Food&Beverage Networker Issue 02/21

Page 1

ISSUE 02/21 | €15


ADVANCING ALGAE-CENTRED INNOVATIONS – New tie-ups in marine-based protein development

WHERE NUTRA MEETS PHARMA – Ingredients for mental health

DISINFECTING VIA DRONE – MIT’s sanitising ‘drobot’

LOSING LESS, EATING SMARTER – Towards a greener food system

EDITORIAL | Sarah Pursey, Editor

THE INDUSTRY’S INFLECTION POINT e’ve long known that symmetric shocks almost always have asymmetric consequences, and much like the global financial crises of yore, a two-speed recovery is now also emerging in the post-Covid world – both economically and epidemiologically speaking. As certain countries now cautiously begin to reopen, curfews and other restrictions on daily life aimed at curbing the spread of the virus remain a reality for millions more worldwide. And elsewhere, devastating second waves continue to overwhelm healthcare systems. In those more fortunate nations, people are once again looking forward to the prospect of travelling, holidays, or simply meeting friends and family – nevertheless, the very knowledge of a world in twospeed-recovery mode, alongside the emergence of new variants of the virus, means that maintaining immune health will remain a priority for consumers everywhere for the foreseeable future. “It’s going to evolve over next 12 months, but we won’t suddenly go back to our old ways straight away. Immunity is one of those trends that, over the next two to three years, is going to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” predicts Jamie Rice, director of global data and insights at Food Trending. “Immunity will be a part of how consumers cope post-pandemic with the virus still in circulation.” Certainly, the global market for health ingredients has grown significantly in recent years – from US$13.2bn in 2015 up to US$17.8bn last year, and Rice is confident that, in the short- to mediumterm, demand for on-trend immunity ingredients (vitamins, turmeric, ginger, zinc) is not going away, while new niches like holy basil, maca root and ashwagandha are set to gain traction, in tandem with the increasingly popular notion of holistic health (p12). Likewise, ‘plant-based’ looks set to forge ahead in its role as protein-sector disruptor. The world over, established players in the meat and processed foods segments, including Al Islami Foods (p48) and Tyson (p24), are making waves in the skyrocketing plant-based segment, while new alliances aimed at advancing algae-centred


products (p6) could create a gold-standard in plant-based protein products in terms of their superior nutritional content and sustainability credentials alike. Connected to this, the links are becoming ever more clear to consumers between what we eat and the impacts of such food systems on the planet (and, in turn, how those feed back into our own health). There are numerous practical steps the F&B industry can take today towards being part of the solution (p16) – moreover, leading firms like European dairy giant Arla now clearly equate enhanced climate change mitigation measures with improved financial performance, making for a win-win scenario (p19). The pandemic has also shone a light on the subject of food production and processing facility sanitation (p8), given the expectations of additional environmental and personal hygiene measures. That such changes have brought added benefits – in terms of food safety and personal health – seems intuitive, meaning there may be a good case for our current, extended cleaning and disinfection practices becoming the post-Covid norm. Elsewhere, ‘clean label’, ‘free from’, ‘plant-based’ and ‘organic’ (p33) claims in new products were already on the rise prior to the pandemic, yet such instances have soared over the past year or so, in line with a more holistic consumer approach to health. Related to this, the Covid crisis has undeniably lifted the lid on another hitherto neglected area – that of mental health. Aided by advancements like Pharmactive’s ‘Nutra Meets Pharma Initiative’ (p20), innovative new F&B formulations offering solutions for mental and emotional wellbeing “will create a new foundation for healthy eating”, according to Mintel. And finally, while undeniably exacerbating existing inequalities worldwide, Covid-19 has also served to expose the ethical and social problems that have long existed within our global supply chains. Undoubtedly, being part of the solution and communicating the good (p32) presents both a challenge and an opportunity for today’s F&B firms, as they strive to connect with the ‘conscious consumer’ in the months and years ahead. o

Sarah Pursey EDITOR

Gemma Kent


James Midgley Helena Haimes Karl Wright Matthew Spriggs


Kelly Frosdick Leza Briggs


James Miles


Adel Mhiri


Graeme Watts Gary Crooks Joshua Groom


Darren Fuller IT SUPPORT

Tel: +44 (0)1603 319450

Email: © Food & Beverage Networker 2021 No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form for any purpose other than short sections for the purpose of review, without prior consent of the publisher.


ISSUE 02/21



Editorial The industry’s inflection point.


Business News Recent global developments in the F&B sector.


Advancing algae-centred innovations – New tie-ups in marine-based protein development. Clean and clear – Covid-19 impacts on F&B cleaning programmes. Fast, not furious – Fasting with food. A functional future – Rising interest in health ingredients. Health news.



Health Series


Sustainability Losing less, eating smarter – Towards a greener food system. Sustainability news.


Science & Technology


Where nutra meets pharma – Ingredients for mental health. Ground control – Autonomous farming. Disinfecting via drone – MIT’s sanitising ‘drobot’. Science & Technology news.


New Products New product showcase.



Trends In Trade Rules of engagement – The in-store and online retail experience. Flavours of the day – Consumer food trends.


Special Reports ‘Restore, refresh, revitalise’ – ANUFOOD China post-event report. Communicating the good – Attracting ‘the conscious consumer’. Championing organic growth – Organic Food Iberia pre-event report. Where food and health ingredients meet – Hi & Fi Asia-China Pre-Event Report.


Events A round-up of F&B sector focused events for 2021.



















AN APPETITE FOR GROWTH Masdar Al Hayat for Food Industries



TASTE IS EVERYTHING Almar Drink & Food Srl





New Wave Asia



AB InBev results show North American boom in premium off-trade during Covid-19 NORTH AMERICA: AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, announced double-digit growth in its off-trade business in Q1 2021. This reveals the continued viability for premiumisation in developed markets, according to analysts at GlobalData. In a statement, AB InBev said the business was “off to a very strong start” in 2021, having delivered “top-line ahead of pre-pandemic levels”, with beer volumes up by 2.8 per cent versus Q1 2019, and with healthy revenue per hectolitre growth. The firm also reported that its EBITDA increased by 14.2 per cent year-over-year, even in the context of ongoing Covid-19-related restrictions. “AB InBev’s results suggest that North America is still buying premium beers, and this is buoying regional beer markets,” observed Ryan Whittaker, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData.

“The closure of on-trade outlets – such as pubs, clubs and restaurants – in 2021 had a massive impact on brewers like AB InBev that account for close to a quarter of global pints,” he commented. “However, it appears that consumers in more developed economies have continued to seek out AB InBev’s premium products through brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona.” According to GlobalData’s Q1 2021 consumer survey, 42 per cent reported that they were spending medium-to-high amounts on beer brands, with 45 per cent of consumers buying them through supermarkets and hypermarkets. “This is what we’d expect due to lockdowns and social distancing, with on-trade only beginning to make a comeback,” continued Mr Whittaker, adding that GlobalData’s survey found North American consumers were more likely

to spend medium-to-high amounts on brands than other regions, followed by Europe, then Asia and Australasia. “AB InBev’s extremely large portfolio of brands and logistics mean that it is wellpositioned to come out of the other side of the pandemic fighting,” the analyst predicted. “While the company racked up debt purchasing SABMiller in 2016, it’s such a global powerhouse that its

long-term profitability is going to be reliable and assured. “The early 2021 successes attest to a healthy demand for beer at home – and with a resumption of on-trade business on the horizon in high-vaccination markets like Israel and the UK, the outlook is positive for the brewer for the foreseeable future,” he concluded.

Carrefour strengthens status in Brazil with acquisition of Grupo BIG BRAZIL: Carrefour Brazil has entered into an agreement with Advent International and Walmart for the acquisition of Grupo BIG Brasil SA (Grupo BIG), Brazil’s third-largest food retailer. The acquisition strengthens Carrefour Brazil’s presence in this highgrowth-potential market. It will allow it to offer Brazilian consumers a broader range of products and services at more competitive prices. The transaction values Grupo


BIG at an enterprise value of R$7bn (US$1.25bn). Carrefour Group has said that it expects the acquisition to offer significant synergy potential from year one, rising gradually to represent a net additional contribution to EBITDA of R$1.7bn (around US$300m) on an annual basis three years after the closing of the transaction. Combined, the two groups have gross sales of about R$100bn (US$17.8bn), operate 876 stores

and employ around 137,000 people. Present in Brazil since 1995, Grupo BIG operates a multi-format network of 387 stores and generated R$24.9bn gross sales (R$21.7bn net sales) and R$928m adjusted EBITDA in 2020. Carrefour Brazil, which has been present in the country since 1975, operates 489 stores and generated R$74.7bn gross sales (R$67.6bn net sales) and R$5.6bn adjusted EBITDA in 2020. Alexandre Bompard, Chairman and CEO of Carrefour Group, declared that his Group was “on the offensive” in terms of strengthening its food distribution capabilities internationally. “The transaction fits perfectly into the Carrefour Brazil ecosystem and into the Group’s acquisition strategy, centred on the consolidation of our key markets,” he continued, adding that the “significant synergies” generated by this transaction (expected to come in at an estimated R$1.7bn annually) are “a lever for creating additional value and a powerful addition to the profitable growth model” established across the Group.

The acquisition allows Carrefour Brazil to expand in its traditional formats, notably Cash & Carry (under the Maxxi banner) and hypermarkets (under the BIG and BIG Bompreço banners), while extending its footprint in formats in which it has a more limited presence, in particular supermarkets (through Bompreço and Nacional) and proximity stores (through Todo Dia). In addition, via a license agreement with Walmart, Carrefour Brazil will operate in a new market segment with the Sam’s Club format – a highly-profitable, premium business model based on a membership system, with over two million members. The combination of the two groups will enrich Carrefour Brazil’s ecosystem of products and services, which currently serves over 45 million customers. The transaction remains subject to the authorisation of the Brazilian antitrust authority (CADE), to the approval of Carrefour Brazil’s shareholders, as well as other customary closing conditions. Completion of the transaction is expected in 2022.

Gathered Foods secures $26.35m funding to advance Good Catch plant-based seafood brand USA: Austin, Texas headquartered Gathered Foods – manufacturer of the Good Catch plant-based seafood brand – has secured US$26.35 million in its B-2 bridge funding round, with global agricultural goods merchant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) numbering amongst its new investors. The latest investment comes after last year’s Series B funding round, in which the company secured US$36.8m. The financing allowed the brand to continue on its successful path towards expansion and production, leading to the opening of its own stateof-the-art, plant-based production facility in Heath, Ohio. Gathered Foods said it would use its new funding to ramp up product innovation and dramatically increase the number of Good Catch plant-based seafood products on the market. The additional backing will also aid Gathered Foods to extend its inter-

national retail footprint, beginning in Europe, with further expansion planned for later in 2021. “We are excited to have this important investment by LDC, a wellrespected leader in the agricultural, food and ingredients space, to help fuel growth and expansion of our company,” said Christine Mei, CEO of Gathered Foods. “Partnering with proven companies who are innovators in their own right can only sharpen our ability to positively disrupt a nascent industry with our innovative portfolio of Good Catch products. As demand for plant-based seafood continues to rise, we look forward to further collaboration with LDC to create breakthrough opportunities.” The company’s Good Catch products are currently available across the US, in the UK through a partnership with Tesco, in Canada through partnerships with Loblaws and Sobeys, and in

Europe throughout retailers in the Netherlands and Spain. Gathered Foods is also working with key European distributors to bring its Good Catch products to more consumers globally, through strategic retail and foodservice partnerships.

Additionally, the company announced new backing from celebrities Woody Harrelson, Shailene Woodley, Paris Hilton and Lance Bass, who will serve to create greater consumer awareness around the firm’s plant-based seafood products.

Good Catch Founders, Chad & Derek Sarno

Tata Consumer Products posts net profit in Q4FY21 INDIA: Tata Consumer Products Ltd (TCPL) has reported consolidated net profit of Rs 53.9 crore (US$7.3m) for its financial year fourth quarter (ending March 2021). The latest results contrast with the Rs. 76.49 crore (US$10.4m) loss that the Mumbai-headquartered integrated F&B company experienced in the quarter ending March 2020. “Consolidated net profit is higher as compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year, on account of lower exceptional items and lower share of losses in associates and joint ventures,” Tata Consumer Products said in its BSE filing. “Profit before exceptional items and tax at Rs. 262 crore [around US$35.7m] is higher by six per cent as compared to corresponding quarter of the previous year, mainly on account of growth in revenue and good control over expenditure, however, margins were impacted by tea cost inflation in India,” the company added. The company recorded impressive growth in its tea, salt and pulses categories. Revenue grew 26.3 per cent led by robust 59.6 per cent growth in domestic beverage (tea, coffee and Nourishco) segment, and 22.4-per-cent growth in its consumer foods business

(salt and pulses). International beverages sales remained flat, however. Elsewhere, the firm’s non-branded business saw growth of 28.8 per cent. With significant increase (around 70 per cent) in tea procurement prices, TCPL implemented staggered price hikes, although such price increases were insufficient to pass on entire cost inflation. In the latest results, consolidated revenue in Q4FY21 came in at Rs. 3,037.22 crore (around US$413.7m), registering a 26.3 per cent growth over the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. The growth was “mainly driven by volume and value growth in the India branded business and

improved performance of non-branded business,” said Tata Consumer Products in a statement. The company further said that in spite of the pandemic the group recorded good topline growth in many markets during the quarter and financial year ending March 2021, although certain businesses – in particular, those active in out-of-home consumption sectors – were impacted. The exceptional loss that Tata Consumer Products recorded for the current quarter – at Rs. 63.93 crore (~US$8.7m) – mainly represented costs relating to the business restructure and reorganisation of Rs. 18 crore and

loss on disposal of an overseas subsidiary/ joint venture of Rs. 46 crore, the company added. The firm recommended a final dividend of Rs 4.05 per equity share for the financial year 2020-21. Over the last few years, TPCL has divested all of its loss making overseas business. Moreover, with consolidation of its foods business (salt and pulses) and acquisition of health and wellness brand Soulfull, and stake in NourishCo Beverages (after buying out its JV partner PepsiCo’s share in the firm last year), the company is looking to strengthen its footprint in India’s food and beverage space.


