Foodarom CEO: A new wave of “chemophobia” is dominating the food industry

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19 Feb 2018 --- The world of flavors is continually evolving, and the habits of today’s consumer rely heavily on the evolution of taste, functionality and tradition. For flavor designer and manufacturer, Foodarom, this year is about balancing health and happiness and according to the company, the nutritional values of food has given rise to more products with flavors taken from foods that are valued for their health benefits.

FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with company CEO, Pierre Miclette, who discussed consumer’s trends and how they present challenges for the flavors world. “Since the beginning of my career, the habits of eating and the food industry, in general, have moved on tremendously. I think that the opportunities in this space rely on the fact that a lot of consumers seek food that is functional, to their health and their bodies.”

“Consumers no longer eat to survive, they eat to cure themselves, they eat to prevent disease or they eat to get larger muscles, or to make themselves more beautiful, for example. The functionality behind eating is far beyond just the fact of surviving – this creates many opportunities and challenges that help make up the global taste of all those functional foods,” he explains.

According to Miclette, food traditions vary not only from country to country, but within the regions of specific countries, too. “Even though we try to envisage a world that is united, we must remember that even some countries that are rich in tradition and culture, differ widely from one region to another. That is the beauty of food; not just looking at it from a country point of view but also from a regional point of view.”

Click to Enlarge“Traditions are changing,” he claims. “Traditional foods are moving to normal or mainstream, with the added functionalities that support human health. For example, this year we looked at Chicha Morada, which is a Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, usually made by boiling with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar. It’s a typical beverage that the Peruvians drink daily, so we wanted to see how we could bring in different active ingredients, which are in demand, that would be interesting for the consumer, by making it more mainstream.”

“Consumers want products that taste good, they are willing to compromise on functionality to some degree, but essentially, there is a demand to improve the taste of products on the market,” he notes. “Consumers are becoming more demanding, they travel more and there is a bigger awareness about good and bad ingredients.”

According to Miclette, beverage applications are one area to watch out for, he also believes that this segment is “probably one of the biggest areas that will experience an increase in growth,” and “Snacking occasions have evolved, due to lifestyle, we have different eating habits now – it’s not about sitting down three times a day. It’s much more complex than that,” he says.

FoodIngredientsFirst asked Miclette about clean label, and whether he thinks the trend is here to stay? “Yes and no,” was his response. “I think with clean label, there needs to be a lot of more education; I wish our educational systems would spend more time explaining ingredients and nutrition to people because it is a fundamental part of life.”

Miclette believes that there is a new phenomenon in town, and he uses the phrase: “chemophobia.” “Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding from consumers, in the form of ‘chemophobia’ and we have found that with certain ingredients, come certain connotations, some are right, they may also be wrong, but what we are seeing a lot more of consumers being afraid of ingredients that they find on packaging, and that ultimately can be the difference between a sale of packaged food product or not.”

“For example, you cannot ask for a shelf-life 30 days without having ingredients that support that. So there are contradictions within the behavior of consumers and their expectations,” he claims.

Click to EnlargeMiclette also commented on the issues or sugar reduction and sweeteners: “This is something that is getting more and more awareness, because of new regulations coming out of the US and Europe. We see a lot of new sugars, such as maple syrup, coming through that can be replacements for typical cane sugar. There are many naturally derived sugars out there, that we’ll likely see as becoming important in time, not only because of the advantages of being a natural ingredient but for also having functional health benefits, such as the mineral content that maple syrup has, for example.”

“The real question is: ‘How can we manage consumers’ expectations?’”, Miclette states. “If you were to reduce sugar in a formulation, by half, you won't get the same taste, the texture will suffer, and so what is the consumer’s limit of acceptance for that? This is a big deal,” he confirms, “And there are brands out there wondering if they will go through with this wave or not, so it’s actually very complex industry to be in, at times.”

There is pressure coming from governments and consumers, so for Foodarom it is all about finding that balance, Miclette says. “There are no shortcuts, in the end, there is always a limit and it is always about what the consumer is able to accept. Contrary to most beliefs, it's not always about taste, but in fact, money comes into it as well,” he adds, “There may be issues around labelling, certification, acceptance, ‘Is it still halal or organic?’, and so there are all those expectations related to these changes that are not necessarily acceptable to the consumer,” he reveals. 

“Now is a good time to be in the flavors industry as there is a lot to share with consumers. At Foodarom we try to go explain the issues and challenges we experience as a company. When people understand the flavor world, their perception of flavors can change, and that’s why it’s a great industry, but there is always room for improvement.”

“As time goes by, we want to promote from an educational point of view, on what flavors are all about. Coming back to the ‘chemophobia,’ as an industry we must be transparent and talk about the real thing,” Miclette says.

“There’s much more to think in flavors than what meets the eye. There is more of a philosophical approach and that is part of the challenge. As with anything, there should be a major reflection of the way in which we consume and the expectation of consumers, it is clearly far more than just being ‘organic’ and ‘fairtrade’, there are many dimensions behind what we see on an ingredients list,” he concludes. 

By Elizabeth Green