Kerry: COVID-19 has accelerated trend for food safety and “cleaner” meat products
Calls for cleaner and shorter labels on meat products specifically are on the rise, says VP
14 Sep 2020 --- Taste and nutrition company Kerry has observed a rising trend in meat products with cleaner, shorter labels. More consumers are actively working to eliminate unrecognizable and artificial ingredients from their diets. “The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated this trend by creating feelings of vulnerability, leading consumers to view the foods they eat as an area of life over which they have some control,” says Brian Nevin, vice president of food protection at Kerry.
A recent Kerry Cleaner Label survey of consumer attitudes in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions on the subject of safety, health, and the environment found that the top six clean label concerns in these geographic areas are related to food safety.
Consumers in every region of the world, particularly Australia and New Zealand, Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia), Japan and South Korea, consider food safety a priority.
“This is why clean label meat products with fewer chemical-sounding names on the ingredients list are increasingly viewed favorably,” Nevin maintains.
“However, replacing the food safety functionality of traditional artificial preservatives with consumer-friendly alternatives is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that requires a high level of expertise,” says Nevin.
Throughout the US’s Food Safety Month this September, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds consumers to think about health and safety in the kitchen.
“My vision for food safety includes enhancing and emphasizing consumer education,” says Mindy Brashears, undersecretary for food safety at USDA. “Consumers play a vital role in reducing foodborne illness – and by providing scientifically accurate and effective food safety information, we can help empower them to adopt and practice safe food handling behaviors in their own homes.”
Consumers should follow four simple steps for food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill. “Our research has shown that handwashing and preventing cross-contamination are two food safety steps that consumers sometimes struggle with,” adds Paul Kiecker, an FSIS administrator.
According to Nevin, around the world, food safety is top of mind. “Nowhere is this more evident than in meat production, where food safety is subject to widespread concerns about health and cost,” he stresses.
Clean label preservation of meat
For Kerry, clean label meat means using simple ingredients for safekeeping that consumers can recognize as natural sources, including avoiding synthetic, chemical alternatives.
Globally, meat is ranked as the top category in which consumers seek to remove artificial chemical ingredients and look for “free-from” claims on product labels, says Nevin.
“In particular, nitrates and nitrites, traditionally used as meat preservatives, are increasingly viewed as ‘no-no’ ingredients; instead, these consumers are seeking out meat that contains no artificial preservatives,” he continues.
Under restrictions related to the pandemic, consumers have more time on their hands to read ingredient labels and research products, and Kerry believes consumer demand will continue to drive the “secular transition” of meat products away from chemical preservatives and toward clean label protection.
Building blocks for better shelf life
Kerry has found that processed meats that are pre-cooked and sold refrigerated, such as lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages, chicken balls, and so on, are leading the meat sector’s clean label trend in Asia Pacific (APAC).
Clean label alternatives to nitrates/nitrites include Accel, Kerry’s clean label preservation solutions for fresh and processed meats.
Accel is produced through the fermentation of celery and offers similar functionality as nitrates/nitrites that ensure food safety by inhibiting pathogens such as listeria; enhancing color development, maintaining sensory qualities; and delivering significant shelf life benefits.
“Also, using Accel allows for ‘natural’ and ‘no artificial preservative’ claims,” Nevin adds.
In poultry applications that do not require the characteristic pink color associated with cured meats, Kerry offers a patented technology to control pathogens and deliver the “same great taste” utilizing a combination of vinegar and natural products from fermentation.
These consumer-friendly ingredients, such as the company’s Durafresh line, are building blocks for better shelf life, flavor and texture in meat application, Nevin highlights.
Of course, taste also plays a crucial role in consumer purchase. For Kerry, the first step in ensuring flavor without additives and artificial ingredients is developing simple, natural food protection technologies that have a minimal impact on taste.
“The industry is often accustomed to ‘building back’ from the taste of some synthetic preservative solutions, so a more neutral starting point means fewer additions needed to perfect the product’s flavor,” explains Nevin.
Moreover, Kerry has a wide-ranging portfolio of natural flavors that can be used built into food protection systems to elevate a product’s flavor naturally. “Natural smoke flavors, for instance, have been a popular addition in meat products for many years. We work closely with our technical experts to leverage our natural smoke and grill flavors, distilling out targeted components to bring out the best taste in your product over its shelf life,” Nevin notes.
Overcoming formulation challenges
The first challenge concerning meat products is always food safety and shelf life.
“Keeping food safe is much more than just preventing spoilage: it involves protecting flavor, texture and color, as well as maintaining the overall quality of a final product over its shelf life,” explains Nevin.
“For example, APAC's added challenge is the exceptionally hot climate of many countries that intensifies microbial growth in meat products. Moreover, many countries in APAC have limited cold supply chains. Together, these factors exacerbate the food safety challenges and lead to higher food wastage,” he continues.
Taste is the second-largest challenge for Kerry. Fortunately, the company has developed clean label solutions that offer minimal taste impact.
“This is especially valuable in meat products that don’t have a strong flavor, such as turkey deli meat,” Nevin states.
In these products specifically, Kerry is in a “unique position due to having an extensive leading-edge portfolio of technology in both our natural preservation solutions and our natural flavors and taste products.”
Meanwhile, Kerry’s primary consumer research indicates that the meaning of clean label in APAC is centered around “naturalness” (less processing, and removal of chemicals and preservatives), health (sodium, sugar and fat reduction), and food safety and security.
Understanding and adhering to local regulations is also a critical factor. “Our global regulatory footprint ensures that we understand local food safety regulations as we partner with our customers to ensure full compliance in the regions in which they operate,” Nevin concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.