HEALTH SERIES | New tie-ups in marine-based protein development

ADVANCING ALGAE-CENTRED INNOVATIONS Qualitas Health – best known for its algae omega-3 supplement brand iwi – has announced new partnerships aimed at helping to accelerate the firm’s development of algae-centred products. The new alliances could help pave the way for a new gold standard in exceptionally nutritional and sustainable plant-based protein products. exas-based Qualitas Health has formed new strategic partnerships with Barcelona-based chemicals company Grupo Indukern, and Stockholm-based Gullspång Re:food VC, a venture capital fund with an impressive track record in foodtech firms. With the consolidation of sizeable investment by the two entities, the partnerships close Round A funding for Qualitas, which has over a decade’s experience in microalgae farming, cultivation and extraction. The firm will look to expand the presence of its iwi supplement brand in the US market, continue its clinical studies, pursue R&D disruptive projects, and keep its regulatory plans moving along. Crucially, the new alliance opens direct



access for iwi to the investors’ advanced facilities and teams, alongside drawing upon the firm’s own expertise, as the firm looks to expand its innovative plant-based protein and omega-3 business. Generating nutrition from the desert

“We are delighted that Grupo Indukern and Gullspång Re:food are joining the Qualitas enterprise and participated in our investment round,” said Miguel Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health. “Both companies bring decades of experience and deep knowledge of our markets to Qualitas and will be key participants in our growing success.” Qualitas has a great story to tell, as Peter Odemark – a Gullspång Re:food managing

partner – explained. “Its algae is cultivated in impressive pond systems built on nonarable land in the desert, placing minimal footprint on the natural ecosystem, harnessing natural sun-power for energy and utilising saltwater, while creating jobs in rural communities,” he told us, of the facility located in New Mexico (pictured). “We share the same values and vision for creating a better future, better nutrition and to protect the planet.” New partner Gullspång Re:food VC comes with an impressive track record in foodtech companies that strongly contribute to a more resilient food system. Prior examples include two impressive Swedish disruptors: leading oat-based milk alternative Oatly and no-added-sugar

snacks innovator N!CK’S. Meanwhile, Qualitas’ other new ally, Grupo Indukern, is a well-established, family-owned business focused on chemicals (Indukern, including food solutions and flavours), animal health products (Calier) and pharmaceuticals (Kern Pharma). New marine-based proteins to launch in 2022

“Grupo Indukern and Gullspång Re:food are the perfect partners for the current scaling stage,” added Mr Calatayud. “They bring knowhow and expertise to twt's existing supplement business, and wider recognition of our newly developed Nannochloropsis algae protein. They also provide a global vision, a distribution platform for Europe and other countries and regions, and unique expertise in plantbased proteins and finished products. Their knowledge, skilled technological team, and advanced technologies will help in conducting clinical research and accelerate the regulatory process for Europe.” The new marine-based protein ingredient and products line will be launched in 2022. Sourced from Nannochloropsis

algae, iwi protein boasts the full complement of essential amino acids and vital nutrients. “Our protein contains all the essential amino acids and each of them meets or exceeds the FAO recommended amount, and we have more total essential amino acids than egg and whey – considered gold standards in protein.” iwi protein also has the highest content of branched-

chain amino acids, which the body uses for building muscles. The highly bioavailable plant-based protein is soluble in water and is very mild in terms of texture, flavour and aroma. The main markets for this sustainable, marine-source algae protein include: personalised nutrition, high-performance sport nutrition products, and adult nutrition for protein deficiencies. o


HEALTH SERIES | Covid-19 impacts on F&B cleaning programmes

CLEAN AND CLEAR Exploring the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on cleaning programmes and hygiene practices within the F&B sector, John Holah, Principle Corporate Scientist at Kersia, reflects on lessons learned and ponders the potential benefits that might transpire from such procedural shifts in the future. rior to undertaking a cleaning programme for food processing equipment, a number of factors should be considered. Firstly, the objective of the cleaning programme should be determined: This could include the need to remove visual soiling for organoleptic reasons or brand protection issues such as different meat species, the need to control food spoilage micro-organisms, or the need to control hazards such as allergens or pathogens.



Secondly, a risk assessment should be undertaken to assess the choice of cleaning chemicals and application techniques required. This should include the chemical nature of the food soil and the food processing conditions that have led to its formation, the chemical compatibility of the equipment and environmental surface materials, the hardness of the water supply, the application method (manual, automated or CIP), the rinsing method and pressure, and any impact on effluent treat-

ment plants that may be present. Thirdly, more practical aspects should be considered such as length of cleaning window available and costs. Following these considerations, a cleaning method and chemicals can be chosen that meet the programme’s cleaning objectives, and that have minimal impact on other food processing and environmental activities. The current Covid-19 pandemic has done nothing to change these considerations (the original cleaning objective must

Additional measures have included: • Surface disinfection for frequently touched environmental surfaces (e.g., door handles, handrails, light switches, machine interface points) during production • Surface disinfection for potential virus hotspots (e.g., floors, where expelled droplets will settle and potentially survive) • More frequent hand hygiene procedures, particularly after touching frequently touched surfaces or viral hotspots (e.g., washing hands after touching the floor or when removing/changing footwear) • Covid-19 decontamination procedures for food processing and ancillary areas following confirmation of the presence of Covid-19 cases working in these areas.

Table 1 (above): Loss of infectivity of HCoV-299e expressed as log reduction or percentage reduction, following exposure to various detergents Table 2 (below): Cumulative laboratory reports of common gastrointestinal infections in England and Wales reported to Public Health England up to week 30 for 2019 and 2020

Do current detergents have an impact?

still be met) and to thus attempt to change current food processing equipment cleaning programmes without due consideration may be counterproductive. In addition, the recommendations from the WHO, CDC and EFSA remain that there is no evidence Covid-19 is transmitted by food or its packaging. Considering additional hygiene measures

What has changed with Covid-19, however, is the need to consider additional environmental and personal hygiene measures. These are primarily to prevent person-to-person transmission via touching fomites that could have been contaminated from an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic Covid-19 case. This is particularly important as recent studies have suggested SARS-CoV-2 survival is extended on surfaces, particularly at low temperatures (e.g., a decimal reduction time of 163 hours at 4°C).

It may, however, be prudent to ask the question of whether current detergent and disinfectant-based cleaning programmes for food processing equipment have any effect on SARS-CoV-2. One of the lessons we have learnt about the control of Covid-19, that has been well broadcasted to the public, is that “washing your hands with soap and water dissolves the virus”, which is based on established facts. Some detergents may, therefore, influence coronaviruses. Holchem ( has commissioned studies to assess the effect of a range of Holchem detergents on coronaviruses with the Perfectus Biomed Group (Daresbury, Cheshire, UK). Six detergents were chosen to reflect the type of detergents commonly used in the food processing and food-service industries, to include caustic, alkaline, neutral and acidic products. The detergents were tested against the human coronavirus strain HCoV-299E using the method of the European virucidal disinfectant test EN 14476, under dirty conditions, according to their recommended concentrations and contact times. All of the detergents showed virucidal effects (Table 1), with a range of between 1.5-3.67 log orders of loss of infectivity

(96.8-99.98 per cent reduction) within their in-use concentrations. The surfactant-based products were the most effective, within their five-minute contact times, rather than the extended contact times (20 min) of the caustic and acidic products. The acidic product was more effective than the caustic detergents. Any virucidal activity realised in practice from detergents, however, will be inconsistent and will depend on the level of soiling present on the surface. Detergency, however, will have some role in reducing the presence (removal) and infectivity of (remaining) coronavirus, particularly after much of the soiling present has been removed from the surfaces. However, as disinfection is only ensured following cleaning, this work emphasises the need for disinfection (following detergent application) to further reduce the infectivity of any viral particles present. As coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV2, are enveloped viruses, they are the least resistant to disinfectants of the microorganisms found in food establishments. In addition, the effectiveness of disinfectants on coronaviruses is well documented ‡


HEALTH SERIES | Covid-19 impacts on F&B cleaning programmes

(e.g., sodium hypochlorite and alcohol, QATS, sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide and ethanol). Specific disinfectant product performance claims can be made for virucidal activity against the European disinfectant test, EN 14476, which requires a 4-log reduction of infective viral particles in five min. Disinfectants used for additional environmental decontamination (as advocated above) and decontamination following any known Covid-19 cases, must be EN14476 approved. Have Covid controls brought additional advantages?

Holistically, the detergency studies and general knowledge on viral disinfection enhance our knowledge of the overall potential of routine processing equipment cleaning and disinfection programmes to meet their established cleaning objectives, while providing additional assurance that they are also controlling SARS-CoV-2. Looking to the future, hopefully, the additional practices the food industry has undertaken associated with environmental surface disinfection and enhanced hand hygiene have helped in their intended Covid-19 control. Collectively, these measures perhaps represent the biggest change in hygiene practices within the food industry for many years. Is it possible that these changes could also have brought additional benefits in terms of food safety or personal health? Fewer micro-organisms in the food process environment (including operatives’ hands) might lead to reduced levels of general micro-organism indicators (TVC, Enterobacteriaceae) and reduced levels of environmental pathogens (particularly Listeria) via cross contamination in food products. This could lead to enhanced product safety, quality (reduced spoilage), 10

improvements in shelf life and fewer customer complaints. Fewer other, nonSARS-CoV-2, respiratory viruses on operatives’ hands could also lead to fewer cases of respiratory diseases (colds and flu), resulting in less absenteeism. Is there any evidence of enhanced food safety? In the wider community, Public Health England published cumulative data up to week 30 for common gastrointestinal infections in England and Wales (Table 2). Table 2 shows that the general incidence of gastrointestinal infections in the population was approximately one-third lower in 2020. Similarly, the number of Listeria recalls alerted by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2020 (six cases) was slightly lower than in 2019 (seven cases). This position is not unique to the UK as other countries have also shown a reduction in pathogen incidence in the community, including in Finland, the USA and Australia. The reasons for the reduction in cases of gastrointestinal illness in the population is complex. Perhaps not as many cases of illness have been reported due to difficulty in accessing GPs, or people are not eating outside the home in restaurants so much, or the diet of people spending more time at home has changed. There may also be changes in the food factory or the manu-

John Holah, Kersia Group's Principle Corporate Scientist for Food Safety and Public Health

facturing procedures that might enhance food hygiene – for example, reduced food product volumes, fewer product SKUs, fewer staff, increased use of gloves, and longer hygiene windows to enable enhanced cleaning. Equally, the opposite may be true, with food manufacturers increasing production, particularly at the start of the pandemic, with an increased pressure on maintaining hygiene windows. It would be very useful, therefore, for both individual food manufacturers and the industry at large to try and gain evidence from food industry data to see if these major changes in food hygiene practices have had additional benefits to food safety or personal health. Perhaps the biggest lesson that we have learned is that the higher the hygiene standards practised, the greater the food safety benefits. In essence, should our current, extended cleaning and disinfection practices become the new, post-Covid-19 pandemic, norm? o About the author

John Holah is Principal Corporate Scientist for Food Safety and Public Health at Kersia Group ( He was Technical Director at Holchem Laboratories Ltd prior to the acquisition of Holchem by Kersia, and before that was Head of Food Hygiene at Campden BRI for more than 20 years. An Honorary Professor in Food Safety and Hygienic Design at Cardiff Metropolitan University, John has supported the works of the European Hygienic Engineering Design Group (EHEDG), the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) for many years. He has chaired various ISO and CEN committees on hygienic design and chemical disinfection, and has sat on government committees on food safety and hospital acquired infections.

HEALTH SERIES | Fasting with food

New research claims to reveal effective ‘fasting’ is possible with food, meaning devotees of the practice need not become ‘hangry’ when pursuing their strict diet regimen.


or centuries, the practice of fasting has been used in many religions as a form of sacrifice, self-discipline and gratitude. More recently, ‘intermittent fasting’ has become something of a buzz-phrase in the wellness world, with adherents expounding the diet regimen’s power to help them bust through weightloss plateaus and stave off a host of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure. Yet to many, any diet plan with the word ‘fasting’ in it will sound like a decidedly daunting prospect, with that very real potential to become irritable as a result of hunger, or ‘hangry’ (a 2018 addition to the Oxford English Dictionary), always just around the corner (or rather, the kitchen cupboard door). With that in mind, a company based in LA – that undisputed global epicentre of most health crazes – has developed a product it claims enables consumers to glean the physical benefits of sticking to a fasting regimen, yet still enjoy a tasty snack while so doing.


