“We are very much an insight and consumer-driven company, translating trends into our portfolio of solutions and, through this, we are uniquely positioned to respond to market requests and the pace of the current environment,” said Thomas Hahlin Ahlinder, President and CEO at Kerry Europe and Russia.
“For example, the evolution of plant-based foods, although ongoing for quite some time, is now accelerating rapidly. People are asking questions like, ‘are these products equally good or even better from a nutrition and taste point of view?’ and ‘how do you mimic the original product in the best possible way?’”
“Kerry has invested lots of research on innovation and time working with customers on solutions to help them meet this challenge: bringing alternative meat and dairy products to the market that are nutritious, taste good and remain safe to consume throughout shelf life. When we consider plant-based meat, it faces the same food safety risks as animal meat. Yet, spoilage challenges are often higher due to the diversity of raw materials used. Our recent acquisition of Niacet creates a new leadership for Kerry in the preservatives space and by combining this with our plant protein and taste capability and knowledge, we are well-placed to meet what is an accelerating market demand.”
Hahlin Ahlinder is also convinced that current interest in healthier food and drink to support the immune system and a desire to take a proactive, holistic and preventative approach to maintaining health have longevity, even when concerns regarding COVID-19 have subsided.
“The pandemic advanced the need in the marketplace, and I believe this will be sustained over time. There is much greater awareness among consumers about how different solutions can help their immunity.”
“I’m old enough to remember a time when there were only products available for when you were already ill. It wasn’t about preventing a health problem but fixing it when it happened, and that has changed dramatically,” he added.
Scientific research is also shedding light on the different ways the body’s immune system can be supported. Probiotics are primarily associated with benefits to digestive health via the gut microbiome, but there’s an ever-growing understanding of the gut-brain axis, and the relationship between digestive health and areas like mental wellbeing, mood and cognitive health.
A global study conducted by Kerry showed that consumers in every region view immune system support as the most important reason to buy healthy lifestyle products while nearly four in ten (39%) had used an immune health product over the past six months. A further 30% said they would consider doing so in future.
Kerry’s recent acquisition of Biosearch Life, a Spanish biotech company that produces probiotics, botanical extracts and omega 3, is a boost to its Proactive Health portfolio and will help it meet consumer demand, Hahlin Ahlinder said.
“Historically, acquisitions have been a big part of […] the DNA of Kerry. We are always looking for technology to add value to our current offering and strengthen our position in the market,” said the CEO, who joined the company less than one year ago but previously worked at ingredient companies. “It’s ongoing work, scouting the market and identifying potential gaps in our portfolio, and then bringing in new technologies, for example with Biosearch and Niacet.”
The acquisition of Biosearch Life gives Kerry access to its immune-supporting probiotic, K8 Lactobacillus coryniformis, and the botanical extract Elderpro™, while with the acquisition of Niacet, Kerry now has leadership positions in the preservation of bakery, meat and plant-based food.
“The global demand for technologies that preserve freshness, extend shelf life and reduce food waste is growing. By combining Niacet and Kerry’s collective technologies, capabilities and expert knowledge and by layering in Kerry’s broader taste and nutrition portfolio, we are able to develop solutions for even the most complex of food safety challenges.”
Taste and sustainable nutrition together
Despite the current focus on health and wellness, brands are also under pressure to produce food and drinks that taste good and that people will want to buy. This is crucial to new product development, said Hahlin Ahlinder.
“We have a number of technologies that we bring to the market to help customers include the right taste profile for each product. That is fundamentally important. If it doesn’t taste well, there is a risk they won’t repeat buy.”
“We are at the forefront in bringing taste and nutrition together. When you consider the added value of our proactive health, plant-based and preservation platforms, I would argue that we are uniquely positioned to support our customers to overcome their challenges to create sustainable, nutritious, good-tasting food.”