L’Italiana Aromi targets free-from and organic platforms for extracts growth

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23 Oct 2017 --- For many years, the field of beverages has been where the Italian-based L’Italiana Aromi has highlighted leading trends and brought innovation to many of its customers. Among the first tea producers in Europe and representing 75 percent of its production today, L’Italiana Aromi has a long and consolidated experience in other industries as well, such as dairy, plant-based milk, savory and confectionery.

According to Marketing Manager, Laura Tirelli, L’Italiana Aromi is able to supply flavors, extracts and infusions to the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors; however, the company core business is in the beverage sector which is an area the company initially focused on when it was established in 1890. As part of a family-run business, Tirelli has noted several shifts in the food industry which relate to the changing consumer desires for healthier, organic and “free-from” foods.

“We are seeing a need for healthier food and beverages, and a significant interest in organic and free-from foods,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “In many cases, there is also a strong demand for vegetarian and vegan foods, because consumers consider them to be healthier. There is also the ongoing issue of sugar and salt reduction, which can be challenging for us as a company, and we are also seeing that convenience foods and products that you can consume on-the-go are becoming increasingly popular with today's’ consumers.”

There are also challenges surrounding the supply of vanilla beans, which according to Tirelli, is “another big issue still quite far from a reasonable solution”.

“Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world and the supply shortage is becoming a real problem. The quality of the vanilla beans gets poorer particularly now at the end of the season and we are waiting for the new crops, though with less hope on a price reduction,” Tirelli notes.

Vanilla is used in common food applications such as bakery, ice creams and confectionary, and she says that: “It’s the most widespread flavor in the world, in terms of how it can be used across various applications.”

“We make extractions from vanilla beans and of course, flavors, where you use the vanilla extract from the vanilla bean, have a different feeling, the taste is rounder and more pleasant than flavors which do not contain vanilla,” she notes. “The mouthfeel that vanilla gives is important to our customers but the supply is challenging, we are waiting for the new crops to come, however, I’m not so confident that the situation will improve. One challenge for us is that we either reduce the content of vanilla bean extract or avoid it completely in our flavors at the same time maintaining the organoleptic sensation given by the bean extract.”

Aside from popular flavors, customers are also looking for organic. In the case of infusions for the beverage application, this can be a challenge for L’Italiana Aromi because it’s not possible to overlap organic production with non-organic production.

“We are really strong in the production of tea and herbal teas infusions and we are thinking of doubling our capacity to be able to supply traditional and organic all at the same time,” she says, “Currently when we are producing for organic we have to stop producing the other one, we may have to dedicate one of our production lines to organic infusions in order to be able to produce organic and non-organic at the same time and this is a big investment. We are going to do this next year.”

The company has also noted an increase in dairy-free beverages. “We are investing a lot in this field,” reveals Tirelli, “We have prepared a full line of flavors and extracts for dairy alternatives because we have seen this demand increase significantly.”

“We have found that dairy is growing, there are a lot of people who cannot consume lactose but there are also a lot of people who think that dairy-free products are healthier or more ethic because they do not contain animal ingredients.”

According to Tirelli, some dairy alternatives have unpleasant aftertastes, so they have developed tastier flavors that can mask the aftertaste of soy and rice milk and which also taste appealing for the consumer.

What flavors and trends will be popular looking to next year? Tirelli reveals that the request for ginger remains very high, not only in beverages but across the board. “Turmeric will continue to be popular as well as Matcha tea,” she notes, “And many other ingredients that are perceived to be very healthy.” And in other sectors, requests are growing for bold combinations of flavors, ethnic flavors that are not typical of the country that the consumers are in. Thai flavors, for instance, are very popular all over the world,” she says.

“Also the combination of sweet and sour, sweet and savory, are proving to be popular amongst consumers. New flavors that are accepted by the consumers will then be boosted next year.  But savory and sweet and combinations in between, heat, spicy notes, and combinations of taste are all going to be very popular. These not only apply to savory foods but also in ice cream, for example, savory tastes which are unexpected in traditionally sweet foods.”

“Globalization is bringing people together and it is represented by the widening of palates, the desire to be more adventurous and maturing tastes across the globe,” states Tirelli. 

“In terms of the business, we are enlarging our activity in all those sectors where we are already present but not so significantly as in our traditional spaces (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) and we want to further expand our presence all over the world.”

“We are expanding our distribution, and our objective for the next few years will be in the larger coverage of organic produce, savory applications and expansion to the far east – we will be more than happy to achieve this, we know it will take some time” she continues. “Taste is always at the top of our agenda and understanding the needs of our customers and prospects is the most important factor for our future success.”

By Elizabeth Green

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