Tastier than water

Nutri-technology pioneer L-Nutra announced the results of its new breakthrough study, which demonstrated that after an overnight fast, eating the innovative nutrition bar Fast Bar® effectively keeps the body in a fasting state comparable to water fasting. Developed based on L-Nutra’s Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD®) technology, Fast Bar is the first nutrition bar specifically designed for intermittent fasting, and clinically proven to keep the body in a continued fasting state. The manufacturer claims its ‘breakthrough formulation’ allows consumers to stay nourished and fast with food, instead of water fasting. Fast Bar is formulated with plant-based proteins,

healthy fats mainly from macadamia nuts, pecans and almonds, and fibre-rich carbohydrates that fuel the body while keeping it in ketosis. It is non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and made with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. “This research is the first of its kind to scientifically reveal that the body reacts to Fast Bar in a way that is comparable to a water-only fast,” said Dr Om Ganda, Associate Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. “This means that it can be effectively used to facilitate the practice of both time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting.” “The best of both worlds”

The randomised, controlled study monitored 105 adults who fasted for 15 hours overnight, then had glucose and ketone levels measured every hour for four hours after consuming either a Fast Bar, an average breakfast, or just water. The Fast Bar group had glucose levels comparable to that of the water-only group throughout the hours after the meal, and ketone levels that were similar to the water-only group two or more hours after the meal. “Fasting is the number-one top-searched diet in America, yet many people struggle with the physical strain of going 14-18 hours on water alone to lose weight and enhance their metabolism. The long hours of no food stresses essential organs that need nourishment to perform,” said LNutra’s CEO and Board Chairman Joseph Antoun. “Fast Bar ensures the best of both worlds, where one can maintain a state of ketosis similar to water fasting while still nourishing the body. This breakthrough finding cements L-Nutra as the leading nutri-tech company at the intersection of fasting, nutrition and longevity.” Throughout the four hours of monitoring glucose and ketone levels, those who

only consumed water showed a much stronger desire to eat and had less sense of fullness than the Fast Bar group. This study also showed that the consumption of Fast Bar did not cause a spike in blood sugar levels and resulted in less desire to eat over time than only drinking water. Fast uptake

“Fasting provides a wide array of health benefits including cellular rejuvenation, weight loss, and support of metabolic balance,” said Dr Darria Long, TEDx speaker and specialist in emergency medicine. “More consumers are interested in fasting every year, and Fast Bar is the smarter way to fast longer while also staying satiated.” “The results of this study now categorically show that Fast Bar consumption can be used to effectively mimic the practice of a water-only fast,” said Dr. William Hsu, Chief Medical Officer at L-Nutra. “As consumer interest in intermittent fasting for weight management and improved metabolic health continues to grow, these findings are especially impactful.” o


HEALTH SERIES | Rising interest in health ingredients


A rising and proactive interest in holistic health is providing ample opportunities for health ingredients and functional foods with the right positioning, according to Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight at FMCG Gurus. onsumers have re-evaluated their health as a result of Covid-19 and the new normal,” Mr Hughes said. “They will be taking a long-term and proactive approach to health maintenance and, as a result of this, will be seeking out ingredient-led claims more to deal with a variety of issues such as digestive health, emotional wellbeing, and immunity. “This will drive opportunity for innovation across the functional food, drink



and supplement market – opportunities to further promote the benefits of tried-andtrusted ingredients and also introduce consumer to new and innovative ingredients.” With a wealth of functional ingredients available, it can be daunting knowing which to incorporate into a product. Brands need to consider the specific health benefit they are looking to impact, according to FMCG Gurus’ Head of Research and Insight. Nevertheless, the concept of holistic health – being con-

scious of how physical, mental and emotional health are intertwined and can influence each other – is creating interest in ingredients that benefit overall well-being. “Ultimately, consumers are adopting the notion of holistic health,” Mr Hughes continued. “So, the average consumer doesn’t want to just address one specific area of health. They will ask: How do I improve my health and wellness in general – and, as a result of that, aim to improve

growing,” Mr Hughes observed. “There are also opportunities to educate people about ingredients such as lactoferrin, which is associated with immune health, as well as botanicals that are associated with aiding sleep. Ashwagandha, for instance, is a natural remedy associated with relaxation. There is real scope for a variety of ingredients to become popular and influential.” Correct positioning is crucial

my digestive health, emotional well-being, immunity or joint and bone health? So, the ingredients that appeal will be those that offer a variety of benefits simultaneously.” Which ingredients?

Since the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic, UK-based FMCG Gurus has seen a rise in consumers seeking out known nutrients such as omega-3, calcium, vitamin C and D, protein, and probiotics. “At the same time, there’s a whole host of opportunities for innovation with ingredients that consumers are less familiar with. The post-biotics market is growing, for instance – very slowly as it is niche at the minute – but, nevertheless, it is

Manufacturers must also know how to position ingredients so that they resonate with consumers. Providing scientific evidence to back up health claims is important – while for new, emerging ingredients, consumers may need reassurance on issues such as provenance, the safe history of use, or sustainable sourcing. Brands should not shy away from sharing information to raise awareness about the ingredients they use and why, especially for ones that may be unfamiliar to the mainstream consumer, like ashwagandha or adaptogenic mushrooms such as reishi or cordyceps. “I think brands can overestimate consumer awareness and savviness towards some of these ingredients. Consumers are doing their own research, but they are more likely to do it with tried-and-trusted ingredients,” Mr Hughes remarked. “People don’t really go to the doctor to talk about diet plans or healthy ingredients. Brands’ websites are important, but they could also look to social media and influencers to communicate this information. What’s really important, however, is

ensuring that information is credible and not being communicated in a misleading way.” Better-for-you indulgence

FMCG Gurus has noted demand for healthy ingredients in a wide range of food and drink categories – particularly in products that are already perceived as being ‘better-for-you’, such as dairy, cereal-based products or chilled juices. “But we are also seeing a rise in demand for functional ingredients in impulse categories, such as snack bars and soft drinks,” Mr Hughes added. “This is because consumers can often feel that the products they turn to on-the-go, and their diet in general, are unhealthy. Time-scarcity is a reason for this, and they want their consumption occasions to become more considered, meaning they want functional ingredients in these categories.” o Join Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insight at FMCG Gurus, on 14 June 2021 for his presentation during the online event ‘Fi Global Connect – Health Ingredients in the Spotlight’ as he explores how manufacturers can use healthy ingredients to tap into the interest in immunity, healthy ageing, digestive health, emotional wellbeing, and holistic health. Running from 14–18 June 2021, ‘Fi Global Connect – Health Ingredients in the Spotlight’ is a platform developed to connect the global health ingredients industry online. For information on the virtual event, or to register, go to:



New study highlights Listeria risk in ready-to-eat fish products EUROPE: The risk of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) fish products requires further attention, according to a long-awaited study jointly undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). Together with the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Listeria monocytogenes, at the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), the agencies commenced the European Listeria Typing Exercise (ELiTE) back in 2010 to describe lis-

teriosis in humans and Listeria monocytogenes in food. Researchers found a high degree of dissemination of certain Listeria bacteria in the food chain and in people across the European Union. There was a strong link with RTE fish products in several identified clusters. A cluster means that solates are genetically similar, and thus likely to originate from a common source. If human and food isolates are in the same cluster, it is a strong indication the food may have caused the infections. However, microbiological findings alone are not enough to link food

with infections: epidemiological evidence is also needed, according to the report’s authors. Prevention and control of Listeria contamination in fish production facilities could reduce food contamination and potentially human illnesses. The study advised that a review of business compliance with microbiological criteria should also be considered, particularly for fish products. The work covered data about public health and food from 13 and 23 EU member states, respectively, and involved three categories of RTE food: packaged hot or cold smoked or

‘gravad’ (cured) fish, soft or semi-soft cheeses, and packed heat-treated meat products. In total, 580 human isolates and 413 food isolates were included in the research with the majority from fish samples. From the human data, at least 75 people were known to have died. The amount of Listeria in fish was generally low, but in 48 samples exceeded the microbiological limit of 100 colony-forming units per gram (cfu/g). Only six meat and one cheese product had counts above 100cfu/g. Of 78 clusters by PFGE profiles, 57 were small, up to five Listeria monocytogenes isolates per cluster. The largest was Listeria monocytogenes clone CC8. It involved 30 human and 56 food Listeria monocytogenes isolates from 15 countries. This indicates it may be common in several countries and has potentially been circulating in RTE fish production plants, according to the study. Experts said based on the ability of Listeria to persist in the food chain for years, this CC8 clone is likely to cause large cross-border outbreaks. It was linked to 12 infections in three countries from 2015 to 2018 and 22 infections involving five countries from 2014 to 2019.

Unilever to acquire nutrition brand Onnit USA: FMCG giant Unilever has signed an agreement to acquire Onnit, a holistic wellness and lifestyle company based in Austin, Texas. Onnit was founded in 2010 by Aubrey Marcus, who set out to inspire a journey towards ‘total human optimisation’ – what the firm dubbed “a 360degree philosophy to achieve optimal health and wellbeing, through physical


fitness, mental performance, and emotional wellness”. Onnit’s supplements are the foundation of the brands’ offering, made with ingredients proven to provide improved cognitive function, mood and relaxation, gut health and immunity support. The range includes Onnit’s hero product, Alpha BRAIN®, a brain supple-

ment (nootropic) for better memory, focus, and mental processing. The brand also offers functional nutrition, fitness essentials, and a digital content platform that provides informative and motivational articles, interviews, advice, and fitness programmes for its loyal and passionate consumer base. “Onnit is a leading brand in the fastgrowing nootropics segment,” said Peter ter Kulve, President of Home Care and Health & Wellbeing at Unilever. “With its holistic health offering and digitalfirst model, Onnit perfectly complements our growing portfolio of innovative wellness and supplement brands that include OLLY, Equilibra, Liquid I.V., and SmartyPants Vitamins.”

Aubrey Marcus, founder of Onnit, said that since day one, his vision has been for Onnit to become a global movement, empowering people with the tools and information to reach their highest physical and mental potential. “I am so proud of what we have accomplished, and now, with Unilever’s scale and presence, we are one step closer to inspiring millions more to take charge of their health and wellbeing,” he enthused. Onnit will continue to be based in Austin, Texas, and led by CEO Jason Havey. Founder Aubrey Marcus will remain a Brand Ambassador. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

Lactalis expands range with new organic whole milk powder

FRANCE: Lactalis Ingredients – part of LACTALIS Group, one of the largest dairy companies in the world – has launched a new whole milk powder, specially made in France to meet the demand of manufacturers wishing to formulate organic food products. The milk comes exclusively from French dairy farms that comply with the specifications for organic farming. The organic specifications guarantee a product free from neutralising agents, antibiotics, preservatives and other additives. This whole milk is spray-dried to remove the water. The resulting whole milk powder has a good dairy taste, and can be used in many applications such as chocolate, dairy and baking. Worldwide, consumer interest in health and food quality issues is growing, with the global organic food market steadily expanding in tandem over the past 15 years. Between 2015 and 2019, the market grew by 8.7 per cent annually to reach €112.3 billion in 2019. Global consumption is concen-

trated in North America and Europe, which together account for more than nine-tenths of global consumption of organic products. Europe, including France and Germany, has a strong dynamism: between 2020 and 2021, 17.2 per cent of food products launched in Europe included organic claims, compared to 8.5 per cent a decade ago. Organic products meet the needs of health-conscious consumers: they are perceived as “cleaner” because they are free of pesticides, antibiotics and other undesirable chemicals, according to last year’s Mintel Trends report. They are also considered to have a higher nutritional value than conventional foods. Dairy functional ingredients such as milk powder are incorporated in the formulation of many food categories. With features including preserved dairy taste, 26 per cent fat, and good solubility, Lactalis Ingredients’ new Ecocert certified, French origin whole milk powder meets the demand of manufacturers wishing to formulate organic food products.

Mindful Snacker launches ‘Simply Roasted’ non-HFSS crisp range UK: UK-based start-up Mindful Snacker plans to shake up the snacking aisle with its new ‘Simply Roasted’ range of better-for-you crisps that are not high in fats, sugars or salt (HFSS), as it leverages upon the flourishing trend in healthy snacking. Created in Norfolk using a patented roasting process costing over £20 million and developed over a 10-year period, breakthrough technology has produced a great-tasting but healthier snack that is roasted not fried, making it the UK market’s only roasted potato crisp using a whole slice of potato. The makers of ‘Simply Roasted’ said the crisps offer all the taste, crunch and satisfaction of a traditional fried crisp, but with 50-per-cent less fat, significantly less salt and only 99 calories (per serving). “With all-natural ingredients, minimal processing and no additives, Simply Roasted is the ultimate indulgent food snack, with the finished skin-on, thick-cut, product delivering crunch,

mouth-feel, texture, taste and satiety,” the firm stated. In comparison with traditional crispmaking, which involves frying in oil at high temperatures, Simply Roasted uses fresh, whole potatoes that then go through three stages of crisp-cooking process. The end product is a skin-on crisp that is as close to a traditional fried crisp as you can get, without compromising on nutritional value. The brand is launching with a collection of moreish and on trend flavours including: Sea Salt, Mature Cheddar & Red Onion, Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar and Black Truffle. Flavours to follow in the extended range include Korean BBQ, Katsu Curry and Thai Green Curry. There will also be a ‘Naked’ flavour, championing the fact that Simply Roasted uses “100-per-cent premium UK potatoes, locally sourced and simply sliced, that are simply delicious on their own,” according to the manufacturer.

TITANIUM DIOXIDE (E171) NO LONGER CONSIDERED SAFE AS FOOD ADDITIVE EUROPE: Following a request by the European Commission in March 2020, the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) has updated its safety assessment of the food additive titanium dioxide (E171), and has concluded that the chemical cannot be considered safe as a food additive. Titanium dioxide is currently utilised as an ingredient to whiten many food products, including sweets, pastries, chewing gum, coffee creamers, chocolates, and cake decorations. The updated evaluation revises the outcome of EFSA’s previous assess-

ment published in 2016, which highlighted the need for more research to fill data gaps. Prof. Maged Younes, Chair of EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), said: “Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the Panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be consid-

ered safe as a food additive. A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.” Genotoxicity refers to the ability of a chemical substance to damage DNA, the genetic material of cells. As genotoxicity may lead to carcinogenic effects, it is essential to assess the potential genotoxic effect of a substance to conclude on its safety.

Prof. Matthew Wright, both a member of the FAF Panel and chair of EFSA’s working group on E171, said: “Although the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive, on the basis of the new data and strengthened methods we could not rule out a concern for genotoxicity and consequently we could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive.” Risk managers at the EC and in EU Member States have been informed of EFSA’s conclusions and will consider appropriate action to take to ensure consumers’ safety.


