As the New Year gets under way, a key question for ingredients companies is what the key trends are for 2013 and beyond. Sustainability, health and wellness and natural are three of several dominant trends in recent years but are these set to continue? Clearly yes – the challenges faced by the industry have not disappeared with 2012. However, from conversations with several industry players in recent days, what is clear is that for those ingredients companies wishing to prosper in the global marketplace of today and tomorrow, real innovation must continue, and in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way.
Partnerships and open innovation
For value-added ingredient suppliers, the partnership approach developed over recent years will continue. This partnership, based on trust and founded on choice, is a necessary differentiator from low cost suppliers, such as those increasingly found in Asia Pacific. Companies cannot just compete on a cost per kg basis and must be committed to innovation.
Those initial simple partnerships have now developed into the dynamic process of open innovation. From Unilever to Proctor & Gamble, from AVEBE to DuPont, open innovation is now an integral part of corporate culture. But we all know that there has been a slowdown in ingredient innovation due to the recession and the consequent focus on cost cutting, as well as regulatory obstacles. It is now time to up the game again. Luis Fernandez, Vice President Global Applications Tate & Lyle, suggests that over the next few years an increasing number of new ingredient launches in the industry will come from open innovation.
At the HiEurope/NuW Conference and Exhibition held in Frankfurt in November 2012, the ‘Most Innovative Health Ingredient Award’ went to Tate & Lyle for their new salt reduction ingredient SODA-LO salt microspheres. This was a development from collaboration between Eminate, a University of Nottingham (UK) subsidiary company, and Tate & Lyle.
Health, wellness and natural
Health and wellness has seen solid innovation but many in the industry believe progress in ingredient innovation has stalled due to the complexities and uncertainties arising from
EU Health Claims interpretations. The challenge now is for innovation in ingredients to exist side by side with the regulatory framework. From 14 December 2012, 224 general health claims published under the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claim Regulation (NHCR) are the only permitted general health claims allowed to be used on products in the EU. Although two thirds of the permittedn claims refer to vitamins and minerals, the remaining provide real opportunities for ingredients manufacturers to form beneficial partnerships with product manufacturers. This will also apply to those ingredients that gain approval under Articles 13.5 and 14.
The use and search for natural ingredients will continue as will the trend towards clean labels, all driven by consumer demand. In this context, it is to be expected that 2013 will see the continued launch of products containing stevia. In fact, since the approval of stevia in the EU in December 2012, there has been a surprising lag in the launch of new products. However, this is now gaining some momentum and Lindsey Bagley of Eureka believes that this initial inertia was perhaps not surprising as this is a wholly new market with some uncertainty as to how to position products eg sugar free, sugar reduced, replacement of artificial sweeteners and so on. There was also a technology hurdle that required the development of new skills to optimise use of stevia. Many more product launches can be expected in 2013.