and adhesive applications. Corn starches, and their derivatives dextrins (a roasted starch), are used in hundreds of adhesive applications. Special types of starches are used in the search for oil as part of the “drilling mud” which cools down superheated oil drilling bits. Other key uses of starch in American industry are as flocculating agents, anticaking agents, mold-release agents, dusting powder, and thickening agents.

Literally, thousands of supermarket staples are produced using both regular and specially modified starches. Many of today’s instant and ready-to-eat foods are produced using starches which enable them to maintain the proper textural characteristics during freezing, thawing and heating.  You will also find starch in a wide variety of household items such as batteries, matches, cleaners, and trash bags. Many personal and health care items including cosmetics, deodorant, hair styling products, asprin, cough drops, and medicines, include starch in their ingredients.

Clyclodextrins are enzyme-modified starches that have the ability to encapsulate ingredients such as vitamins, flavors, and medicines, which allows controlled release of active ingredients and protects ingredients that might otherwise be incompatible in product formulations.  Cyclodextrins are used in products such as laundry sheets, which release their fragrance and softener in the dryer.  They can also be used to remove cholesterol from milk and eggs.   Corn starch can be manipulated in a variety of ways to produce products that benefit the environment.

Corn starch combined with polymers creates a super absorbent used in disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, bandages, and baby powders, and can be used to remove water from fuels and to clean up pesticide spills.  Extrusion, the same process used to make snack foods, can alter the physical structure of corn starch to make totally biodegradable packaging peanuts.  Starch granules can be broken down into nanoparticles to form adhesives that can replace petroleum-based acetates and alcohols used to help laminate graphics onto cardboard and latexes used as binders in paper coatings. The most promising new market for corn starches is as raw material for the production of industrial chemicals and plastics which are today made from petroleum feedstocks. As petroleum supplies dwindle or become less reliable, the importance of an abundant source of basic industrial chemicals takes on new proportions. Corn industry scientists are at work on new systems for producing industrial necessities from the versatile corn plant.

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Corn Oil

By removing free fatty acids and phospholipids from crude corn oil, the oil refining process gives corn oil one of the qualities consumers value most: its excellent frying quality and resistance to smoking or discoloration. Corn oil is regarded highly for its functionality, exceptional flavor, economy, and health benefits. It is a concentrated source of energy, is very digestible, provides essential fatty acids and Vitamin E, and is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help regulate blood cholesterol levels and lower elevated blood pressure.

Learn more about the health benefits of corn oil. Corn oil has replaced a significant amount of saturated fat in numerous food products. It is also a top choice for trans fat reduction. In addition to snack food applications, corn oil can be an effective component in reducing trans fats in restaurant settings. Laboratory frying tests show that corn oil performed close to parity with cottonseed oil when used to fry frozen potatoes. Corn oil can also be interesterified with fully hydrogenated vegetable oil to produce trans free margarines.

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Henry Ford first suggested running cars on ethanol from corn, but it took the oil shortages of the seventies and the environmental problems of the eighties to turn ethanol into an important component in the American fuel supply.

Ethanol is made by fermenting sugars produced from corn starch. Many corn refining factories produce both ethanol and other corn products like starches and sweeteners so that capital and manufacturing costs can be kept as low as possible. While they are making ethanol, corn refiners also produce valuable coproducts such as corn oil and corn gluten feed.

Ethanol, blended with gasoline at a 10 percent level or in the form of ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) made from ethanol, is effective in reducing carbon monixide levels, ozone pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions from automobile exhaust. For more information about ethanol, please visit the Renewable Fuels Association Web site.


The term bioproducts designates a wide variety of corn refining products made from natural, renewable raw materials, which replace products made from non-renewable resources or which are produced by chemical synthesis. Fermentation of corn-derived glucose has given rise to a multitude of bioproducts including organic acids, amino acids, vitamins, and food gums. Citric and lactic acid from corn can be found in hundreds of food and industrial products.

They provide tartness to foods and confections, help control pH, and are themselves feedstocks for further products. Amino acids from corn provide a vital link in animal nutrition systems. Most grain feeds don’t have the amount of lysine required by swine and poultry for optimal nutrition. Economical corn based lysine is now available worldwide to help supplement animal feeds. Threonine and tryptophan for feed supplements also come from corn.

Vitamin C and Vitamin E – vital human nutritional supplements – are now derived from corn, supplanting old production systems which relied on chemical synthesis. Even well-known food additives such as monosodium glutamate and xanthan gum are now produced by fermenting a glucose feedstock. Biopolymers are a more recent development in the category of bioproducts, and an area that shows great promise.

Corn-based polymers including polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), and 1,3 propanediol (Bio-PDO) are high-performance, biodegradable alternatives to petroleum-derived materials. Biodegradable and energy efficient caps, cups, paper coatings, fabrics, carpeting, and a host of other products are all possible today because of corn-based biopolymers.