SUSTAINABILITY | Towards a greener food system


Practical steps the world’s caterers and foodservice professionals can take towards helping create a more sustainable approach to food. he UN predicts there will be 9-10 billion people on Earth by the century’s mid-point. Providing so many people with nutritious foods is a massive challenge and one that cannot be met by simply up-scaling current practices regarding food production and consumption. According to Katherine Richardson – Professor of Biological Oceanography and Leader of the Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen


– providing humanity with nutritional food should be at the centre of all decisions related to sustainable development, and she highlights four key themes for creating a sustainable food system. Oliver Hall, MD at leading UK-based independent procurement provider allmanhall, explores two of these themes – “losing less and eating smarter” – below, offering practical actions to help us move towards a more sustainable approach to food. Consumption – “eating smarter”

Rapid population growth, alongside increased purchasing power and rising per capita consumption, has put further pressure on the need for food, space and raw materials. Forecasting from the International Food Information Council predicts that strengthening consumer 16

concern for the planet will be reflected increasingly in purchase decisions, with sustainability and climate change making up two of the top five trends in food and nutrition, despite many still confused about what sustainability actually means. Currently, most of the planet eats either too little, too much, or the wrong type of food. Globally, calorific and animal protein consumption per capita is rising as more of the population moves towards a Western diet. In the UK, however, one in eight people are vegetarian or vegan, with 21 per cent becoming ‘flexitarians’. Some 85 per cent of shoppers also state that sourcing sustainable and ethical foods is important to them. In their 2017 book ‘Sustainable Diets’, Pamela Mason and Tim Lang present “sustainable diet as a code for better con-

sumption” and that while truly sustainable diets are complex, “two hotspots have dominated attention”. These are ‘meat and dairy’, and ‘food waste’. With strong evidence to support the overconsumption of meat being harmful to human and environmental health, adopting a more plant-based diet will make food systems more sustainable. For consumers to keep within their planetary boundaries (i.e., to create no net environmental damage), no more than 98g of red meat and 203g of poultry should be consumed weekly. Yet high-income countries surpass those necessary nutritional requirements, regularly consuming double this. Furthermore, animal products account for 83 per cent of agricultural land-use, whilst accounting for only 18 per cent of the calories consumed by humans. Reducing livestock would also reduce freshwater pollution, water use, and applications of nitrogen and phosphorous. Linking future diets to the outputs of sustainable food systems will be vital in mitigating further ecosystem degradation. Encouraging consumers to choose more sustainable food is not straightforward, yet better food choice can be influenced through interventions: • Providing improved knowledge on a sustainable diet while combating incorrect beliefs and ingrained habits, at the same time as allowing for cultural identity. • Eliminating choice, such as setting out meat-free days in menu options. • Establishing fiscal disincentives: changing prices and, at government level, tax rates. • Providing better information on sustainable food choices through better labelling. • Providing tasty, more affordable meat alternatives. • Stressing the benefits, such as reduced cost or improved taste. • Maximising awareness, putting vegetarian options at the top of menus.

towards reducing consumer wastage: • Choosing correct date labelling, using ‘best before’ when possible. • Removing ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ dates. • Extending shelf life (provided food quality and safety are not compromised). • Providing clear storage guidance. • Displaying clear advice on foods that can be frozen at home. • Providing portioning information on packaging. • Offering smaller pack sizes for products that are wasted in high volume (e.g., bread loaves). Packaging is also another critical aspect of food production, keeping food safe and thus preventing wastage. The type, weight and volume of packaging determine the transport efficiency, with more packaging increasing the transport volume, and thus emissions released. Trade-offs thus occur between having enough packaging to prevent damage and wastage, yet not so much that high emissions are generated from the production and transport of the packaging. It seems counter-intuitive to think that packaging may actually support sustainable food systems. Nonetheless, taking on-board such a prospect also highlights the complexities in creating truly sustainable packaging. Positive steps towards a sustainable system

Despite there being a range of complex

barriers to achieving sustainable food systems, there are steps that the food & beverage industry can take now: • Education about healthy and sustainable eating, including where food comes from. • Greater transparency, traceability and provision of information through solutions that provide environmental impact assessments of ingredients and recipes. • Planning to design a menu that is more sustainable and agile, whilst also meeting nutritional requirements. • Taste is a key element, and a dietician can facilitate the provision of samples, to encourage exposure to different foods for consumers. • Food waste can be managed by considering ways the food is stored, prepared and served, encouraging regular feedback on the dishes, portion sizes, and so on. • Sustainability group creation, led by consumers, is a great way to get feedback, understand what issues matter to them, and to involve them in the solution • Sustainable food policy, written to make sure everyone is part of the approach and communicated thereafter. • Meat-free days, and education around how to reduce meat consumption done in exciting and innovative ways. Addressing these two issues of what we consume and reducing waste, with catering teams playing a key role, will benefit the environment and help promote sustainable food habits for the future. o

Wastage – “losing less”

The second ‘hotspot’ as identified by Mason and Lang is food waste. An eyewatering one-third of global food production is lost or wasted. Reducing waste provides a major opportunity to make food more sustainable and economically efficient. British charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has made some of the following recommendations 17


Global firms take action towards living wages GLOBAL: IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, has announced with global companies Aldi Nord, Aldi Sud, Eosta Fyffes, Fairphone, L’Oréal, Schijvens Fyffes, Superunie, Taylors of, Harrogate, and Unilever to take action towards living wages. In a joint Call to Action, they call on other companies to do the same. In the Call to Action ‘Better Business through Better Wages’, companies from across the retail, food production and processing space – and beyond – said the old business model looked to low wages as a profitability driver. In contrast, a new model “sees well-paid workers as an integral part of a profitable, sustainable and resilient business”.

“To eradicate poverty, a living wage is the first step. Helping workers achieve a living wage is a shared responsibility across the entire supply chain, but the business community must be a driving force,” stressed Daan Wensing, CEO of IDH. “We are proud that 10 companies already will work together towards living wages, and we encourage other businesses to join the call to action and do the same.” “Pervasive social inequality harms prosperity of economies and societies,” IDH asserted in a statement, adding that the social divide has undoubtedly been widened over the past year. “Now businesses have an opportunity to change the way their business models operate to benefit

wider society, breaking the cycle of poverty and strengthening the foundations of the global economy, while driving business growth,” it said. Global FMCG giant Unilever, one of those progressive businesses leading the Call to Action, agrees: “We have committed that by 2030, everyone who directly provides goods and services to Unilever will earn at least a Living Wage or a Living Income. Because without a healthy society, there cannot be a healthy business,” said Marc Engel, Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer.

Whole Foods Market launches new ‘Sourced for Good’ seal USA: Whole Foods Market – the world’s largest natural and organic foods retailer – has launched ‘Sourced for Good’, an exclusive third-party-certification programme designed to support responsible sourcing. The firm said the new programme would provide tangible improvements in farmworkers’ lives, strengthening worker communities where products are sourced, and promoting environmental stewardship where crops are grown. The ‘Sourced for Good’ seal is designed to help shoppers easily identify


products that meet the high sourcing standards required by the programme. A recent study conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Whole Foods Market among over 3,000 US adults found that 75 per cent of Americans said when grocery shopping, it’s important to them that products are responsibly sourced, while 65 per cent of US shoppers are confused about how to determine whether a product is responsibly sourced. At launch, the ‘Sourced for Good’ seal can be found on more than 100 prod-

ucts across Whole Foods Market stores. In addition to produce items from asparagus to courgettes, Sourced for Good brings a first-time focus to seafood, including Del Pacifico wild-caught shrimp from Mexico, and domestically sourced items, like tulips from Bloomia in Virginia and Sun Valley Floral Farms in California. Adding new third-party-certified commodities enables the programme to benefit even more workers and communities. “At Whole Foods Market, our ‘Sourced for Good’ products not only are good,

“Achieving a more sustainable, equitable approach to business will require creative approaches from all stakeholders, including government, civil society, trade unions, investors and more, to remove barriers,” noted IDH. Such barriers – alongside specific actions and solutions that will be developed and scaled up as part of the IDH Roadmap on Living Wages – are listed in the Call to Action, which can be read here:

they do good,” said Karen Christensen, Senior VP of Merchandising for Perishables. “Our commitment to equitable trade has funded numerous community projects – from dental clinics to housing facilities to student scholarships to bird sanctuaries. By purchasing select products, customers help us in our goal to make a difference, and now with ‘Sourced for Good’, we’re offering shoppers an easier way to find these special products in our stores.” ‘Sourced for Good’ evolves Whole Foods Market’s long-standing dedication to supporting workers, communities and the environment. In 2007, Whole Foods Market began working with trusted thirdparty certifiers under its Whole Trade Guarantee to bring about measurable, positive impact and generate millions of dollars annually to support farmworkers, their communities and environmental stewardship in the production of agricultural products. The expanded ‘Sourced for Good’ programme will replace Whole Trade Guarantee. Whole Foods Market’s ‘Sourced for Good’ programme includes products certified by internationally recognised third parties such as Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade America, Fair Food Program and Equitable Food Initiative.

Torben Dahl Nyholm, Arla’s CFO

French MPs vote in favour of food refill stations in supermarkets FRANCE: French grocery chains could soon be required to switch to food refill stations as part of an environmental bill passed in parliament. The law would require retailers to start phasing out disposable plastic packaging and dedicate one-fifth of their store to allow customers to buy dry food products using their own reusable containers. MPs in France voted in favour of new legislation that would force large supermarket chains across the country to make it easier for customers to bring and shop using reusable containers. The anti-plastic packaging bill – one of many environmental and climate resilience measures currently being debated by the country’s policymakers – will still need to be discussed and passed by the Senate (in May) before it can be implemented. If passed, the legislation will require retailers with a storefront larger than 400 square metres to devote at least 20 per cent of their space to food refill stations by the end of the decade. Barbara Pompili, France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, said that the law is designed to “not put distribution networks into difficulty”, but instead would serve to promote the phasing out of disposable packaging in order to combat the world’s mounting waste crisis. A recent study, led by a team of international researchers and published in the journal Science, finds that even in a “best-case scenario” where plastic consumption is reduced by 80 per cent, there would still be 710 million tonnes of plastic left polluting the planet.

Arla equates climate with financial performance DENMARK: European dairy co-operative Arla Foods received ‘reasonable assurance’ – the highest possible assurance level for non-financial data – on most of its environmental, social and governance performance (ESG) figures in 2020, signifying its strong commitment to a sustainable business and future “We have very high ambitions for our ESG performance, such as our science-based climate target of reducing our CO2e emissions by 30 per cent in 2030, and becoming carbon net zero by 2050. To create this amount of impact, we need to know that the data we’re working with is correct. In order to constantly improve our ESG performance, external auditing is a strong tool,” said Torben Dahl Nyholm, Arla’s Chief Financial Officer. “Furthermore, it is an absolute necessity for us that the data and figures we share publicly are solid and trustworthy,” he continued. “There is a growing demand for transparency from our customers, consumers and financial institutions, and our sustainability actions – and thus our ability to account for them are key in building and maintaining trust in Arla as a business and in our farmer owners.” In the first year of external auditing, Arla’s ESG figures received limited assurance from external auditor Ernst & Young (EY). In 2020, Arla aimed at further improving the ESG data

quality; an effort that was guided by EY’s requirements for reasonable assurance – the highest possible assurance level for non-financial data – which Arla achieved on most ESG figures this year. “I am very pleased with both our results and our way of reporting on them,” added Mr Dahl Nyholm. The highly complex figures on CO2e emissions from farms managed to again receive limited assurance in 2020, and Arla continues to improve standardisation in reporting across farms, as it aims to achieve reasonable assurance on all ESG figures. “As a responsible and trusted brand, full transparency and accountability across our entire value chain continue to be a strong guideline for us and the only way to move forward. Our farmers are working hard to produce high quality milk with as low an environmental impact as possible, while also providing solid, externally-verified data on their farming,” continued Mr Dahl Nyholm. Arla has introduced climate checks on farms, building the world's largest externallyverified data-set from dairy farming, as it strives towards a carbon-net-zero future. Arla’s consolidated ESG data, as well as information about ESG accounting policies, are presented in the cooperative’s ESG report 2020, which is also part of its Annual report 2020.

NEW WASHING PROCEDURES ENSURE LABELS ARE COMPATIBLE WITH HDPE AND PP RECYCLING STREAM EUROPE: RecyClass – a cross-industry initiative that works to advance plastic packaging recyclability and establish a harmonised approach towards recycling across Europe – has published new Quick Test Washing Procedures for film and paper labels applied on HDPE and PP containers. The procedures were developed to determine whether on-pack adhesive and label combinations are fully compatible with the post-consumer HDPE or PP recycling stream. They are destined for the label and adhesive industry as well as the recognisd Certification Bodies that perform recyclability assessments of labelled packaging.

The new standard procedures were developed at a laboratory scale to allow companies to easily and quickly check the wash-off compatibility of their labels with recycling. The documents describe the steps that must be followed to carry out the analysis, as well as the assessment criteria to evaluate the behaviour of labels, sleeves and adhesives during the washing process. As reported in the HDPE & PP Design for Recycling Guidelines, any label and adhesive combination must be water-soluble or water-releasable at 40°C to get separated from the packaging during the recycling process. Additionally, paper labels must ensure

no loss of fibres during the washing step to avoid wash water contamination and recyclate damaging. The Washing Quick Test Procedures were developed by the RecyClass HDPE and PP Technical Committees alongside leading adhesive and label manufacturers including Henkel, UPM Raflatac and Avery Dennison, which carried out internal testing to validate their feasibility. In the case of the non-removable adhesives in combination with film labels, they can be tested by RecyClass – following a complete assessment according to the RecyClass Recyclability Evaluation Protocols, in order to iden-

tify their impact on the quality of recycled HDPE and PP. “Every component of plastic packaging must be considered when evaluating its recyclability. Labels and adhesives are just one of the examples,” said RecyClass in a statement. “Making sure that they are compatible with recycling technologies is indispensable in driving high-quality recycling. By ensuring compatibility with the recycling process, the quality of the recycled material increases and so does their potential for being used in high-end applications.”


