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Fusing taste, nutrition, functionality
Date Published：10/25/2018 06:10:26 PM
KERRY, backed by almost five decades of experience in the global food industry, continues to strengthen its portfolio of solutions that satisfies a fundamental need: to eat, to eat well, and to be healthy. The company works to balance taste, nutrition and functionality when partnering with customers to develop products for consumers. The leading provider of technology-based ingredients meets the ever-changing requirements of the global food and beverage markets with solutions that address demand for variety and quality on one hand and convenience on the other while also enabling manufacturers to create products that guarantee a nutritious yet enjoyable food experience.
At Vitafoods Asia, Kerry focused on delivering on three product areas – protein and its different forms; Wellmune®, an ingredient for immune health support; and, GanedenBC30®, a probiotic that helps to support digestive health, immune health and protein utilization. The company can combine these products in proportions suitable to customers’ needs and then add its own taste technology to provide the required flavour profile.
“We are, after all, a taste and nutrition company. It’s very important that when we partner with our customers to develop products, it’s not only nutritious but it also tastes good. The way we approach a lot of what we do in Kerry revolves around delivering a concept that’s got taste and nutrition combined,” said John Reilly, VP Business Development, Proteins.
Development work then puts emphasis on the three pillars of taste, nutrition and functionality. Kerry sees both taste and nutrition as invaluable but notes that the functionality of the ingredient is critical.
Laura Collins, Business Development Specialist, GanedenBC30 & Wellmune and John Reilly, VP Business Development, Proteins
Strong range of protein products
Kerry’s growing portfolio of protein ingredients uses plant and animal sources. The company’s Ultranor protein range is produced from milk, taking advantage of Ireland’s strong capability for sustainable and natural dairy production.
“Almost 97% of all milk produced in Ireland comes from grass-fed herds unlike in other countries where concentrate feeding is used. So we have the benefit of grass-fed milk, which is more nutritious in that it contains higher levels of some vitamins and has a better fatty acid profile. The CO₂ index for milk products in Ireland is the lowest in the world. We bring this strength — this sustainable and environment-friendly way of producing food — with us when we come to Asia,” shared Mr Reilly.
Ultranor proteins can be used in drinks — both in ready-to-drink and ready-to-mix forms — and bars. They are suitable for consumers with a busy lifestyle but want a nutritious source of protein that they can enjoy in a convenient manner.
Kerry finds the trend toward non-allergen, dairy- and soy-free proteins as both a challenge and an opportunity. It has led the company to develop another range of plant-based protein products under the ProDiem brand. This plant protein solution uses Kerry’s proprietary processing technique to remove the chalky texture typical of plant proteins. Flavour masking technology hides the bitterness and earthiness characteristic of such sources.
Kerry’s pea- and rice-based proteins use natural flavours, botanical extracts and fermented ingredients to conceal the natural flavour profile of pea and rice.
Besides the taste profile, the company had to work out the nutrition challenge inherent in these protein sources. Compared with dairy and soya, pea and rice proteins have a lower protein digestibility corrected amino acid score or PDCAAS, which is the measurement of the nutritional value of protein.
“For PDCAAS, the magic number is 1. Except for soya, most vegetable proteins have a PDCAAS of less than 1,” said Mr. Reilly.
To fix the problem, Kerry explored different combinations of vegetable proteins and balanced the amino acid profile to develop a range of products with a PDCAAS of 1, which is equivalent to dairy and soya and therefore addresses the nutritional requirement.
In addition to being 100% plant-based, the ProDiem range of proteins is allergen-free and is versatile enough to be used in different applications. “It is designed from the functionality standpoint to be flexible, so whether it’s in a drink, powder, snack, bar, biscuit or other bakery product, the product can be used,” explained Mr. Reilly.
“We understand how customers will use proteins and what they expect our proteins to do in their finished application. Obviously, the fact that they’re allergen-free, 100% vegetarian will meet the demands of the vegetarian market.”
