SPECIAL REPORT: Ingredient Suppliers Maximize Innovation Through Consumer Trends

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25 Jul 2016 --- Innovation across the food industry is centuries old and continues to drive the industry forward, from the arrival of natural sweeteners to high pressure pasteurization. Today, across an industry struggling with growth and facing the twin challenge of price pressure from food retailers and changing consumer habits, it is innovation which helps food manufacturers and suppliers stand out from the pack.

The agribusiness may be in a state of flux amid a wave of mergers, but what is not in a state of flux is the mindset of consumers, who are unequivocal about being ever-more demanding about the food they consume.
 
This prompting food manufacturers such as General Mills, Campbell Soup and Hershey to demand sweeping changes from ingredient suppliers to meet these changing trends, whether it be a move towards cleaner labeling, a shift away from GMO-contained products, permissible indulgence, or concerns about food waste.
 
"At the end of the day, no matter what we do, it's still down to consumer choice," said Jeff Beckman, director of communication with Hershey. "We all know the old tired saying that they vote with their dollars. If you don't do it right and the product doesn't taste right to consumers, they will vote against us.”
 
FoodIngredientsFirst spoke to DuPont amongst other ingredient suppliers to discuss innovation.
 
DuPont
For US chemicals giant DuPont, the biggest recent breakthrough, relating to food science, is its work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas, which has potentially massive implications for the food and agribusiness and beyond.
 
The technology can potentially make food more nutritious and be used to remove allergens in food.
 
At DuPont, scientists are working on CRISPR/Cas-edited versions of corn, soybeans and other commodity crops – which boast higher yields and are said to be drought resistant- and could bring them to market in the next five years.
 
Dr Angela Naef, (pictured) vice president, Global Technology & Innovation, DuPont Nutrition & Health said: “The Click to Enlargebiotechnological tools for genome editing, derived from the natural CRISPR process we use in DuPont Nutrition & Health hold the biggest opportunities in fields such as plant improvement and gene therapy in the future.”
 
According to Dr. Naef, there is currently an abundance of science-based innovation within the food ingredients sector, particular in the area of probiotics.
 
She said: “Here we see innovation in not just the ingredients for example, the use of DuPont’s patented stabilization technology ensuring the potency and efficacy of probiotics for 24 months without need of refrigeration. But also innovation in the condition-specific approach to research and supporting science or the innovative way these ingredient solutions brought to market.”
 
Nagase
The Japanese company showcased its beverage and bakery sweetener trehalose at the recent IFT Food Expo in Chicago, highlighting the ingredient’s benefits to a grapefruit energy beverage and glazed donuts.
 
According to Michael Moses, marketing manager at the US operations of the Japanese ingredients company, the beverage sector is ripe for innovation.
 
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, he said: "I think beverage is definitely a space where people are seeing lot of innovation because [in the case of] traditional market leaders such as soda, consumption is going down and so there you will lots of different types of [new] functional beverages."
 
A naturally occurring glucose-based disaccharide, trehalose is a specialty sweetener and a multi-functional sugar which claims to have myriad potential benefits for the food and drinks industry, including improving the flavor of beverages.
 
In the case of the grapefruit energy drink, Moses said: “It uses trehalose for odor and flavor masking and the reason that is interesting is there are lots of things that can mask flavor but few things that can mask flavor and odor."
 
For the donut, trehalose helps extend the shelf life by stabilizing its glaze for longer than normal, thus helping reduce food waste over the long run.
 
Avebe
Another company showcasing at the IFT Food Expo was the Dutch starch maker Avebe, which was exhibiting its combination of potato starches and potato proteins specifically targeting the meat industry.
 
Its various applications of potato starches and potato proteins tap into a number of long-standing and growing trends, such as representing good value for money without comprising the standards of the product, being non-GM, allergen free, and clean labeling.
 
According to Innova Market Insights (2015), 28 percent of US consumers claim that "clean label" is a factor that influences their purchasing decision when shopping for foods or beverages across all categories.
 
Specifically, Avebe’s potato protein Solanic is marketed as boasting advantages such as having good emulsification properties, being non-GM, kosher and halal certified with no allergen labeling necessary.
 
Taura Natural IngredientsClick to Enlarge
For Taura Natural Ingredients, the New Zealand-based ingredients company acquired by Frutarom last year, innovation is focused across six key segments: fruit snacking; nutritional bars; baked snacks- ready-to-eat cereals; high added value bakery; premiumization of chocolate.
 
Peter Dehasque, chief executive of Taura, believes that the trend of permissible indulgence, already firmly established, will continue to grow and represents an important area for the business to increase profits.
 
He said: “The permissible indulgence segment, which has some interface with the health & wellness trend has grown tremendously. We see that as the big growth pool, based on that consumer trend.”
 
“You can see it in better for you snack bars, which are still linked to indulgence, but in a better way. So you combine with a big share in healthy snacks with the whole permissible indulgence segment. This really gives us our growth plans for Europe.”
 
Conclusion
Supplier innovation continues to be rampant and varied, but the market necessitates this as large food companies are becoming ever more demanding of their suppliers.
 
In today’s environment, it is demanded of suppliers not only to come up with solutions but also to derive ideas and consumer insight into what the next trends will be.
 
It is those suppliers who can answer these questions that will win out in the end.
 
by John Reynolds

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