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | Ingredients for mental health

Paul Clayton Phd, Chair of the scientific advisory board at Pharmactive


Spain’s natural ingredients producer Pharmactive has commenced what it terms a ‘Nutra meets Pharma Initiative’, having formed a new scientific advisory panel to support the manufacturer’s business development with mental health formulations. adrid-headquartered Pharmactive Biotech S.L. is tapping into the pharmaceutical market with its leading branded ingredients, such as affron® – a saffron extract for supporting mental health. As Chair of its new scientific advisory board, the company has appointed Paul Clayton, PhD, who – together with Pharmactive’s medical advisor, Carlos Galmarini, MD, PhD – will lead this strategic move for Pharmactive. “Including high-level medical and natural science experts on the advisory board enables the company to combine and reconciliate the two worlds of pharma and nutraceuticals, to benefit both consumers and medical practitioners, and will help the pharmaceutical business provide greater value to their patrons,” said JeanMarie Raymond, CEO at Pharmactive.


“The voice of the consumer and the nutraceutical industry”

Paul Clayton is a clinical pharmacologist and pharmacological nutritionist. He is the former Chair of the Forum on Food & Health (UK) and a former Senior Scientific Advisor to the UK government’s Committee on the Safety of Medicines. In addition to his new position at Pharmactive, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour – a registered charity based in Oxford with the primary focus of commissioning research into how food, nutrition and diet can affect brain function and behaviour. Mr Clayton works with leading doctors and clinical scientists at centres of clinical expertise in multiple countries, designing and supervising pre-clinical and clinical trials of pharmaco-nutritional interven20

tions. As an advisor at Pharmactive, he will support strategic product development, advise in clinical studies protocols, and provide consumer insights. “Clayton will serve as the voice of the consumer and the nutraceutical industry, using his extensive knowledge of natural pharmacology to bring an evidence-based, prevention-focused point of view to physicians,” added Mr Raymond. An expert in the application of AI in healthcare

Carlos Galmarini is the Founder and CEO of Topazium Smart Medicine, a biomedical and pharmaceutical artificial intelligence platform based in Madrid, Spain. He earned his medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires. He completed an internship in clinical oncology at Marie Curie Hospital, Buenos Aires, and postdoctoral fellowships in oncology at City of Hope Hospital, Los Angeles, and Centre Léon Bérard, Lyon. He also earned a PhD in oncology and was qualified to lead research teams for Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University in France. Mr Galmarini practised medicine at both Marie Curie Hospital and Carlos G. Durand Hospital, Buenos Aires, and held medical research positions in oncology at Rockefeller and Lyon Sud Medical Schools in France, where he was appointed as an associate professor. He later joined PharmaMar (Madrid, Spain) as Head of Cell Biology and Pharmacogenomics, where he was in charge of drug screening, molecular biology and pharmacogenomics. Mr Galmarini has authored more than 120 publications. In recent years, he has devoted his research to the application of

artificial intelligence in healthcare, molecular biology and other related-medical fields, becoming a recognised expert in this discipline. Supporting consumers’ mental health and metabolic balance

“An ingredient for mood health, such as Pharmactive’s validated saffron extract, affron, can be used as stand-alone or to enhance pharmaceutical products,” explained Mr Clayton. “Consumers are seeking science-based, natural mental wellness solutions, and Pharmactive can answer this demand, having already pioneered in the field. The company recently published a clinical study on affron with antidepressants, and there are more to come.” “Pharmactive is researching and developing natural products supported by clinical studies to complement standardof-care medications," added Mr Galmarini. “The goal is to support consumers’ mental health and metabolic balance. To that end, Pharmactive brings together innovation, nature and ‘disruptive’ value to the pharmaceutical industry, challenging current paradigms.” o Carlos Galmarini MD Phd, Pharmactive’s medical advisor

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | Autonomous farming

Acting Mayor of Noordoostpolder Jan Westmaas sends autonomous implement carrier Robotti on its way to plant the first potato.

Agriculture machinery manufacturer Dewulf and robot-maker Agrointelli are working together to explore the benefits of using autonomous machines in potato cultivation.

GROUND CONTROL iven the stubbornly labour-intensive nature of most agricultural activities, there’s no wonder that farmers and technology players alike see the industry as ripe for modernisation. Accordingly, the farm automation segment is expected to expand at an impressive clip over the next few years – at around 23 per cent annually, to be worth over US$20 billion by 2025, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. Two companies firmly engaged in such autonomous advances are Belgian company Dewulf, a leading global player and full-liner in agricultural machines for the cultivation of potatoes and root crops, and Danish firm Agrointelli, which develops new technologies for the plant-production industry within the fields of vision, automation and navigation. Combining their competences, experiences, and technologies, Dewulf and Agrointelli will undertake a joint effort towards offering automated operations “with a high level of data acquisition and site-specific optimisation”, the firms said in a statement. For this effort, Dewulf will bring to the table its decades-long experience in robust, high-tech and cost-efficient solutions for potato growers. On its side, Agrointelli will supply the versatile robotic platform Robotti, which is able to autonomously solve multiple tasks in the field. The two companies have the ambition to “enable potato growers to enjoy auto-


mated operations for soil preparation, planting and crop care during the season with a light-weight automated setup”. Leaders in the field

For their first joint project, the autonomous Robotti platform from Agrointelli will be combined with a 4-row Miedema CP 42 cup planter. This planter will be a very straightforward, mechanically-driven machine. It will allow the two firms to identify what automation and optimisation features are really needed when potato planting with a robot. The autonomous potato planting combination was recently let loose on the demonstration fields of leading industry expo PotatoEurope 2021 – located in Noordoostpolder, central Netherlands – with the municipality’s acting mayor, Jan Westmaas, sending the autonomous implement carrier on its way to plant the first potato. Prior to that, Robotti had already demonstrated success with spot spraying in relation to potatoes, in a demo carried out in collaboration with Wageningen University in Lelystad. Solving labour, soil compaction and sustainability woes

Dewulf and Agrointelli said they share in their vision “the importance of automation and precision farming as a response to the challenges potato growers are currently facing in their critical and important high-

value activity”. Such challenges include a lack of skilled labour, the threats of soil compaction and a high need for sustainable solutions. “The well-known, robust and reliable machines from Dewulf enable us to use Robotti in a whole new arable potato use case, in which we see fantastic perspectives. Potato production in Europe is an important industry, and the crop’s cultivation area is increasing in size throughout Europe. At the same time, it is a production system requiring a lot of man-hours, as well as a lot of treatments during the season – here we see some amazing optimisation possibilities for the growers to improve their production system and economy,” said Ole Green, CEO of Agrointelli. Dewulf Group’s Product Manager for Planting Equipment, Melle van der Molen, said that his company places the need of its customers – of potato growers worldwide – first. “We believe a great role will be played by autonomous agricultural machinery in the future,” he remarked. “Agrointelli is at the vanguard of robotisation in arable farming. The Robotti is a great example of how robotisation can reduce labour requirements while at the same time tackling soil compaction. The learnings and discoveries that will come out of this project will help make potato cultivation more enjoyable for growers and will shape the solutions that we will be offering tomorrow,” he concluded. o 21

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | MIT’s sanitising ‘drobot’

DISINFECTING VIA DRONE A robotic solution for disinfecting food manufacturing and processing facilities has won the Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize competition. he winners of this year’s Prize – a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – got a good indication their pitch was striking a chord when a judge offered to have his company partner with the team for an early demonstration. The offer signified demand for their solution – to say nothing of their chances of winning the pitch competition. The annual competition’s MIT-based grand-prize winner, Human Dynamics, is seeking to improve sanitation in food production plants with a robotic drone –


dubbed a ‘drobot’ – that flies through facilities spraying soap and disinfectant. Solving an $80bn problem

The company says the product addresses major labour shortages for food production facilities, which often must carry out daily sanitation processes. “They have to sanitise every night, and it’s extremely labour intensive and expensive,” observed cofounder Tom Okamoto, a master’s student in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) programme. In the winning pitch, Okamoto said the average large food manufacturer spends US$13 million on sanitation annually. When you combine the time that sanitation processes take away from production, and the delays due to human error, Human Dynamics estimates it is tackling an US$80 billion problem. Under the hood

The company’s prototype uses a quadcopter drone that carries a tank, nozzle, and spray hose. Underneath the hood, the 22

drone uses visual detection technology to validate that each area is clean, LIDAR to map out its path, and algorithms for route optimisation. The product is designed to automate repetitive tasks while complementing other cleaning efforts currently done by humans. Nonetheless, workers will still be required for certain aspects of cleaning and tasks like preparing and inspecting facilities during sanitation. Upcoming pilot project

The company has already developed several proofs of concept, and is planning to run a pilot project with a local food producer and distributor this summer. The Human Dynamics team also includes MIT researcher Takahiro Nozaki, MIT master’s student Julia Chen, and Harvard Business School students Mike Mancinelli and Kaz Yoshimaru. The company estimates that the addressable market for sanitation in food production facilities in the United States alone is US$3 billion. o


AVEVA’s MES solution recognised for delivering “exceptional efficiencies” to F&B firms USA: Based on its recent analysis of the global manufacturing execution system (MES) market for the food & beverage industry, California-headquartered global analyst Frost & Sullivan has recognised AVEVA Group Plc. with the 2020 Global Product Leadership Award. AVEVA's model-driven MES solution combines the traditional benefits of an MES with a new digital workflow management approach to integrate people, processes, and businesses. The solution supports the integration with process control applications, device-agnostic automation hardware, and workflow management applications, helping users achieve significant efficiencies. “Instead of offering conventional standalone MES software, AVEVA supports its MES capability with a platform-neutral user experience, mobile apps and human-machine interface (HMI) integration,” said Ramasamy Muthuraman,

Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Its customer-centric approach enables users to achieve the maximum level of automation, consistency of operational tasks, and collaboration across diverse teams. While competing MES solutions provide only a manual setup on a single mobile device, AVEVA’s MES provides an automatic and active layout adoption and creates previews for multiple mobile and desktop devices.” AVEVA’s MES stands out for its out-ofthe-box connectors for both plant and enterprise applications, providing greater flexibility to customers in terms of integrating the MES into their entire business. The company’s technologies help it uniquely respond to events arising in the MS SQL server, XML messages, and web services. Furthermore, the ability to connect with automated manufacturing processes by integrating with asset performance management software or thirdparty applications allows customers to

achieve end-to-end process management and standardise processes across the enterprise. “AVEVA has been accelerating its cloud deployment while increasingly investing in cloud development to give customers greater flexibility in the way they use the software,” noted Mr Muthuraman. “It extended its MES capa-

bilities with its cloud platform called AVEVA Connect, which delivers an endto-end integrated solution for an organisation’s design, engineering, supply chain, and production teams. Its adaptable solutions and customer-focused strategy ensure it maintains its position as a leading MES provider to the food & beverage industry.”

Tetra Pak introduces 14 new lines for cheese manufacturers SWITZERLAND: Tetra Pak has launched 14 new Best Practice Lines (BPLs) for cheese manufacturers, as research reveals that a third of consumers have increased their cheese consumption during the pandemic Varieties set to benefit from these BPLs include Mozzarella, semi-hard cheese, Cheddar, and fresh cheese production. Together, these cheese types make up 79 per cent of all cheese volumes and have a CAGR forecast of three per cent (2021-2025). Two of the new lines (Mozzarella and Cheddar) were previewed at the virtually held CheeseExpo Global in April. Leveraging over 50 years of experience in the cheese category – the biggest dairy food segment in the world at 42 per cent share (and more than 27 billion kg) – the new

BPL concepts provide a complete production solution for customers, optimised to fit their needs. Tetrapak said the processing lines utilise ‘proven equipment combined with industry-leading expertise to create a safe and easy route to profitable cheese production with a higher yield, while incorporating the traditional

cheesemaking techniques’. The hygienic production process ‘enables a longer product shelf life, as well as consistent and replicable quality’. Sustainability is also a factor, with solutions focusing on reducing water, steam, and power consumption. “Cheese is consumed on every continent around the world, and consumer

appeal shows no signs of abating. In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” observed Fred Griemsmann, VP of Cheese and Powder Systems at Tetra Pak. “We’ve expanded and deepened our expertise and knowledge over the last decade, consolidated our proficiency and sites in the US, and recently invested €25m to create a world-class cheese production centre in Poland,” he continued. “With 50 years of expertise, we are the only supplier for complete solutions from milk intake, cheese production, through to packaging. This provides us with a sophisticated toolkit that enables us to tailor solutions to be completely suited to the customers’ needs, and we are so confident in these new Best Practice Line solutions that they come with performance guarantees.”



