Could you highlight some of the key underlying trends that are driving demand for health and natural foods?
“Key trends include clean label, food security - especially after Covid-19 - animal welfare, and sustainability. In Europe, we have observed 9% more food products with vegan claims between 2020 and 2021.
“We are receiving a lot of enquiries about vegan or plant-based development, especially in the arena of plant-based meat and fish alternatives. This continues to grow, not just among traditional plant-based companies, but also with conventional meat and fish processors who have understood the potential of plant-based alternatives. They want to know which substitutes ingredients they can use in order to offer more tastier and healthier options to the consumers.”
Which product categories in particular are we seeing more and more plant-based options?
“Between 2019 and 2021, the top categories with the higher increase of plant-based claims were bakery (+177%); savoury spreads (+140%); and sauces (+140%). In terms of the number of new products, dairy alternatives remain the biggest market (32% of new plant-based product launches), followed by meat and fish alternatives (22%) and bakery (10%).”
What to date have been some of the challenges facing ingredients and product manufacturers?
“The quality of plant-based products is a high priority, but final price is also a big concern, especially because of current energy challenges in the EU. Indeed, one of the criticisms leveled towards substitutes has been their cost. Even if plant-based proteins are most of the time cheaper than beef, the price of end-products used to be higher due to R&D costs and a premium positioning.
“The good news however is that the price difference is now in favor of plant-based options. ProVeg has found that in the Netherlands, meat-free chicken pieces are now EUR 0.37/kg cheaper than meat, while vegan minced meat is EUR 1.36/kg cheaper. (It was EUR 0.29€ more expensive in February). This difference can be explained by the rise of raw meat prices. So besides being a good protein source, eating meat alternatives and more globally plant-based foodstuffs can also reduce costs.
“Another priority is to avoid or limit shortage and secure the supply chain. Some companies have changed the composition of their products, for example. The consequence of this however can be a change in taste perception. That’s why all food companies should be careful to not compromise the taste or the texture. This is crucial for brand loyalty. A recent consumer survey has revealed that 37% to 40 % of European plant-based protein consumers want better-tasting products.”
Can you outline Azelis’ key strengths in helping manufacturers overcome these taste challenges?
“Azelis is a globally connected enterprise that thinks global and acts local. With customer-centricity at the heart of our innovation work, we bring a network of application laboratories across EMEA and leverage our lateral value chain to provide the right range of products that our customers demand – fibers, proteins, starches, flavors, colours, and sweeteners, to name a few. We also have a wide portfolio of formulations, and we can work on ad hoc projects.
“In order to bring solutions and inspiration to customers at any time of the day, Azelis has developed market and country specific customer portals. It is an end-to-end connected experience that inspires customers with trends and inspirational content for their selected markets, linking to innovative formulations, products, and documentation. Over the past year, the EMEA food and nutrition team has launched portals across France, Benelux, the Nordics and the UK and Ireland. This not only helps us to service customers in the best possible way, but enhances virtual collaboration by complementing our forces on ground.”
What are the main products that you would like to invite the FIE attendees to explore at the Azelis booth?
“The Azelis Food and Nutrition team has developed really exciting new and reformulated formulations for our FI Europe attendees that they can not only see but also taste at the Azelis booth. These include formulations for granola, plant-based frankfurter sausages, healthy smoothies, gummies, ice creams, etc.
“However, the star attraction is our latest innovation called the ‘PEAZ’. PEAZ is a series of mouth-watering plant-based high-protein, high fibre ready-to-eat meals. It not only provides nourishment, but also helps consumers to indulge in a much more sustainable way. PEAZ is based on European-sourced pea protein and fortified with sugar-free soluble corn fibre. It is powered with 56% plant protein and 10% dietary soluble fiber. Discover it in the new product zone area and taste the magic at the Azelis Booth, 4.C180!”
What do you hope attendees to remember about Azelis?
“Being a specialty distributor of food ingredients, we’re now a fully integrated and leading innovative service provider. With innovation and collaboration at our heart, we believe anything is possible.”