How do ingredient manufacturers respond to such fast-changing consumer tastes? We spoke to leading players to find out.
Hilliard Lombard, Managing Director of Valeo Foods Ireland, is well-placed to comment on the huge changes sweeping the global food sector.
As former head of Aryzta’s European and Asian business before joining Irish based Valeo Foods in early 2016, he has witnessed first-hand the huge pace of change across the global industry. As he sums up: “The last decade has been extremely challenging for the food industry, not just because of the global economic climate but because of the extraordinary changes we have seen in consumer behaviour.”
Whether it’s the drive towards clean label, the reduction and replacement of fats and sugars, the transformation of the snacks market, or the shift to the use of more functional ingredients, the food industry is being bombarded on all sides as consumers seek healthier options.
Health and wellness
Lombard says the bottom line is that our lives are simply not going to get any quieter or easier, yet at the same time we are all demanding better lifestyles.
“For the food industry that translates into healthier options and supplying products which are increasingly local. When it comes to product choice, consumers demand some sort of differentiation and heritage. Today the market is all about convenience, indulgence and health, and that presents a challenge for the whole supply chain. It is about your technical, marketing and manufacturing operations all acting as one.”
A huge growth area is the free-from market as more people are either diagnosed with specific food allergies or adopt free-from diets which they perceive to be healthier. Valeo Foods is a leading player in this market following its acquisition of the Kelkin brand from DCC in 2015. Adds Lombard: “We are in a real leadership position in the free-from market here in Ireland which, like elsewhere in Europe, is growing quickly. Free-from has moved into the mainstream and is now a normal part of life.”
The impact of these societal changes on ingredients has been huge as food manufacturers across the world refine and re-engineer age-old recipes.
One example is the French group Lesieur which produces a range of vegetable oils, sauces and condiments. Its brands include Puget, ISIO 4, Frial and Fleur de Colza, and the company is a subsidiary of the agroindustrial Avril Group, a leader in oilseeds and proteins.
In recent years, Lesieur has completely overhauled the nutritional balance of its products in order to promote a healthy and balanced diet for consumers. Measures have included significantly reducing salt levels in products such as mayonnaises, removing preservatives and artificial additives, and putting greater emphasis on the rich rapeseed oil and palm oil in its products.
Lesieur Managing Director Romain Nouffert says: “Today, any new recipe must first meet strict nutritional criteria and the expectations of its consumers. As manufacturers it is our role to better understand the links between diet, health and wellbeing in order to better align taste and nutritional balance. At the same time we have to innovate around cleaner processes and be aware of packaging trends that better serve the environment.”
Aligned to these moves is the importance of making food production processes as resource efficient and as sustainable as possible.
Novozymes is a Denmark headquartered company that has been a pioneer in the field of industrial biotechnology for the best part of 70 years. Its biotechnology is used by companies to save on energy, water and raw materials in a wide range of products from laundry detergents, textiles and beer, through to biofuels, animal feed and crops.
In terms of the food sector it focuses on developing enzymes that can be used to improve the quality and nutritional value of foods.
Global Marketing Director Ed Gallagher says consumers recognise that a lot of food processing is done at high temperatures which destroys the goodness of any food. This is where companies like Novozymes come in, developing enzymes which means producers don’t have to make products at such high temperatures.
“Our customers are typically looking to us to develop enzymes which reduce this effect and create a more wholesome product. At the same time we have technology that allows certain ingredients to be eliminated from the supply chain, so customers often come to us and say ‘can you eliminate this ingredient from a certain product or avoid the need for these ingredients’.”
“Although consumers may change their view towards the use of certain ingredients in certain products, they will still want to be able to buy that product at a competitive price point. It is also about getting more out of the same crop or using local raw materials more. The global footprint of food producers is an important element to consider.”
Ed Gallagher, Global Marketing Director, Novozmeas