Tyson’s ‘Raised & Rooted’ brand launches new plant-based products USA: Raised & Rooted – Tyson Foods’ brand of plant protein products – is expanding its offering with three new products to meet the increased consumer demand for meat alternative options. The new plant-based burger patties, Bratwurst and Italian sausages, and ground (mince) are available in the refrigerated section of grocery stores across the United States. “Our products are plants made meatier, and deliver the same delicious flavours, in a better-for-you alternative,” said David Ervin, VP of

Marketing at Raised & Rooted. “We are excited to provide people with satisfying alternative protein options perfect for any occasion.” In a recent survey, nearly half of Americans noted a desire for more satisfying, plant-based options for the grill – and the Raised & Rooted brand is striving to deliver on such desires with the introduction of its plantbased burger patties and sausages. Made from pea protein, and soy free, the new refrigerated plant-based patties and sausages provide an excellent

Radico Khaitan launches ‘Triple Eight’ whisky in foil-stamped aseptic packaging INDIA: One of India’s leading spirits manufacturers, Radico Khaitan, has launched its whisky brand ‘Triple Eight’ in an iconic aseptic pack with foil-stamping feature, manufactured by UFlex-Asepto. Launched recently in Karnataka, the Triple Eight whisky aseptic pack innovation is the outcome of a packaging partnership between Radico Khaitan, the country’s largest Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) maker, and UFlex-owned Asepto, the first Indian aseptic packaging maker. The aim of both companies was “to elevate the packaging standards for the IMFL category products and embellish the packs to make them aesthetically superior using unique design blends for brand differentiation,” the firms said in a statement. Elaborating about the unique packaging development, Ashwani Kumar Sharma, President and CEO of UFlex-Asepto, said his firm was “extremely proud” of its association with Radico Khaitan, which is known for quality blended whisky. “The packaging will certainly accentuate its class to create an aspiration reach for its customers,” he remarked. “While differentiation through unique packaging experience has always been Asepto’s key focus, the steal is the anti-counterfeit quality that is pertinent to prevent the consumption of adulterated liquor – a grave concern for the liquor makers.” Amar Sinha, Chief Operating Officer at Radico Khaitan said, “We are extremely happy with the results of this association. This is, in fact, the first time that an alcoholic beverage company has ventured into the foilstamping effects in the aseptic packaging space,” he informed, adding: “Radico has always been ahead in the innovation and Triple Eight has created a buzz in the market with its iconic aesthetic shelf appeal encouraging repeat sales.” The new-age packaging works in three main ways: it helps to curb adulteration in the segment, creates great choice for customers on retail shelves, and retains the quality flavours that Radico Khaitan is known to offer. Triple Eight is available in the six-layered aseptic packaging format in two sizes – 90ml and 180ml.


source of protein (17–21g per serving) with 75-per-cent less saturated fat than traditional options. In the US, plant-based protein sales increased 148 per cent year-on-year, with at-home cooking increasing exponentially and consumers seeking a variety of new options for their weekday meal inspiration. In response, the Raised & Rooted brand has also expanded its portfolio of everyday favourites (Nuggets and Whole-Grain Tenders) to also include a new plantbased ground (mince) product – made

from pea protein, soy free, and providing 23g of protein per serving. Introduced in 2019, the Raised & Rooted brand has seen impressive growth in its first year, with availability at more than 10,000 retail stores and online, and expanding globally from the US into Europe. The firm said that additional new product innovations would be launched later this summer.


SWITZERLAND: Nestlé has launched a new pea-based milk alternative, Wunda, as the world’s largest food company strives to compete with rivals like Danone’s Alpro and Oatly AB in the ever-expanding global market for dairy substitutes. Nestlé’s new Wunda brand will initially be available in France, the Netherlands and Portugal, with a roll-out in other European countries to follow. The firm said it would also thereafter look to expand Wunda into other non-dairy sub-categories like yoghurt. Many industry observers have deemed Nestlé as something of a laggard when it comes to gaining a foothold in the vegan food craze. Back in 2017, rival Danone placed a US$10bn bet on plant-based when it acquired milk alternative manufacturer WhiteWave, furnishing it with the Silk brand in the US and Alpro for European markets. Nonetheless, Nestlé’s strong and wide distribution network enables it to roll out new products with ease across retail outlets, thus presenting a threat to altmilk incumbents. Nestlé also claims an advantage in terms of the functionality of its new dairy

alternative: Unlike most cereal-, nut- or pea-based milk alternatives, which “have a specific taste, are low in protein, or don’t mix or foam well in hot beverages”, Wunda is “epic in everything” that you would otherwise use milk for, meaning “you can drink it straight, pour over cereal, use in hot beverages, froth it, cook with it and much more”, the firm said in a statement. Stefan Palzer, Nestlé’s CTO, said that Wunda’s “great neutral taste, the ability to use it for different applications and the fact that it is carbon neutral make it an ideal plant-based alternative to milk”. Made from yellow peas, which provide high-quality protein and are sourced in France and Belgium, the Wunda range offers strong nutritional value compared to similar plant-based beverages on the market. It is high in fibre, low in sugar and fat, enriched with calcium, and is a source of vitamins D, B2 and B12. The original, unsweetened and chocolate recipes all achieve a Nutri-Score A in Europe. Cédric Boehm, Head of Dairy for Europe, Middle East and North Africa, observed “a quiet food revolution underway” – one that is changing how people eat. “In Europe, at least 4 in 10 shoppers are already choosing some dairy alternatives. People are asking for better plant-based drinks that are nutritious, versatile and taste great. We have the expertise in plant-based and experience in dairy to be at the forefront of this shift, and we're sure people will be convinced by Wunda.”

KTC’S NEW SUPER PLUS HI-FRY LASTS TWO AND A HALF TIMES LONGER THAN STANDARD VEGETABLE OIL UK: KTC Edibles Ltd, the UK’s largest independent manufacturer and distributor of edible oils, has launched Super Plus Hi Fry – a new heavy-duty frying oil designed to last two and a half times longer than standard vegetable oil. A blend of RSPO-certified, segregated sustainable palm oil and rapeseed oil, Super Plus Hi-Fry is ideal for the frying of a wide range of different foods across the foodservice sector. The launch is part of a full update of the popular Hi-Fry range, including new and improved branding and packaging for the original Super Hi-Fry product. Super Plus Hi-Fry delivers enhanced frying performance and an extended lifespan, allowing customers with heavy-duty frying requirements – such as fish and chip shops – to fry for longer, reduce waste and save money. “Super Plus Hi-Fry is designed with heavy duty, everyday fryers in mind,” affirmed Gary Lewis, Head of Business Development for Oils and Fats at KTC. “It lasts around two and a half times longer than standard vegetable frying oil, which means fewer oil changes,

less fryer cleaning and reduced waste – resulting in significant time and cost savings. “We’re investing heavily in the Hi-Fry range for the benefit of our customers – providing them with real choice when it comes to longlife frying oils. All Hi-Fry oils use RSPO segregated and certified sustainable palm oil, making them the natural choice for customers who care about environmentally friendly, ethical solutions.” KTC Hi-Fry is a range of sustainable, long-life vegetable frying oils, including Super HiFry for medium duty frying, and Super Plus Hi-Fry for heavy-duty use. The company has further plans to increase the Hi-Fry product range over the coming year, and is investing heavily in product development.

DalterFood launches new cut: Cheese Matchsticks

ITALY: As it continues to diversify its range of products to meet industry and catering needs, Italy-headquartered dairy group DalterFood has unveiled a brand new innovation – cheese matchsticks, “a unique cut on the market,” according to the firm, “designed to guarantee the best results”. The special feature of this new cut lies in its food design: a good thickness (3x6 mm) and a quadrangular cut help give a unique texture to these matchsticks, which are really enjoyable to bite into, says the company, and hold their shape well when cooked, thus maintaining their characteristic three-dimensional shape. Unlike cheeses cut into thin, flat strips, DalterFood Group’s innovative matchsticks always stay firm and hold together well when cooked, keeping their structure and body even during long cooking processes at high temperatures. Such characteristics make them perfect as an ingredient in sauces or fillings and in any dishes where the cheese must stay intact, compact and visible. DalterFood’s innovative new cut responds to the needs of food industries,

particularly the ready meals segment, as it is ideal for use as a pizza or lasagne topping, as an ingredient in ready-made salads, soups and sauces, as well as for fillings and stuffings. Cheese matchsticks are also interesting for the world of foodservice – besides being handy and delicious for topping pizzas and in dishes with a set recipe, they are also great for enriching vegetable salads. “DalterFood Group is the first and only company in the sector to release this new three-dimensional cut for cheese, which picks up on a demand that had so far not been met among foodservice operators and food companies,” explained Elisa Flocco, DalterFood Group’s Head of Marketing. DalterFood Group uses this cut for Parmigiano Reggiano of all ages and for aged Italian Spinoro cheese. It offers two different lengths (short matchsticks from 15–30mm and long matchsticks from 25–40mm) and five types of packs: packs, bags and round tubs just for the short version, and bags and trays for the whole range.

TEA INDIA’S NEW LINES OFFER AUTHENTIC TASTE FOR UK CONSUMERS UK: Tea India has launched nine new lines – with four Regional Single Estate Teas and five Wellness Infusions – onto the UK market. While Chai has been at the very heart of Tea India since the brand launched in the UK in 2013, but consumer demand has driven the development of new lines within its Specialty and Wellness ranges to complement this. The firm has introduced four new blends of regional teas – Nilgiri, Darjeeling, Assam, and Kashmiri Kahwa – sourced from some of the

most established tea growers in India to “take the drinker above and beyond an average cup of breakfast tea,” the company stated. Alongside the Regional Single Estate Teas sit Tea India’s Wellness Infusions. The five new Wellness blends are: ‘Sleep’ (a blend of chamomile and passionflower, with Bael Fruit flavouring and a touch of Valerian root); ‘Digest’ (fennel, peppermint & ginger with a shot of lemon & lime flavouring); ‘Protect’ (sweet fennel, tulsi & turmeric, with a twist of Buddha’s hand (citron) flavouring); ‘Calm’ (camomile &

ashwagandha, with alphonso mango flavouring); and ‘Clarity’ (apple & gingko, with a hint of banana flavouring). According to the tea brand, ‘these functional blends are herbal infusions full of native Indian herbs and fruit flavours crafted to balance all aspects of wellbeing’. Lisa Worthington, Head of Marketing at Tea India, said that following the success of the authentically Indian Chai range, the firm wanted to expand the Tea India offering to encompass all tea drinkers. “This, coupled with recent IRI data which shows real growth in our

target categories, helped us to develop the nine new lines in our Speciality Tea Range. These new lines are the largest expansion for the brand, and we’re excited to now offer a cup of tea to suit all tastes.” All nine new lines from Tea India’s Specialty Tea Range are stocked in Ocado and independent food stores across the UK.


TRENDS IN TRADE | The in-store and online retail experience


Online spend has doubled over the past year, but the ‘Covid-19 effect’ on e-commerce won’t be permanent, a new LambdaTest report suggests. high streets and shops start to reopen across the world, business leaders will need to adapt their approaches if they are to encourage a sustained footfall. LambdaTest, the browser-testing platform, has published the first in a series of data-driven reports that take a deep-dive look into consumer expectations of in-store and e-commerce experience. The research findings are based on a survey of 2,000 UK consumers in April and May 2021.



Riding the online wave

In a wide ranging survey of UK consumers, LambdaTest reports that online spending surged in the 12 months since the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown, but any suggestion that the pandemic has transformed the way consumers will shop forever is based on hope rather than fact. There’s been a 233-per-cent surge in the number of people using the Internet to do most of their shopping in the UK over the 12 months (up 33 per cent, to 77 per cent).

In the same period, the average monthly online spend has surged 198 per cent. This time last year, Brits were spending on average £384 shopping online per month (excluding household bills and mortgage or rent payments). This amount doubled to £761 per month over the last year. “Retailers with an online presence have been riding an incredible wave over the last year,” observed Asad Khan, LambdaTest co-founder and CEO. “They’ve overcome some enormous challenges to make their

after the pandemic passes. “The challenge for online retailers is about to get even greater,” resumed Mr Khan. “If they’re going to hold on to their customers over the long term when competition from in-store shopping returns, retailers need to invest in their online user experience and deliver a consistently incredible online service,” he advised. “The retailers that will flourish are those that monitor and adapt their web presence quickly and efficiently. Consumers are fickle and flooded with choice. Poor websites will drive customers away, and they don’t come back.”

data shows this isn’t the case among twothirds of consumers (67 per cent),” pointed out Mr Khan. “The best retailers won’t treat their online offer as a basic extension of what’s available in-store, but instead will create the best possible online shopping experience that consumers want to return to time after time.” Only half of respondents in the study (55 per cent) consider themselves to be as or more loyal to brands they admire when shopping online as opposed to in-store. Two-thirds (65 per cent) will shop around for the best prices online, with more than half (54 per cent) saying they’ll visit four or more sites to find the best deal. o

Removing the pain points

More than half of respondents (51 per cent) said that a poor online shopping experience will stop them from using that website again in the future. The biggest pain point for three-in-five online shoppers (63 per cent) is not being able to speak to customer service representatives. “A common mistake made by retailers that build online shopping portals is to think that consumers treat online and instore shopping the same. However, our

LambdaTest is a cloud testing infrastructure company that allows users to run both manual and automated tests on their websites and webapps across over 2,000 different browsers and operating systems, all in real time. Since launching in 2018, the LambdaTest platform has run more than 12 million tests for 420,000 users in 132 different countries, and today has over 420,000 users.

online presences as great as possible in extraordinary, tough circumstances.” Preparing for an e-commerce drop-off

However, these sharp increases are unlikely to be maintained post-pandemic, signalling that the Covid-19 effect on online shopping is more temporary than first thought. Data from the survey shows that brands need to plan for a significant drop-off in online spending once the pandemic is over. While 70 per cent of people whose monthly online spending has increased in the last year put it down to Covid-19, 68 per cent say they’ll spend less online 27

TRENDS IN TRADE | Consumer food trends

FLAVOURS OF THE DAY TUTTOFOOD – Italy’s leading agri-food fair (22–26 October, Milan) – analyses international markets and explores the latest food trends, including the rise in demand for raw and lightly processed ingredients, proteins and fibres, ‘zero km’ products and sustainability. iven the insurmountable challenges the world has faced over the past year or so, it is little wonder there’s been such a strong uptake in demand for comfort foods across the globe. Always close to the market, buyers from large international companies have observed how lockdowns have fuelled this surge in comfort food, alongside confirming that consumers are increasingly seeking out fresh and finished quality solutions.


International on-the-ground insights

“In the Gulf countries, strong demand currently exists for Italian festive sweets, from panettone to colomba,” remarked Daniele Margheri, an independent F&B broker. “Here, too, consumers are starting to pay attention to the issues of naturalness, healthiness and sustainability. And here the demand for sustainability is also translating into the demand for larger formats, to save not only on costs but also on 28

the packaging used.” Even in South America, an emerging market that has numerous niches with great development potential, recreational foods are now experiencing a differentiation already keenly felt in mature markets, as Riccardo Bonuccelli, an importer from Zona Sul in Brazil, points out: “We see strong growth in chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa and bitter flavours, which are very attractive to an adult audi-

ence. In the Sweets sector, however, there is also a growing focus on healthier products with functional features, such as sugar-free or low-sugar products.” But there is also market buoyancy beyond comfort food. “Here, too, people spent more time indoors because of the pandemic, and therefore they have had more time to cook. As a result, sales of fresh produce have increased considerably,” informed Diana Velasquez, buyer at Hong Kong-based chain City Super. “In our market, the focus on health foods and sustainability was already high prior to the pandemic. “In the future, we will continue to expand our fresh product offer, both by increasing volumes and by adding new lines, and we also plan to launch new products within ready meals – another product category that has been in high demand in the past months that consumers have largely spent at home,” she added.

