The corporate chef at Kerry Ingredients talks about what's ahead
Q. What are food manufacturers looking at as they develop new products?
From my vantage point [a supplier of ingredients and technologies to food companies], there are two big trends driving product development today. The first is health and wellness; manufacturers want to incorporate a healthy benefit into food products and operators want to buy health-promoting items. The second is authenticity of ethnic products. It's not enough anymore to look at a single flavor or ingredient and say, "This is Thai or that is Indian." You have to consider where the raw materials come from, what makes these dishes fragrant, the cooking technique used and how the food is eaten. For example, if we are helping a customer create a Brazilian stew, we go back to the source to get the authentic spices and ingredients and then develop something in the lab that speaks to that specific region of the world.
Q. Is it difficult to source these ingredients?
As we continue to appreciate the minute differences in spices, processors will be buying more authentic seasonings, like Mexican oregano, Spanish thyme and korinji cinnamon from the Philippines. If demand keeps up, these countries will eventually have to plant more crops and get them into the supply chain.
Q. What technologies are pushing product development? >p>
One of the main technologies is packaging. The demand for shelf-stable and RTE (ready-to-eat) products is in the forefront. One key area Kerry has been leading is the development of flavors for these products. Powders and crystals that provide the nutrition and flavor of fresh ingredients that may be hard to source, such as guanabana, pomegranate, mangosteen and acai, are gaining momentum. Manufacturers can incorporate the powders into marinades and topical seasonings that supply flavors as well as nutritional benefits.
Q. What is the biggest area of growth?
The natural trend is on the tip of the rocket and ready to take off. Kerry's natural seasonings division is converting a wide range of products, including breadings, snacks and seasonings, to a more natural formulation. This is very much in demand now. Manufacturers want clean label declarations, so they're trying to revise old products to remove artificial ingredients. And midscale restaurants, especially, are competing to offer the freshest, most natural menu.
Q. Tell us about some of the projects you are currently working on.
Texture is a big R&D area for us. We're working with higher-fiber flours and starch technology to improve texture and extend shelf life. We are also looking for elements that reduce sodium in a product but still deliver big taste.