One challenge is the fact that rice protein is not regarded as premium, mainly because rice is a staple food, according to Mr. Reilly. The company’s approach is to combine it with other proteins to develop a nutrition-focused product that can then meet the requirements of people who want to avoid dairy and soya.
“Depending on whether the protein is going into a beverage, powder, snack or bar, we develop the protein functionality specifically to meet that need. So it’s the knowledge of the protein technology, the knowledge of the nutrition and the taste phase. And the portfolio,” he said.
Supporting resilient immune and digestive health
With the significant growth of the ageing population, particularly in Asia, and the consequent health-related concerns, Kerry highlights the benefits of its Wellmune and GanedenBC30 branded functional ingredients as well.
Studies with Wellmune have shown that it helps to strengthen the immune systems of ageing individuals. , The baker’s yeast-based beta glucan also benefits children, according to Laura Collins, Business Development Specialist, GanedenBC30 & Wellmune.
During the show, Kerry demonstrated its formulation capabilities by sampling a Wellmune chewable gummy concept illustrating how to make daily supplements more appetising for children. The company also sampled snack bars and juices with GanedenBC30, a spore-forming probiotic ideal for food and beverage applications. “Our probiotics can survive high-pressure pasteurisation and HTST pasteurisation. We see it in things like teas and tea blends, healthy cookies and snacks, and we know how big snacking is among today’s population,” she said.
Rising awareness about the benefits of probiotics helps the business, according to Kerry. But the company notes that educating consumers and manufacturers on the uses of probiotics remains critical, especially in regions such as Asia.
“As more manufacturers see probiotics as an added value to their products, more will incorporate it. But not all probiotics are equal and the same. Not all probiotics can undergo the same manufacturing processes and can be used in the same applications,” Ms. Collins shared.
In addition to the target application and required processes, Kerry emphasises the importance of science in choosing the probiotic to use. “The GanedenBC30 probiotic, for example, lasts on the shelf for more than two years compared to other options and is supported by over 25 published papers.”
Delivering safe, sustainable products
Having been in the business for four decades, Kerry acknowledges that the challenge for those in food and drinks sectors is to be able to consistently provide safe, sustainable and nutritious products in a format that the customer can enjoy.
The company has hundreds of R&D scientists and applications people all around the world working on solutions and new applications and products. Its global innovation centres undertake continuous research and application work that is then fed to regional R&D centres, which in turn adopt such work for the local markets.
“People have local tastes that we need to address at a local level. We can address functionality at the global level obviously, but the taste has to be at the local level,” explained Mr. Reilly.
Kerry taps into its geographic footprint not only in broadening its reach but also, and more importantly, in localising the taste profiles of its products to suit the diverse markets and applications.
“Another key strength for Kerry is the fact that Ireland is very strong in the production of food products, dairy in particular,” Mr. Reilly.
Kerry is a founding member of Origin Green, a government-run initiative that looks at the sustainability of manufacturing food in Ireland and the environmental aspect of producing food. “This is a unique system run by the Irish government, probably the only one like it in the world. All Kerry farmers and suppliers in Ireland are fully signed up and audited by this. Our products carry the Origin Green logo to prove compliance,” he said.
The company plans to continue growing its portfolio of branded ingredients. But to ensure high quality and reliability, Kerry will continue to invest in ingredients with a very strong science behind the brand. Besides the added value that branded ingredients deliver, Kerry “wants the benefits that we want to get across our customers to be factual and correct,” said Ms. Collins.
This is perhaps the reason why Kerry is not closing its doors on co-branding as this lets customers understand what the ingredients are and what benefits can be obtained from them.
In terms of challenges, Kerry sees cost and taste as major roadblocks up ahead. Proteins, in particular, are expensive, making cost a big issue not just for product development but for manufacturing as a whole. As for taste, adding more protein into a product impacts the taste, texture and mouthfeel of the resulting combination.
Mr. Reilly concluded, “It has to be about delivering a good product that people can consume and enjoy consuming because, you know, food must taste nice. To be successful in any business in the food industry, you must deliver nutrition and taste together.”