Healthy, zero-km food, more proteins and beyond

The trends outlined by the young Ambassadors of TUTTOFOOD Next Generation clearly focus on naturalness and a return to the healthy habits of our great-grandparents. For Sasha Wang, a TUTTOFOOD Ambassador born in China and raised in Florentine, the pandemic accentuates the experience of food as an expression of lifestyle and personality. “In my kitchen, dry pasta and noodles are combined with Chinese dumplings and homemade baozi. I buy raw, unprocessed ingredients and believe in using organic and ‘zero-km products’,” she told us, adding that in terms of meals of the future, she believed consumers would look to consume “more fibres and proteins”. Julie Pedroni, another TUTTOFOOD Next Generation Ambassador, largely agrees with such sentiments: “More and more people are becoming aware of their food, eliminating products that are not in line with basic values. I think there will be a return to the choice of local and seasonal products, non-stan-

dardised in shape and colour – just as Mother Nature created them, and with their true flavour.” It’s not just about tastes but also attitudes, as ambassador Molly Sears-Piccavey – a Briton based in Spain – points out: “Shops selling food and household products in bulk, thus avoiding packaging waste, are becoming increasingly popular here. In addition, as pandemic hygiene

requirements have increased the use of disposable cutlery and plates, there has been an increased focus on recycling and compostability.” o Discover further trends and innovations at TUTTOFOOD 2021, which will be held concurrently with HostMilano at fieramilano from 22–26 October 2021. For more information, visit:


SPECIAL REPORT | ANUFOOD China post-event report


ANUFOOD China 2021 closed its doors in Shenzhen after another tremendously successful run, galvanising its position as southern China’s premier food & beverage event, as the F&B sector restores, refreshes and revitalises for a new era. outh China’s F&B industry recently received much needed cheer with the successful hosting in Shenzhen of ANUFOOD China – southern China’s leading food & beverage industry expo, powered by the world’s top food show Anuga. After experiencing a year of tumultuous trading as the global economy and industries worldwide – including China’s food businesses – were battered by the fallout from Covid-19, the return of ANUFOOD China in April was met with enthusiastic response.



The F&B world under one roof

Under the tagline ‘Restore, Refresh, Revitalise’, the show’s organisers aimed to do precisely that. Newly launched in the burgeoning city of Shenzhen and spanning a floor-space exceeding 20,000 square metres, ANUFOOD China 2021 featured a wide array of products under one roof – from sweets and snack foods, to staple foods and condiments, beverages, meat, organic food, dairy products, seafood and aquatic products, fruits and vegetables, and F&B services. Some 460 exhibitors

hailing from 34 countries and regions, brought with them over 2,000 brands to showcase. The expo welcomed nearly 20,000 trade visitors over the course of the three-day event. The inaugural edition saw solid industry support in the form of country pavilions from Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, South Korea, Ireland, Greece, the UK, Uruguay and Indonesia. Online and in real time

In addition, to better serve international exhibitors who were unable to be physically present at the expo, the Virtual Plus business platform on-site equipped with professional bilingual staff served to facilitate communication with buyers – online and in real time. Exhibitors from Poland, the US, Lithuania, Portugal, Belgium, Argentina, Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey, Cyprus, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Pakistan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Hong Kong and Macau made

full use of this service to live-stream their product offerings. Not to be outdone, quality Chinese brands from the provinces of Zhejiang, Hebei, Hubei, Shandong, Changchun, Jilin, Jiangsu, Fujian, Shanxi, and Ningbo participated under their respective regional pavilions, proudly endorsing the ‘Made in China’ identity. International impressions

Mr Karol Peczak, Vice-Consul from Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Guangzhou, remarked that ANUFOOD China was “unusual” this year, with Covid-19 and related travelling restrictions meaning a portion of Polish firms could not participate the fair in person. “Nonetheless, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Guangzhou represented Poland’s National Support Center for Agriculture and was directly involved in promotion of Polish food industry producers and exporters,” he advised, adding that there was much interest in such businesses from the show’s attendees. “Exhibits from Polish companies – including fruit and vegetables, juices and juice concentrates, dairy products, grain products and cereals, pasta, beer, confectionery, snacks, chocolate and food additives – drew great attention from professional visitors. We see huge potential in the Chinese market. ANUFOOD China gave our companies a big chance to connect with Chinese business partners.” Mr Evan Wang, GM of PMI Food Service, which has branches in over 40 countries worldwide, said that the aim of his firm’s participation in the event was to explore South China’s market and provide more premium food products, including meat and seafood. “We’ve met a lot of familiar customers and more new friends. We are looking forward to seeing more meat associations and meat suppliers gather together here in future. We’re very satisfied with the exhibition and look forward to the re-participation at AFC 2022.” Top regional buyers

The exhibition also attracted many trade visitors originating from major cities across the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). Among them, Ms. Amy Qian, Vice President of F.S.I., who said her association planned to “import food & beverage products from all over the world and give more options for the local consumers” in Dongguan.

“ANUFOOD China is in line with our demand for a great variety of products from many different countries. And we hope to visit ANUFOOD China in 2022 to purchase more imported products.” In addition, regional industry associations visited the event as buyer delegations, including: Guangdong Dealers Chamber of Commerce, Guangdong Provincial Alcohol Industry Association, Shenzhen Catering Association, Dongguan Retail Business Association, Zhuhai Food Safety Association and Xiamen Food Industry Association. Unrivalled insights

Onsite visitors enjoyed as many as 30 conference sessions spanning the hottest topics industry-wide, alongside cooking competitions, and customised F&B tasting experiences, providing a more diversified showcase and interactive event. Shenzhen Retail Business Association – one of ANUFOOD China’s organisers – kick-started on the opening day with the Global Imported Food Retail Market Trends Forum. The Forum invited industry experts, e-commerce channels, and well-known retail practitioners to share their views on national policies, supply chain development, flow of commodity, and examine imported food development trends. Next, the Global Animal Protein Trade Services Innovation Forum hosted by Meat International Group analysed global animal protein market trends, the future of frozen meat products through cutting-edge forecasts, and brand value creation. On Day Two, another organiser of the expo – the China Chamber of Commerce of Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products (CFNA) – hosted their member meeting and focused on key import sources, the impact of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to China’s food import industry, and food brands in the post-pandemic era. It held discussions on imported food industry trends, as well as experience-sharing to provide firms with a deeper understanding of policies and

market trends. Food has always been at the heart of the Chinese culture. The China Cuisine Association held a national seminar spotlighting distinct local specialties and the related value in promoting tourism across various parts of the country, further promote the transformation of food resources into tourism advantages, product advantages, and economic advantages to integrate the respective F&B culture with the tourism industry. As a supporting value-added service tailored to exhibitors’ and buyers’ needs, the on-site business matchmaking programme held over 1,100 meetings across the two days. Culinary masters

Beyond that, an indispensable part of any F&B expo is clearly that of food tasting, and ANUFOOD China’s ‘Foodie Space’ brought the experience of restaurant dining to the show this year, with top-notch equipment and renowned chefs serving to create an immersive dining experience for pre-booked visitors. The feature saw leading culinary masters transform a collection of high-quality ingredients, such as plant protein products, into truly scrumptious dishes. Fresh Irish produce and products – including pork, seafood, cheese and whiskey – also had a dedicated session, among myriad cooking demonstrations. To further promote Chinese food culture, the first ‘Bougainvillea Cup’ Chef Challenge – organised by the Shenzhen Cuisine Association and Koelnmesse – received much attention. 12 local culinary teams from across the GBA region gathered to showcase their culinary prowess, with Team Macao crowned as the final champion. Promising even greater scale, more international and domestic exhibitors, and more premium products, southern China’s premier F&B event ANUFOOD China is set to return in Spring 2022. o For further information, visit: 31

SPECIAL REPORT | Attracting ‘the conscious consumer’

COMMUNICATING THE GOOD Marketing agency founder Ursula Lumley shares her tips on attracting ‘the conscious consumer’ through the power of advertising. issues such as climate change and protecting the planet grow ever more pressing, there are an expanding number of consumers becoming increasingly aware of how their purchasing decisions impact the world, and the detrimental effects unfettered consumerism is creating. Ursula Lumley (pictured below), founder of Ascend Marketing, has the following top tips:


*Think about the ethical, social or environmental problems your brand solves, and the emotional benefits of your products:

Does buying your product help the environment? Is your brand supporting local communities? Make it clear in all your advertising what global problems your business is solving, in what ways that sets you apart from the mainstream, and how your customer is part of this journey. Try to avoid selling the product but focus more on selling the benefits of joining your movement. *Be authentic in your communication and tell your story:

Striking up an authentic relationship with your conscious customers is nonnegotiable. They will want to hear about your story and why you started your brand. 32

What were your struggles and the obstacles you overcame? *Use social proof and highlight industry certification to overcome objections:

For any brand, using customers’ genuine reviews in advertising is very powerful. It’s especially vital when your target audience are conscious consumers. They are less likely to impulse purchase and generally take longer to get over the purchase finish line. Hearing from other similar types of consumers will really help to build trust and persuade them your brand ticks all their ecoboxes. If your business has been certified by Peta, the Soil Association, the Vegan Society, or any other relevant industry body, make sure this is communicated in your adverts. o

SPECIAL REPORT | Organic Food Iberia pre-event report

CHAMPIONING ORGANIC GROWTH It has been confirmed that Organic Food Iberia will return to IFEMA MADRID from 8–9 September 2021. With much anticipation emanating from across the industry, the premier international organic produce expo and conference is expected to provide a major boost to the prospects of the successful and burgeoning F&B sector. aunched in 2019 as a partnership between Diversified Communications and IFEMA MADRID, the first edition of Organic Food Iberia was hailed as an overwhelming success, showcasing nearly 500 exhibitors and attracting 5,240 professional attendees from Spain, Portugal and across Europe. Indeed, such was the event’s success that it has since been named as one of the top 20 trade events in Spain by Instituto de Coordenadas de Gobernanza y Economía Aplicada. According to ECOVALIA’s latest industry report, the past year has seen organic sales in Spain surge by 35 per cent, with the expanse of organic territory increasing by 38 per cent over the last five years, and the number of staff employed by the industry growing by 40 per cent. Spain also holds the title of Europe’s biggest organic producer, alongside ranking third-largest such producer worldwide. Last year, the Covid-19 crisis prevented the event from taking place, yet strong positive sentiment from exhibitors, regions and buyers demonstrated the clear need for the show to take place this year, enabling the industry to reunite, network, do business and recognise the increasing prominence of the organic sector.


Dynamic connections

“As the Premier Sponsor of Organic Food Iberia, the main event for organic production in southern Europe, we are excited

about the decision to stage the fair from 8–9 September,” remarked Diego Granado Cumbres, Secretary General of ECOVALIA. “Organic Food Iberia will be the first face-to-face agri-food fair to be held in our country after a hard year, and it will have a positive impact on an economy in need of exciting and dynamic connections.” Those views were echoed by many, including one of the event's main regional supporters, Mireia Mollà Herrera, Counsellor at Agricultura, Desarrollo Rural, Emergencia Climática y Transición Ecológica, Generalitat Valenciana, who said: “Organic production is having a massively positive impact on people and the planet. This positive impact is attracting a young audience, which is, in turn, driving forward sustainable production within the agri-food industry. We have therefore chosen Organic Food Iberia as our main opportunity to meet professional buyers and producers from the region of Valencia following the pandemic.” The hospitality sector is also fully behind this year’s event, as José Luis Yzuel, President of Hostelería de España expressed: “Organic Food Iberia, returning in September, is a date you cannot miss for this industry because the future of hospitality will cross paths with sustainability. The return of Organic Food Iberia indicates a future of recovery, and the hospitality sector must be part of this to make sure we connect with shifting client tastes toward organic.”

September’s event has already attracted significant support from exhibitors, with confirmed pavilions including Andalucia, Madrid, Valencia, La Rioja, Castilla La Mancha, Portugal, Austria and Ecovalia. Once again, the event will include several keynote theatres hosting influential industry speakers, as well as the popular Innovation Zone, a Hosted Buyer Programme supported by ICEX, and the thrilling ECO & Organic Awards Iberia, celebrating the very best innovations that the sector has to offer. Organic Food Iberia takes place alongside Eco Living Iberia, making it the most prestigious trade event for organic and sustainable living in the Iberian Peninsula. Registration will open at the end of May, with the full programme of live events set to be announced in July. o Organic Food Iberia is a trade-only event and is open to domestic and international trade buyers. For more information, please visit:


SPECIAL REPORT | Hi & Fi Asia-China Pre-Event Report From 23–25 June 2021, Hi & Fi Asia-China will once again come together with HNC, ProPak China & FoodPack, and Starch Expo to bring together an extensive offering in health and food ingredients, nutraceuticals, starch ingredients, and packaging and processing solutions – all under one roof in Shanghai.

