Natural preservation: Food waste reduction and shelf life extension targeted as consumers seek value for money
12 Apr 2023 --- Several factors, including the demand for products free from synthetic additives, are driving the use of natural preservation methods in the F&B industry. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with suppliers who share insights into the natural preservation space. Common themes in the category steer toward food waste reduction, the demand for recognizable ingredients and preventing food spoilage by shelf life extension.
Guillaume Gaborit, global product manager for preservation at Givaudan, says the current market environment is putting pressure on cost and price, with consumers seeking value for their money. “Cost efficiency is more important than ever before,” he asserts.
Katrien Lambeens, marketing director at Galactic, also believes that while consumers put the planet’s health first, they continuously look for value in the foods they consume.
“This is stated in the number one trend for 2023 by Innova Market Insights: Redefining Value. This entails an extensive range of subtopics, but one is the search for natural ingredients that don’t harm the planet or consumers’ health,” she explains.
With that growing awareness about what type of preservatives are being used, consumers wonder if the ingredients used in their foods appear in nature or are naturally present in their food and body as well, Lambeens notes.
For Pieter Paul Lamers, vice president of food protection and preservation in Europe for Kerry, the impact on sustainability or reducing food waste by extending shelf life, is overpowering an initial reluctance from the industry to add ingredients.
“With inflation top of mind, consumers are unwilling to buy products at full price with a too-short remaining shelf life due to the fear of food waste and wasting money. Even less so when that product comes with a natural premium as these consumers often have greater awareness for sustainability.”
Thus, there is a growing demand for products that maintain food safety, convenient shelf life, taste and appeal without adding unfamiliar ingredients.
Given the prominence of sustainability in conversations today, Lamers says it is important to flag different examples where adding (natural) ingredients to production can optimize processing and reduce energy consumption.
Furthermore, he stresses that the reliability of food safety and shelf life remains paramount and forms the basis for any preservation, natural or conventional.
A “no-no” for synthetic ingredients
Consumers are steering away from artificial ingredients and seeking out natural alternatives across the board. “Preservatives are no exception,” underscores Gaborit at Givaudan.
He believes a desire for transparency in food ingredients and a preference for recognizable ingredients drives this trend. “Front-of-pack claims like ‘without artificial preservatives’ or ‘no preservatives’ are among the leading claims globally. An IFIC survey revealed that 64% of US consumers chose foods made with clean ingredients and 40% sought natural preservatives.”
According to Lonneke van Dijk, global senior director for the food preservation business at Corbion, there is an increased awareness of the potential health risks associated with synthetic preservatives.
“Consumers are becoming more conscious of their consumption and looking for natural and healthier food options. This has led to an increase in demand for natural preservatives that are effective against microbial spoilage and oxidation, but without compromising on taste, quality and safety.”
She underscores that artificial preservatives, such as synthetic antioxidants and antimicrobials, have been used in F&B products for many years to extend shelf life and maintain product quality.
“However, concerns have been raised about the potential health risks associated with these additives and their impact on the environment.”
“As a result, many consumers are steering away from artificial preservatives and looking for natural preservation methods that use ingredients derived from natural sources, such as vinegar, salt, and citric acid,” she outlines.
“Natural preservatives are perceived as healthier and safer alternatives to synthetic additives and they also can appeal to consumers looking for more sustainable and environmentally friendly products.”
Lambeens at Galactic says that today, many preservatives are still synthetic, derived from the petrochemical industry side-streams.
“They are often labeled with ‘awkward’ names on the ingredient list and don’t state their origin or whether they are natural,” she says.
Food waste elimination
Meanwhile, Kerry has made food waste elimination a top focus and is empowered to do so by investing in its food protection and preservation portfolio.
Lamers says that waste elimination also has an important role in cost reduction, further driving the interest in shelf life protection and extension.
To support the industry in seeing the impact they can have by extending the shelf life of food with a deeper dive into meat and bakery products, Kerry launched its Food Waste Estimator last year, which, Lamers says, has led to some “great lightbulb moments in the industry that support the return on investment in reformulation.”
Lamers observes that natural products without preservative ingredients or processes can create a lot of unintended food waste. “As an industry, we have a role to help consumers prioritize their needs in a sustainable way for them and the planet.”
“We can support consumer understanding of food safety and waste prevention through the education of what an ingredient on the label’s purpose is, how or why a shelf life has been achieved and how or why a shelf life is longer, shorter or different after opening,” he says.
According to Givaudan, over the next two years developments in food ingredients will be driven by economic pressures and a desire for healthy, affordable food options.
“Ultra-processed foods will continue to be scrutinized, in line with the ongoing clean label movement,” Gaborit explains.
“However, there will also be a push to reduce food waste and nutrition loss. Natural preservation solutions will continue to play an important role in bridging the gap between these strong demands to support food experiences that are both healthy and sustainable.”
Processed meat and bakery production
According to Kerry, processed meat is the food application that is seeing the most growth in preservative use, driven by the need to improve the sustainability of meat production.
“Meat waste reduction has a huge sustainability impact and shelf life extension combined with formulation for consumer appeal is the best way to achieve that. Waste elimination also has an important role in cost reduction, further driving the interest in shelf life protection,” outlines Lamers.
He says that bakery is another category where preservative use is needed, driven by ongoing centralization of a need to increase or improve shelf life and avoid the high volumes of waste seen today.
“We see a dichotomy in preservative use in these two categories, with certain brands focusing on a natural, premium positioning, without compromising on shelf life and others becoming more open to the addition of an e-number to their product as a cost-effective way of ensuring food safety, adding extra shelf life days and managing costs for the final consumer,” he underscores.
Givaudan’s Gaborit adds that the demand for natural preservation solutions is highest this year in the savory and culinary product category.
“This includes processed meats, soups, sauces, fats and oils. Consumers are increasingly looking for convenient food experiences that still offer natural ingredients and a clean label, making it a key area of growth for natural preservation,” he explains.
Givaudan launched NaNino+, a patent-pending synergistic combination of plant-based ingredients and natural flavorings that can be used as a nitrite replacement in processed meat (emulsified sausages as a first product category). Gaborit says it supports the creation of lasting multi-sensorial food experiences with great taste, color and freshness.
While initially poised to satisfy growing concerns about nitrites in Europe, NaNino+ has gained traction in many markets worldwide.
Meanwhile, Galactic recently launched Galimax Flavor K-10, an ingredient made up of a dedicated cultured sugar and vinegar combination to specifically support a maintained freshness and delicate flavor in sweet baked goods.
In plant-based foods and meat alternatives, Galactic sees a significant shift that is ongoing from a frozen to a refrigerated offering.
“With so many different needs depending on the process type, the flavor creation and the challenges, each food manufacturer needs dedicated support to apply naturalness and freshness into their products,” explains Lambeens.
Looking ahead, Gaborit adds that one area of potential natural preservation growth is the synergies between ingredients. “By combining different natural ingredients, we can create innovative preservation solutions that offer unique benefits in application,” he concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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