“Innovation is integral to Kerry’s heritage,” explains Hughes. “This is where we began, in upcycling materials to produce high impact tastes and ingredients.” The company’s approach to innovation continues to be driven by this commitment to sustainability, and 5% of annual revenues continue to be invested in R&D.
“Another thing that sets us apart is our market-back approach,” continues Hughes. “We work from the market back. This means that we begin by examining the problems that our customers and consumers are facing, and then see how we can address those needs with our technologies.”
There are three key pillars to Kerry’s innovation offering. Application innovation is about applying Kerry’s ingredients portfolio to existing products, to solve current market challenges. Technology innovation, on the other hand, pursues differentiated ways to address future consumer needs. “This is more about innovating for tomorrow,” says Hughes. “A third key pillar is open innovation – this is about developing partnerships and collaborations within the market.”
Innovating to address key challenges
These approaches have enabled Kerry to achieve a number of innovation breakthroughs. Most recently, the company successfully tackled the issue of salt reduction, with a focus on maintaining product taste.
“Front-of-pack labelling has really changed how we view what we consume,” says Hughes. “We have made some recent breakthroughs with regards to salt mimicking and perception, and over the past 12 to 18 months have been able to help customers reduce the sodium content of their products by between 20 to 60%. This is something we’re really proud of.”
The key point here is that manufacturers cannot compromise on taste. Customers want clean label, nutritious products, but will not repeat buy if the products don’t taste good.
“This is where we come into play,” says Hughes. “Good plant-based meat and dairy alternatives will help us to transition our protein consumption to more sustainable sources. But we have to get these products right. If plant-based protein is not masked or flavoured properly, then the products simply won’t work.”
Kerry’s ingredient solutions therefore aim to deliver on both taste and nutrition, and technological capabilities mean that protein structures can be altered to deliver better sensory qualities.
Demonstrating innovation at Fi Europe
At Fi Europe, Kerry will be demonstrating innovation in four key areas: taste, food waste, proactive health, and plant-based. “Within each of these pillars, we will be showing how we are inspiring food and nourishing lifestyles,” says Hughes.
“I’m also really looking forward to meeting people,” says Hughes. “Fi Europe is a great opportunity for getting a feel of what’s going on in the market. From our point of view, we want to show out consumers how we can lend a hand, and help them solve problems. People are welcome to visit our booth, to find out mor about our technologies and innovations.”
Looking to the future
While the food and beverage market will continue to evolve, Hughes believes that consumers will remain focused on elevating nutrition and sustainability. For manufacturers however, inflation and rising energy costs have made meeting these demands more complicated.
“We all have to adapt to this new environment,” says Hughes. “For us, this means being able to help our customers to deliver sustainable nutrition at a cost that is affordable for everyone.”
|Liam Hughes, vice president of foundational technologies Europe at Kerry Europe|