Consumers are showing increasing awareness regarding food safety and the importance of healthy eating. We talk to Jan Grøndal of Einar Willumsen, Michele Fite of Solae, Solanic’s Frank Goovaerts and Simon Cuthbert of Obipektin to find out what role R&D plays and how it enables ingredient providers to react to market developments.
“Research shows that end-consumers are concerned with the source of their food and manufacturing practices used in food processing”
-Michele Fite, Solae
Any breaches in food safety can have grave effects, both for consumers and the businesses that supply them. What steps do you take to ensure that your products are free from any contamination?
Jan Grøndal: All issues regarding food safety are handled in our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and quality systems. We monitor our suppliers and require all necessary documentation from them. In addition we take random samples for analysis to further ensure the quality and safety of our raw materials. This is to minimise the risk of contaminated material entering our factory. In the event this does happen, despite these precautions, we have a fully automatic traceability function in our ERP system and we have detailed recall procedures.
For all lots produced in our plant, we can conduct forward and backward traceability analysis. In other words we can immediately find out which customers have received a specific batch produced by our company and we can, at the same time, immediately find out which specific lot numbers of raw materials have been used to manufacture the products. This forward and backward fully automatic traceability allows us to react very fast in certain situations and take the necessary actions - such as recall if needed.
Michele Fite: Product quality is paramount to our customer's success, and our promise to them. Research shows that end-consumers are concerned with the source of their food and manufacturing practices used in food processing. Traceability, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and brand trust are some key areas for Solae.
Solae sets the industry standard in traceability of its soy ingredients. We can tell you where our raw materials were grown and purchased. We can also provide documentation of every step our materials take through the manufacturing process, including the safety measures used throughout the value chain.
Solae continually invests in programs, equipment and expertise to strengthen and improve our overall quality and safety programs.
The single most critical danger to a brand's success is poor quality. Solae believes that our customers can only build a trusted brand by using suppliers who have the same expectations of quality and product safety.
Frank Goovaerts: Solanic is an ingredient supplier rather than end-product producer. Using a new process Solanic isolates potato protein out of raw potato fruit juice. The juice is obtained following starch extraction by parent company AVEBE. The process is exceptionally benign - no harsh chemical treatments are used, which all helps to conserve the high functionality and purity of the resulting isolates, which are typically 92-95 percent protein on dry matter.
Solanic has access to exclusive technology to maintain the finished ingredient specification. For consistent microbiology, pasteurisation is utilised and novel separation technology is deployed to ensure low glycoalkaloid levels, well below defined EU limits.
Trace contamination also works in favour of product opportunities. From the end of 2010 EU wine producers will need to provide a label declaration for allergenic clarifying proteins such as fish, dairy or egg (and pork gelatin is unacceptable for halal or kosher reasons). Solanic proteins perform well in wine clarification - they are kosher approved and hypoallergenic so no label declaration is required. The principle of clarification similarly extends to fruit juices and beers.
Simon Cuthbert: In addition to supplying ingredients to all of the world's major food manufacturers, Obipektin is proud to be the first choice supplier of baby and toddler food ingredients for many of the world's leading producers of infant nutrition products. Performing at a consistently high level in this arena is critical to our business and minimising food safety risk underpins everything that we do.
Raw materials are critical to our success and through our network of direct, contracted growers and carefully selected processors we have established a very secure and reliable supply chain. We carry out our own surveillance audits on our raw material suppliers from around the world to ensure consistent high quality and traceability is maintained within our supply.
Once the raw materials are in-house, as either fresh fruit, juice concentrate or puree, they are processed into our range of spray, drum or vacuum dried powders, with every step of the process carried out according to our Swiss quality philosophy.
Furthermore, Obipektin AG meets all the requirements to sell its products in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and is constantly supervised by the Official Swiss Food authorities. We operate our own in-house analytical and microbiological laboratory which itself is externally accredited according to ISO 17025:2005.
All products by Obipektin AG are produced based on a defined Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept, which is standard with food ingredient manufacturers.
Obipektin is accredited and certified by SQS in Switzerland to both the International Quality Management System ISO 9001:2000 and to The Food Safety Standard according to BRC at the highest grade achievable - grade 'A'.
We live in a world that changes rapidly. How important is it that ingredient providers are able to react quickly to developments in the market?
MF: As a 50-year industry leader in science and technology innovation, Solae is committed to helping food manufacturers protect their brand by providing products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations. The company also invests in consumer surveys and market research in order to understand consumer likes and behaviour.
This commitment to science and innovation has resulted in numerous new product concepts and over 100 patents, more than any other soy protein provider. Solae was the first to bring many innovative technologies that allowed food companies to use soy protein in their applications.
