Diana Food: Agronomic expertise key to answering consumers' flavor demands

Diana Food: Agronomic expertise key to answering consumers' flavor demands

30 Jan 2018 --- With the rise of the clean and clear label trend, the modern consumer is looking for clarity and more healthy foods, but is not willing to compromise on taste. To support its customers in creating products that will meet these consumer demands, Diana Food has just introduced a new range of 100 percent clean label natural juice concentrates, which the company says improve clients’ industrial performance, deliver a “real” taste signature, with no need for other taste components. FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Sébastien Langlais, Science Platform Leader, Taste at Diana Food about the new range as well as the benefits of the company’s recent integration into Symrise and the importance of local expertise.

Diana Food manufactures concentrates, powders, flakes and granules from fruits, vegetables, meat and fish or seafood. According to the company, these forms enhance the sensory quality – taste, color, texture and appearance – as well as the “nutritional physiological benefit of foods, including their functionality and shelf life.”

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Sébastien Langlais, Science Platform Leader, Taste at Diana Food

Full taste experience
With the new range, Diana Food aims to deliver “a unique clean label solution; a very high performing product in terms of taste intensity, fresh taste,” using a highly developed combination of technology and agronomy.

The range’s unique point is, according to Langlais, that conventional products often use a regular juice concentrate with some additives or flavor, or artificial flavor or extract to get that same “full taste experience.”

Agronomy – more specifically, the selection of soil and species – is key to begin with, Langlais notes.

“The first pillar [in creating the range] was to select the materials and to select the one that will have the best aromatic at the time we can harvest it. The idea is to select the right species, grow it in the right soil and then compare a lot of different juices and see which one delivers the most aromatic,” Langlais says.

“The second pillar was to review the way we have been processing the raw material. We reviewed our products and the optimum parameters, with the objective of keeping the aromatic as much as possible. So, for example, picking the aromatic and going in the freshness direction by reducing the cooking temperature, concentrating the juice a little bit less, which has improved our current product.”

The third pillar is the actual technology. Regarding this aspect, Diana’s inclusion in the Symrise group proved a huge benefit as it gave the company access to some technology which limits the loss of aroma during processing.

To ensure that the range meets the right standards, Diana Food has conducted consumer evaluations and gained the opinions of culinary professionals. “What we got from talking to different chefs that are testing our product in a dehydrated soup, for example, was that we were able to deliver a sense of freshness, with chefs saying that it tastes like it’s a freshly made soup, which is quite outstanding for a dehydrated application,” Langlais asserts.

Symrise joint projects
Speaking on the advantages of falling under the Symrise banner, Sébastien Langlais explains that Symrise Flavors and Diana Food complement each other in a number of areas. “We plan to conduct joint research on lots of different topics, especially in the vegetable category. Both divisions’ R&D work hand in hand, sharing technology. Symrise is of course very advanced in technology and culinary understanding – and we have a lot of knowledge in agronomy and processing vegetables. We are combining our expertise to offer unique Natural taste Solutions to our key customers.” 

A pertinent example of such joint work involves research on alternatives to maltodextrin, a carrier widely used in the flavor industry which is also used to spray dry Diana Food’s juice concentrates, to deliver it in powder form to its customers.

“Right now, the consumer wants to see maltodextrin off all labeling,”Sébastien Langlais explains, and to support its customers, Symrise and Diana jointly “screened different types of carriers to see which could match the performance of maltodextrin.”

“We had to have both regulatory departments working together as well, to make sure that we ticked all the boxes in terms of regulatory concerns, to determine the status of the new carrier that we would like to use, in Europe as well as in the US.”
“What’s interesting in that project is that we consider the same parameters to qualify the proper replacement for maltodextrin,” Sébastien Langlais says. “It’s not only about the taste, but it’s also about the regulations, as well as consumer preferences. For example, maltodextrin as an ingredient was rejected by the American consumer first. We knew that this product needed to be removed from the label almost two years ago,” because it did not fit within US consumers’ conception of clean.

Local expertise
Present in 14 countries around the world, Diana Food runs 11 industrial sites and 13 sales offices. Through this network of local teams, Diana Food aims to provide the closest proximity to its partners, offering customers tailor-made solutions to perfectly match local markets’ demands.

To meet consumer preferences in different markets, Diana Food is organized by region with multiple people working on applications in each region so that they understand the market and they know what kind of product will fit their market the most, Langlais explains.
To exemplify the importance of local knowledge, he notes how preferred flavor aspects such as intensity can differ markedly according to region.

“Take as an example onion juice concentrate: We’ve been developing a range of onion juice concentrates for Asia and more specifically, for Japan and South Korea. These are different from what we taste in the European market. Japanese consumers are looking for a sweet onion, so to deliver this kind of product, we screened approximately 90 different species of onion to look for the one that will deliver not only the onion taste, but also the desired sweetness. Because that’s what the Japanese consumer is expecting from onions.”

Traceability and sustainability are pivotal topics for Diana Food. Speaking on the latest advancements in these areas, Langlais says that the new juice concentrate range is in line with its traceability and sustainability policies. 

“As far as sustainability [goes], Diana Food came up with a way of ranking our products according to certain criteria on sustainability so that we can offer [a fitting product] to our customer. We also apply sustainability parameters coming from a customer when necessary,” Langlais notes.

“Once we select the right variety of leek or carrot, we use contract farming because we want to make sure that we know where the vegetable is coming from. Our team of agronomist selects and supports our farmers to continuously improve sustainable farming practices and guarantee the maximum potential of vegetables. So the idea, again, is traceability and backward integration,” he concludes.

By Lucy Gunn

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