Jatin Sharma is Digital and Marketing Director EMEA at Azelis. We caught up with him to find out how the Belgian multinational specialty ingredient service provider can help food manufacturers have a successful and streamlined product development and reformulation process.
What are some of the key directions currently shaping product reformulation?
“Many new food trends have come as a recent result of Covid-19 pandemic and rising inflation. Across all countries around Europe, the Middle East and Africa, consumers have become much more conscious around health and nutrition. They demand a superior all-inclusive health approach. As a result, many consumers are now actively trying to improve their diet, and better manage their sugar, salt, and fat intake.
“Governments are also trying to deal with the obesity crisis, as well reduce levels of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. As such, NutriScore is gaining attraction across Europe. The NutriScore was created by Santé Publique France with the aim of supporting consumers' understanding of nutritional information. NutriScore is currently a voluntary nutrition label but a number of national health authorities have supported it, including France in 2017, Belgium and Spain in 2018, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands in 2019 and Luxembourg in 2020. It has also been adopted by major brands and retailers in markets across Europe. “The new UK regulations on products that are high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS), for example restrict the marketing of these foods.
“Therefore, brands and retailers, especially in the beverage segment, are looking to reduce or eliminate sugar while maintaining natural label declarations without compromising on taste and texture.
“The dual impact of the pandemic and the Ukraine conflict also means consumers are navigating a level of food inflation. This signifies a considerable challenge for food and drink brands because most shoppers will seek to cut spending in their usual shopping basket.”
Can you outline what brand manufacturers can do to overcome these challenges?
“There are a couple of things that we have to keep in mind: one is to focus on benefits beyond the cost factor and the other is to deliver benefits with principles.
“If brands are to stay afloat, they must heighten their value proposition. Rather than focusing on price and a 'race to the bottom', winning products will attract consumers with a carefully adjusted combination of emotional, functional, and economic benefits.
“Brands that focus primarily on cost run the possibility of being seen as 'low cost, low quality'. It is much better to bundle the price with more motivated gains of a product, such as health and taste.
“Inflation also means that consumers' immediate need for value might overshadow their sustainability ideals. But successful brands will target hearts and wallets by delivering both, for instance by helping shoppers understand the impact on climate and reduce food waste. Brands that remain transparent and are compassionate about the hard situations they face, especially around price, will trigger the most loyalty.”
Can you summarize Azelis’ key strengths in helping ingredient manufacturers and brand owners?
“By leveraging our lateral value chain, Azelis’ innovation lab network and our digital platforms, we help our customers improve existing product formulations and develop new ones with exciting innovative ingredients.
“The lateral value chain allows us to combine multiple products from different suppliers to create formulations that are both innovative and sustainable. This means that our customers can enjoy new growth opportunities by answering the very needs of the market. As an innovation partner with a strong focus on sustainability, Azelis helps its suppliers advance their sustainability agenda as well by bringing environmentally friendly and healthy products to market.
”For example, a number of options are available for brand manufacturers when trying to improve their Nutri-Score: Azelis can help them choose the right mix of ingredients to reformulate products for a healthier Nutri-Score rating.”
Looking at the Azelis business model, what is a successful collaboration for you?
“Successful collaboration can take many forms but, for me, the one crucial pointer that leads to results is a shared vision and goal. Hence, seeing the product we supported in development with the help of our lateral value chain landing with the final consumers.
“One of the recent success stories for Azelis was with a brand producing baked potato chips. This brand utilizes a wide selection of seasonings. The customer worked with our technical innovation experts to reformulate potato chips that were not only reduced in salt and fat, but also ended up achieving sugar reduction and better stability.”
What are the main products that you would like to invite the Fi Europe attendees to explore at the Azelis booth?
“The food and nutrition team has developed really exciting new and reformulated concepts for our Fi Europe attendees that they can not only see but also taste at the Azelis booth and really feel the difference!
“The highlights include a creamy shelf-stable ambient yoghurt that ticks the box for convenience and is also low in fat while having an enhanced mouthfeel.
“We will also be showcasing an innovative hybrid sausage where 30% of the meat is replaced by plant proteins. This not only makes the final product a much more sustainable choice but also reduces the overall cost of production.”
|Jatin Sharma, digital and marketing director EMEA at Azelis|