Flavors growth: Univar eyes potential in clean label, free-from and functional plant-based ingredients

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17 Sep 2018 --- In today's rapidly changing food industry, keeping up with food trends like “free-from” and the consumer demand for transparency and safety, Univar recognizes the need to be at the forefront of innovation. Univar delivers tailored customer solutions through a broad product and services portfolio sustained by one of the most extensive industry distribution networks in the world. Additionally, Univar offers in-depth food market knowledge and understanding by helping customers achieve the latest food innovations to meet increasing demand. Most of all, Univar understands the importance of food safety and is committed to reducing environmental impact with more sustainable options.

Univar recently reached an agreement with Kerry Ingredients & Flavours to distribute its taste portfolio in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. As an internationally recognized and trusted brand, Kerry provides “the largest, most innovative portfolio of taste and nutrition technologies, systems and functional ingredients.”

Since commissioning its first dairy and ingredients plant in Listowel, Ireland, in 1972, Kerry has grown to become the industry's leading provider of technology-based ingredients and solutions for all sectors of the food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets. With 24,000 staff and 130 innovation and manufacturing centers across six continents, millions of people throughout the world experience Kerry's taste and nutrition solutions every day.

FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Gary Abraham, Head of Supplier Management, Food Ingredients, Univar Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We made key changes 3-4 years ago focusing on our core suppliers and this has been a very successful period, but now its key for us to evolve our supplier partnerships further and Kerry fits nicely as the taste expert we were looking for. And now our strategy is under development again.” 

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Gary Abraham, Head of Supplier Management,
Food Ingredients, Univar Europe, Middle East and Africa

“We are focusing on our operational excellence to continue to focus and deliver on our customers' needs, ensuring that we develop plenty of opportunities and making our strategy clear to our customers and suppliers. This means working in partnership with our suppliers to be at the forefront of new and existing market trends, delivering innovation to the food industry. We are also constantly reviewing the governments Brexit negotiation steps and ensuring that our strategy is ready for all eventualities,” he explains.  

According to Abraham, there is definitely room for expansion: “The Kerry taste portfolio opens lots of opportunities for our business and we are very strong with our aligned functional and clean label texture portfolio. We have a strong market position on starches and hydrocolloids and within those developments, it is possible to change the taste of a final product, when you are moving from a modified starch to a clean label product,” he notes. “This ultimately results in a ‘cleaner’ taste. We have seen our customers then having to adjust the taste profile of their final product, specifically flavors. The Kerry taste portfolio now enables Univar to offer a custom designed recipe concept, to give our customers something that they can take straight to the marketplace.”

“In the past, we would have led them back to their supplier of flavors, in order to solve the challenges in taste that they were experiencing in their end product, now Univar can finalize this process,” he adds. 

Globally, consumers are looking towards eating more healthily. Flexitarian trends are being seen across the market, people are not eating meat as regularly as they used to. “We see a big drive towards plant-based alternatives, with clean and cleaner label still high on the agenda, as well as sugar reduction in other categories,” Abraham notes. 

The UK market is a very advanced market for clean label, according to Abraham and there are now opportunities in clean label in other sectors, aside from the traditional activity in ready meals, soups and sauces. “Now, we see a much bigger pull for clean label in bakery, meat and beverages, for example. There are opportunities for clean label within all of these markets sectors as functional ingredient technologies advance and end products evolve.”

“Some of the emerging markets are also gaining interest in clean label,” he continues. “Will still see a lot of launches with clean label and plant-based claims, in mainstream and convenience foods – so we are expecting to see more opportunities in this space.”

The free-from sector is also a growing category and Abraham notes that the demand is something that Univar is tracking: “We have focused and aligned our portfolio to fit nicely within the free-from category and we are now pushing for more product innovation from our core supply partners. For us, supporting our customer’s concepts and designs is at the top of our agenda.” 

“If you look at Kerry they have always been leading the market in terms of innovation and their taste portfolio of ingredients allows us to drill into that, they are focusing very clearly on greater market reach and partnering with Univar helps to deliver that,” he states. “So there are still a lot of customers that we can work with as consumers demand for transparency, food safety, cleaner labels and Kerry helps us deliver on all of these fronts and will continue to develop and evolve their portfolio to meet the market trends of the future.”

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Globally, consumers are looking towards eating more healthily

According to Abraham, both Univar and Kerry complement each other and “we have found that working closely together, working through the agreement and working to understand each other’s businesses, reflects just how many synergies there and how similar we are in terms of market approach,” he reveals. “Our technical service, application concepts, operational excellence and portfolio focus is giving something back to the food industry and we (Univar & Kerry) are very similar in many ways when you look to those key areas.”

The future looks positive for Univar; Abraham hints that we can expect to see further expansion and synergies in this space. 

“Kerry has some of the world’s favorite consumer foods across many categories, for us, we want to take that reach even deeper and work with our customers within the distributions sector and take the innovation to those customers that may not have had exposure directly to Kerry today,” he says. 

“We want to let our customers know that we are bringing the very best suppliers into our business, giving access to functional ingredients to improve their business processes and consumer products in the long-run,” he concludes.  

By Elizabeth Green

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