There have been many groundbreaking milestones in Solae's long history: we were the first to introduce isolated soy protein for infant formula and medical nutritional applications; the first to introduce soy fibre for nutritional beverage and bar applications; the first to introduce soy crisps enabling the slab form nutritional bar category; and we were first to understand the complex ingredient interactions in extruded products.
FG: Food ingredient policy in mature markets is mediated largely by retailers - that means the person to whom you propose a new product line - and their ability to interpret corporate policy. In turn this demand has to be interpreted by producers in partnership with their ingredient suppliers.
UK retailers are increasingly adopting a 'kitchen cupboard' approach to ingredients - if it's not familiar to the stereotypical 'housewife' purchaser, then they prefer not to accept it. So 'out' go 'chemicals' and E-numbers, which were originally designed to protect consumers by providing precision to the label identification system.
However the present economic strain is softening this policy as low recipe cost becomes predominant for a time. But when the present stress is over, and conditions improve, further 'clean label' progress is a 'given', which is still in premium products.
Solanic's contribution here is to provide an all-natural GM-free vegetal ingredient, sourced from potato, that is both hypo-allergenic and supports a 'clean label' on-pack declaration. Consequently Solanic proteins are ideal in functional applications for vegan and vegetarian products.
SC: The lifetime of consumer products continues to get shorter and the demand from retailers for new products continues to get higher. Coupled with this pressure is a growing influence of World tastes having an influence on local markets, perhaps due to increased tourism or advertising?
These factors necessitate that ingredient producers such as Obipektin AG are structured in such a manner that they are able to predict and respond to changing demands very quickly.
Therefore, in addition to a culture of challenge and creativity, fast and effective communication between sales, marketing, purchasing and product development teams is considered a very important factor in our success at Obipektin AG.
JG: As a supplier of taste it is critical always to be at the front end of any new development in the marketplace. This includes new taste trends, new health trends and of course the everlasting need for optimization.
This was always the case in the more than 100 years of history of Einar Willumsen, but it has become more and more evident in recent years. Everything happens faster than only "yesterday" and a new trend in one part of the world translates to other parts in no time. Due to the Internet, consumers are aware of such new, interesting trends and they expect accessibility to new products as a result. This is, on the one hand, a huge challenge, in particular for a regional company like Einar Willumsen, but on the other hand, provides a huge opportunity for new business - as it is always faster to turn a small ship than a super-tanker.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of healthy eating. How do you ensure that your products live up to the requirements of consumers?
FG: Consumers interested in healthy eating tend to focus on reducing calories with emphasis on lower fat intake, but they also demand natural 'clean label' ingredients. Product cost is also important during the present recession - and, in an ideal world products shouldn't appear any less indulgent.
Solanic's contribution as an ingredient supplier is to offer natural, vegetal emulsification based on an exclusive highly functional range of potato protein isolates.
Typical applications comprise emulsified meats e.g. pâté and Frankfurter - where it is possible to replace dairy or soy protein emulsifiers with allergen free Solanic proteins, which also combine gelation in addition to emulsification. This combination may provide a reduction in recipe costs since less material is required for the same textural properties - a solution which has the benefit of a 'clean label'. Solanic is also ideal for vegan meat-free analogues to replace egg albumen binders.
In typical dairy emulsions Solanic provides emulsification systems for non-dairy vegetal creams and ice 'cream' desserts with improved melt down resistance. Also in low pH mayonnaise, salad dressings and marinades Solanic is effective at low fat levels.
In terms of functional ingredients - that is, looking for bio-activity beyond the simple food value on the plate - Solanic's SATIS-Factor is a purified isolate of known bio-activity, which has a role in assisting with food intake reduction. Health studies are underway.
SC: Our core belief is that we should be "inspired by nature" and by combining the best raw material that nature has to offer with gentle processes and techniques. We create truly wholesome ingredients - 100 percent pure and natural powders with no added carrier - that are unique in the industry.
Due to the specific nature of our processing we are able to retain the inherent nutritional values and produce ingredients that can prove a valuable contribution to a consumer's 5-a-day intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.
JG: As a flavour supplier our main concern is to make superior tasting products. We are here to please consumers with delicious tastes in all kinds of products and we do not judge what consumers should or should not eat. However, we strongly support the new health trends.
We do this by developing flavours to ensure that low fat products are as tasty as their full-fat counterparts, to ensure that low calorie products are as tasty as their regular counterparts etc.
In this sense we support the health trend by challenging the myth that things that taste good are not healthy and the more healthy the worse the taste and by proving that healthy products and good taste goes very well hand in hand.
MF: The investment in fundamental research to understand the health benefits of soy protein is a cornerstone of Solae's business philosophy. Solae soy ingredients are used in many clinical research projects on soy protein and many of the studies supporting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved health claim are based on research using Solae soy protein.
