Gelita CEO: Clean label and collagen among clear pathways for differentiation

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07 Dec 2017 --- The clean label trend continues to accelerate, with growing consumer demand for simpler products that contain ingredients with a strong tradition. With this market background, Gelita is looking to highlight its gelatin products on a clean and clear platform, with simplicity being a key strategy. Last week at FiE 2017, FoodIngredientsFirst spoke exclusively to CEO, Dr. Franz Josef Konert on the state of the market and the company’s business strategy for 2018.

“The number one theme that we see in terms of products is clean label. Customers and consumers are looking for clean label products without E numbers. That is a key driver behind most of today’s innovation,” says Dr. Konert. 

“Protein is also a key area – we see protein everywhere, both animal and non-animal protein enriched food products. You find everything from muesli to beverages enriched with protein. So for us at Gelita, it is really a mega trend and a great opportunity for many of our animal-based products.”

According to Dr. Konert, there are some trends that will remain niche and others that will be present in the food industry for a long time. “In China, for instance, nobody is talking about vegetarianism. In India, you have many people who don’t eat meat because of their religion. In South Africa and Mexico, nothing is vegetarian and in Europe, it’s also perse. Germany has a lot of vegetarian food innovation, but then if you go to France, Italy and other European markets, it’s not even really there. So my opinion is that it is really just a trend – a niche – but not a mainstream trend.”

Traceability has gone beyond a mere trend, however. “Raw material traceability is a must, also because it is the predominant to make edible and pharmaceutical gelatin,” he confirms.

As far as Gelita is concerned, the company is working hard on innovation because this is a vital part of its strategy and point of differentiation. “We want to drive the growth of our company and our industry with our new products. We have a clear innovation strategy, and this really drives our growth. We have a good history of this and a good future, too,” says Dr. Konert.

Click to EnlargeFor example, Gelita has partnered with Hänsel Processing and Winkler und Dünnebier Süßwarenmaschinen (WDS) on a new, starch-free production method for gummy-candies uses reusable silicone molds instead of traditional starch trays. For fortified gummies in particular, this novel solution opens up new possibilities. The method helps to avoid dust and cross-contamination and reduces the duration of the production process for gelatin-based gummies from 24 hours to well under 2 hours. 

“We are working with machinery companies to enable molding gummies without starch. You save time, you save energy, so they should really consider that. But it’s even more important for this trend to have gummies as a carrier for nutrition. This is very popular concept already in the US – there they call it ‘fortified gummies’ – you just eat four or five or three gummies per day to get your daily dose of the respective nutrient  whatever nutrition is meant. This is really becoming increasingly popular and in this way, gummies, which are normally used for indulgence, now in some markets have the role of being a carrier for nutrition. We are also seeing such projects in Asia and in Europe,” he says. 

Another area of innovation for Gelita is joint health. Dr. Konert explains: “We created a product called Fortigel and studies have shown that by taking Fortigel regularly, you can do something about osteoarthritis. This is a very distinctive segment because of the opportunities that it delivers for people suffering from severe health conditions.”

Collagen peptides make up a platform that’s significantly growing for Gelita: “It’s definitely the segment that has grown the most and in the meantime, it’s an own business unit and makes a significant contribution to our turnover and to our profit.”

“The basic growth in the gelatin market is between 2-3 percent every year,” says Dr. Konert. “But growth in the collagen area is quite different. You look at peptides – the market growth is 6-7 percent every year. The market is still small, but we are growing every year two digit-wise in peptides, so it’s our strongest growth segment,” he reveals.

Gelita is also working on the property profile of collagen peptides: “We have developed collagen peptides with gelling properties for gummy products and we are also combining gelatin with other hydrocolloids. There are also developments with them because we could also make the product cheaper for our customers,” he notes.

Dr. Konert is optimistic on the outlook for the company. “According to our strategy for 2020, we are in line with our targets that we want to achieve, and now we are starting to work on our strategy for 2030,” he states, while remaining coy on detail.

“So the global trend for the next 20 to 30 years is that these markets are growing. It won’t change,” he confirms. “The question is certainly – and every company has asked this or found its own solution – what’s going to change? For me, the most exciting trend is really the trend of digitalization. Digitalization will change the business world via a transformation in the next 10-20 years, which will change the whole world. It will also change our business model. The masterplan of how to transform the company into this digital world is really important,” Dr. Konert explains.

“I think the biggest challenge for every industry is the fact you have to find the answer yourself. There’s no blueprint you can look up. We have to think about: ‘Where could others attack us?’ ‘Where could they endanger our business model?’ This is the question, there is always going to be another company who want to offer a similar idea or concept.”

“This is all in the area of transformation, digitalization, and I think this is the biggest challenge for the next 10-15 years. You see what’s possible in terms of artificial intelligence, all these things. It’s tremendous how fast the world is changing,” Dr. Konert concludes.

By Robin Wyers & Elizabeth Green

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