Soy protein has proven heart health benefits and emerging research suggests benefits in satiety and weight management, glycemic control, and exercise performance. In 1999, Solae pioneered the quest for soy's heart health claim, working closely with researchers and regulators on clinical proof. Currently 11 countries have established similar cholesterol lowering and/or heart health claims for soy protein.
Another good example of our concern for healthy eating is the results of the last -study, supported by Solae, suggesting that the Eco-Atkins Diet may reduce heart disease risk factors.
Our goal is to provide solutions for today while innovating for tomorrow.
What role does research and development play in your business? Can you describe any recent innovations in your product lines?
SC: Our in-house team of product developers and application scientists are key to delivering the next generation of successful products and process technologies to our business. They derive inspiration from market trends and analysis, customer feedback, in-house innovation and creative purchasing.
The most recent innovation is the development and launch of a range of 'crunchies', which is a new physical form of our products, designed to deliver a certain amount of texture and feeling in the mouth whilst still providing the full fresh taste of the respective natural ingredient. The target markets for these products are infant nutrition, cereal bars and snacks.
JG: Innovation is one of our key competences. As the world is spinning faster, the demand for new exciting and superior tasting products is constantly increasing. There was a time when a soft drink was a cola, orange or citrus lime type. Today you see all sorts of taste combinations, and especially berry tastes are becoming increasingly popular - such as blueberry and cranberry. Being a regional flavour house located in the middle of the area where many fruits and berries grow naturally, Nordic fruit and berry tastes are at the core of our competences.
Other areas of expertise are coming naturally from our regional location in Scandinavia and involve dairy flavours, cheese flavours, beer flavours and spice and herb extracts.
However the most recent innovation does not have its foundation in the company´s geographic location, as it is a brand new range of natural tea flavours coming out of the R&D department after several months of research. This range of natural tea flavours includes: white tea flavour, green tea flavour, oolong tea flavour, black tea flavour and rooibos tea flavour. The flavours can be used in beverages, but are also suitable for waters, sport and energy drinks, carbonated soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, ice cream and savoury applications, and we have high expectations for this new range of natural tea flavours with authentic tastes.
MF: In today's market, consumers are drinking protein-enriched beverages to support their general health, wellness and fitness goals.
As manufacturers seek to meet consumer demand for high-protein beverages, we will launch, during FIE in November, the SUPRO XF soy protein isolate, an exciting patent-pending ingredient innovation from Solae for powder and ready-to-drink beverages. This product delivers exceptional flavour, low viscosity, and high solubility versus existing technologies.
This new technology will permit us to address the "beany" and sometimes "bitter" taste of high protein level soy based beverages in the past.
SUPRO XF is a high-quality, complete protein that can be used to replace up to 100 percent of high value dairy proteins such as caseinates and milk protein isolates, while maintaining or improving the overall sensory experience. SUPRO XF is the ideal choice for smooth, great-tasting beverages for the performance nutrition, clinical nutrition and weight management segments.
FG: Solanic's ingredient range is based on a solid foundation of effective R&D - there are two main aspects to this: expert process engineers who have defined the separation technology to isolate and refine Solanic's range of proteins; and secondly application technologists within the Solanic Institute who work on customer projects, for example a current target is protein enhanced gluten free bread with a soft crumb texture that matches regular white bread.
Jan Grøndal has an MBA from AVT Business School, an M.Sc in Food Science and a Ph.D in Food Chemistry and Food Technology. In 2008 he was appointed CEO for the flavour company Einar Willumsen. Prior to his current position he held various positions within Carlsberg, Lundbeck, Aqualon, Hercules Inc, CP Kelco ApS and Einar Willumsen. Dr. Grøndal is chairman for the Danish Flavour Organisation and a member of the IFT and several other professional organisations.
Simon Cuthbert is Managing Director of Obipektin AG. He has been involved in the food ingredients business for over 15 years in a number of operational and commercial roles. Prior to joining The Natraceutical Group, the parent company of Obipektin, he has worked internationally in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer food companies with products ranging from natural flavour ingredients through to pickled onions.
Michele Fite is Vice President, Global Strategy and Marketing of Solae, LLC. She is currently a member of the Global Executive Leadership Team and provides leadership on the overall direction and global strategy of Solae. She holds a BA from the University of Oklahoma.
Frank Goovaerts holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and Agriculture and obtained an MBA from a US University. He has been employed by Unilever and has held a variety of positions in Marketing and Business Development. In 2006 he started at AVEBE as Director of Commerce of Solanic, a subsidiary of AVEBE. AVEBE is a world leader in the processing of potatoes for various types of potato starches. Solanic produces and markets potato proteins.