WHERE FOOD AND HEALTH INGREDIENTS MEET extremely competitive market with improving ingredient quality, China continues to offer global food and health ingredients professionals a cost-effective strategy to generate revenue. Above and beyond the enormity of its consumer base, numerous rising trends make the Chinese market an attractive proposition for ingredient producers. While the US is currently the largest nutritional products market in the world, China may soon occupy this position thanks to rising health awareness among the mainland population and the country’s growing per capita GDP. Numerous government-led drives support this trend, including a strategy to invest around US$$225bn on sports and fitness ahead of the Tokyo Olympic summer games, and a government target to get half a billion people taking regular exercise by 2025. Beyond such initiatives, younger consumers in tier one and two cities are increasingly influenced by Western-style fitness and health culture, with an upwardly affluent middle class spending their growing disposable income on health and leisure. According to Persistence Market Research, increasing populations, rising incomes and living standards, and greater participation in sports represent huge opportunities for the sports



nutrition market, making China a key target for health and nutrition brands. More broadly speaking, this year China’s vitamin and dietary supplements market is expected to reach CNY 149 billion (US$22.3bn). According to homegrown e-commerce giant, the sale of vitamins and dietary supplements has increased five-fold since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Elsewhere, natural products and ingredients are of increasing importance to Chinese consumers. And similar to Western markets there is a growing awareness and desire for less processed and artificial ingredients in nutritional products. Five shows under one roof

Such trends and opportunities inherent to China’s burgeoning food and health ingredients markets will be explored at Hi & Fi Asia-China, set to encompass five colocated shows under one roof, showcasing more that 1,300 exhibitors and expected to attract in excess of 50,000 visitors. Hi China: Hi China is the dedicated area for sourcing health and natural ingredients. With more than 350 leading local exhibitors, Hi China is the country’s largest meeting place for the health ingredients industry.

Fi Asia-China: Fi Asia-China offers access to a wide selection of leading food and beverage ingredients suppliers. HNC: Healthplex Expo/Natural & Nutraceuticals Products China (HNC) brings together 500+ suppliers of healthy finished products, dietary supplements, health foods and functional foods. The high-quality platform helps global brands to meet local distributors to successfully access the Chinese market. ProPack China & FoodPack: ProPak China, together with FoodPack China, is a one-stop-shop for processing and packaging solutions for industries including food, beverages and more. Starch Expo: Starch Expo welcomes more than 200 domestic and international enterprises related to starch, starch derivatives, starch processing machinery, as well as the potato industry. o For more details, visit:


JUNE 2021 Packaging Innovations and Empack – Showcasing the future of branded packaging & technology. Birmingham, UK 17–18 June 2021 Hi & Fi Asia-China Asia’s leading health ingredients and food ingredients showcase. Shanghai, China 23–25 June 2021 Food Matters Live virtual experience – Providing F&B and sustainable nutrition professionals with the connections and the industry insights required to get ahead. (VIRTUAL EVENT) 29–30 June 2021 NPD Food & Drink Trends and Innovations Conference – International new product development event. Amsterdam, Netherlands 30 June 2021

AUGUST 2021 Africa Food Manufacturing – Egypt’s biggest F&B processing & packaging expo. Co-located with Fi Africa and ProPak MENA. Cairo, Egypt 2–4 August 2021 Africa’s Big 7 – Africa’s premier F&B tradeshow. Johannesburg, South Africa 23–25 August 2021

SEPTEMBER 2021 The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia – KSA’s premier trade event for the food and hospitality industry. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 7–9 September 2021

Organic Food Iberia – Event for trade buyers to source the best organic F&B from around the world. Co-located with Organic Wine Iberia. Madrid, Spain 8–9 September 2021 The Kenya Food Event (KFE) – East Africa’s primary expo serving the F&B and hospitality industries. Nairobi, Kenya 9–11 September 2021 ANUTEC International FoodTec India – Leading B2B platform for the F&B suppliers industry. Co-located with Annapoora Anufood India 2020, PackEx India, Food Logistics India, and ANUTEC Ingredients India. New Delhi, India 15–17 September 2021 Asia Fruit Logistica – Leading continental trade show for Asia’s fresh produce business. Hong Kong 28–30 September 2021 Thaifex Anuga Asia 2021 – Hybrid (virtual and onsite) edition of the leading F&B trade show, powered by Thaifex and Anuga. Bangkok, Thailand 29 September – 3 October 2021 Fi India 2021 – Tradeshow dedicated to food ingredients professionals. Co-located with Hi India and Propak India. Mumbai, India 30 September – 2 October 2021

OCTOBER 2021 Anuga 2021 – The world’s leading F&B tradeshow, featuring 10 trade shows plus new digital platform, Anuga@home. Cologne, Germany 9–13 October 2021

TuttoFood 2021 – Expo where Italian agri-food excellence meets leading international F&B companies. Co-located with global HORECA and foodservice industry event HostMilano. Milan, Italy 22–26 October 2021 iba.CONNECTING EXPERTS 2021 – 2nd edition of the virtual networking & knowledge event, powered by the baking industry’s leading trade fair, iba. VIRTUAL EVENT 25–28 October 2021 SIAL China South – SIAL-powered F&B show to cater to China’s fast expanding southern region. Shenzhen, China 28–30 October 2021

NOVEMBER 2021 fdt Africa 2021 – Food & drink technology Africa – the continent’s leading F&B processing, filling and packaging industry trade show. Midrand, South Africa 2–4 November 2021 Gulfood Manufacturing – The world’s largest F&B processing and packaging event. Co-located with GulfHost, The Speciality Food Festival, Yummex and Private Label Licensing Middle East. Dubai, UAE 7–9 November 2021 FoodEx Saudi 2022 – KSA’s leading international trade expo dedicated to the F&B industry. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 15–18 November 2021 Fi Europe CONNECT 2021 – New hybrid (virtual & onsite) event offering participants access to the global F&B ingredients industry. Frankfurt, Germany 22 November – 2 December 2021


Company Profile: Uflex Ltd Written by SARAH PURSEY



It’s been less than three years since Uflex Ltd made its foray into the aseptic packaging segment under the brand name ASEPTO, to become the first Indian manufacturer of liquid packaging solutions. Mr Ashwani Sharma, President of New Business Initiatives at UFlex, updates Food & Beverage Networker on the impressive progress the Group’s innovative ASEPTO division has made, including its array of dazzling new packaging and filling machine innovations that give its global customers the edge. iewed as a strong substitute for canning and the use of preservatives for increasing shelf life, aseptic packaging has gained considerable popularity as a hardy, high-quality all-rounder, leading to it commanding a global market valued at US$49.15 billion in 2020. Moreover, demand is expected to expand considerably in the years ahead, according to


Mordor Intelligence, with the worldwide market for aseptic packaging expected to reach US$72.15 billion by 2026, expanding at a CAGR of 6.65 per cent throughout the forecast period. Buoyed by a growing population (already the world’s second largest) and rapid economic development, India is widely considered a prime market for the flourishing aseptic pack- ‡


aging sector. Furthermore, homegrown UFlex Ltd is benefiting considerably from early-mover status in this high-growth area, with its brand ASEPTO having become India’s first liquid carton manufacturer of aseptic packaging. Remarkable progress

Driven by the vision of Chairman Mr Ashok Chaturvedi – widely considered to be the father of Indian packaging, as founder back in 1985 of a multifaceted group that is today India’s largest packaging – ASEPTO’s inception less than three years ago generated much anticipation and expectation as to what it might achieve. Fast-forward three years, and the innovative new business unit has not disappointed, having found success across its offering of a complete aseptic packaging solutions – from high-quality aseptic cartons to highly sophisticated filling lines. Featuring six-layers of packaging, ASEPTO’s composition of paperboard, aluminium and poly-ethylene in its cartons perfectly preserves the food product’s freshness and nutritional value, while significantly increasing its shelf life. Such advantages have clearly been recognised in the market, with the innovative packaging solution attracting considerable interest on the international stage. “The fiscal year 2019-20 was a remarkable one for ASEPTO, with a significant strengthening of the business unit’s market presence and market share in the aseptic liquid packaging seg-

ment over that time,” reports Mr Ashwani Sharma, who heads up the division today. . Indeed, the marked growth that ASEPTO experienced – particularly in the segments of juices, alcohol and dairy – surpassed all expectations. This led to the division achieving 100-per-cent machine capacity utilisation within its first two years in operation – the fastest uptake in the world to date, amply demonstrating the tremendous level of demand that ASEPTO has been able to generate for its advanced aseptic packaging solutions. “Our focus is on further developing an innovative product line and exporting products around the globe, providing best solutions to customers by partnering with new world-class technologies and raw material suppliers in the market,” asserts Mr Sharma, whose firm aims to achieve sustainable growth by establishing a new plant in India and two plants offshore within next five years, with a view to tripling ASEPTO’s production capacity over that period of time. ‡ 39

Future-proofed facilities

ASEPTO already benefits from a world-class, purposebuilt plant in Sanand, located around 75 minutes’ drive from Ahmedabad airport in the Indian state of Gujarat. Certainly, when you arrive at the facility – spread over 21 acres of a sprawling 72-acre land parcel – it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer magnitude of the project and its truly innovative architecture. Equipped with the latest top-of-the-line converting machines capable of manufacturing truly world-class aseptic packaging, the ASEPTO facility has a production capacity of seven billion packs per annum at present. “Investments to the tune of INR 580 crore (approximately US$85 million) have thus far been made in developing this stunning, state of-the-art


aseptic packaging plant,” Mr Sharma tells us, adding that the total investment – to be made in a phased manner over the next two to three years – is expected to reach about US$350m. The 300,000-square-foot production block contains stores for both the raw materials and finished goods; services; printing, laminating, slitting and rewinding machines; materials testing and quality control laboratory; alongside automated logistics. The space is completely air-conditioned and hygienically maintained in accordance with global standards. With the plant having been designed with growth in mind, Mr Sharma is keen to point out that ASEPTO’s facility is very much future-proofed: “Capacity choices can be added or optimised with minimal additional

capex on infrastructure, enabling us to swiftly respond to evolving future demands,” he assures us. Meanwhile, world-class manufacturing standards alongside Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) improvements allow ASEPTO to achieve excellent quality production in alignment with a sustainabilityand cost-focused agenda that amply demonstrates UFlex Ltd’s responsible growth strategy. Quality is paramount

In the F&B sector, compliance is clearly paramount to ensure consistent quality and food safety, and ASEPTO has diligently worked to obtain all of the international accreditations that matter: “Together with official Indian standards, our plant is certified in accordance with the International ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, ISO 22000:2005 and OHSAS

18001:2007 management systems, as well as the BRC Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Material,” Mr Sharma tells us. “It is also FSC-certified, which is very important for aseptic packaging. Furthermore, all our products are compliant with the USFDA norms and are SEDEX-certified.” All process owners and key machine operators at the Sanand plant boast rich experience in the liquid packaging industry, and have contributed significantly to establishing ASEPTO’s unique laminate in the market. Additionally, Asepto has built up strong engineering and technical teams strategically placed to operate with ease across India in servicing its Smart 78 and Flexpress 10000 liquid packaging filling and sealing machines. Aside from the main complex at Sanand, Mr Sharma is keen to highlight ASEPTO’s impressive ‡

Mr Ashwani Sharma, President of New Business Initiatives at UFlex


engineering capabilities in Noida: “Our Engineering Division, which manufactures the filling and sealing machines, also contains a demonstration machine as well as a testing laboratory for proving the total efficacy and performance of the laminate and packaging,” he informs. “Materials are also periodically sent to internationally approved labs for establishing globally accepted norms and certifications for both the laminate and the process.” Eye-catching innovations

It was back in October 2019 when UFlex debuted its ‘ASEPTO Eye’ packaging technology – at the prestigious Gulfood Manufacturing trade fair in Dubai. Mr Sharma reveals more on this cutting-edge solution and how it has been received in the market since then.


“Offering ripple concave lens and single lens technology, ASEPTO Eye creates iconic, bespoke 3D effects on aseptic packs – ones that enable beverage brands to dazzle on the shelves,” he enthuses. “Since launching, the innovation has proved a showstopper, with a flurry of enquiries about ASEPTO Eye resulting in us working flat out with brands who are excited to gain first-mover advantage with this eyecatching technology.” Nor is ASEPTO Eye the only technology the firm has developed since first foraying into the aseptic liquid packaging segment, with various innovations to its name today – on the aesthetic side of packaging, as well as in the filling machine segment. “From the start, we’ve focused on being a total system supplier – providing the design solution, packaging material and advanced aseptic filling machines, with services and spares all under one roof,” the executive advises. “Above all, just a few years since inception, we’ve been able to offer solutions for all the popular volume packs demanded globally.” Speaking of specific innovations, Mr Sharma describes three value-added variants introduced by the firm: ASEPTO Spark, ASEPTO Premium and the aforementioned ASEPTO Eye, all of which boast striking aesthetic appeal to help customers create real differentiation for their brand at the point-of-sale. While ASEPTO Spark makes the most of holo-

graphic and metallic effects to boost the visual appeal of carton packs, ASEPTO Premium deploys intricate procedures like embossing and foil stamping, alongside ASEPTO Eye Ripple and single lens effects technology, among others. “Aseptic packs have long lacked mesmerising visuals – and ASEPTO is precisely there to plug that gap, using in-house holographic expertise to produce various awe-inspiring effects and give our liquid packaging clients the edge,” Mr Sharma enthuses, further noting that beyond the value-added range, ASEPTO’s standard offering comprises brick packs – from single-portion to family and pillow packs. “Besides manufacturing aseptic liquid packaging material, we’ve also engineered India’s first ever

aseptic Form Fill and Seal (FFS) machine – the ASEPTO Smart 78,” the UFlex executive tells us. Delivering an output of 7,800 packs per hour, the power-packed machine is certainly a significant step up from earlier aseptic liquid filling machine iterations emanating from competitors. Designed to process packs in 100ml, 125ml, 160ml and 200ml formats, ASEPTO Smart 78 addresses convenience and smart packaging needs to exceed customer and consumer expectations. Another innovative achievement on the engineering side is the high-speed ASEPTO Flexpress 10000 – a new-generation servo-based drive-mechanism filling line offering advanced integration with programmable logic controllers (PLC). Dominant segments, new avenues

In less than three years, ASEPTO has advanced significantly to captivate the mindset of a multitude of major companies worldwide in three critical segments – juices, dairy and alcohol. Beyond those core areas of global success, new avenues are opening up for ASEPTO in the domestic liquor segment, as Mr Sharma points out. “The government’s push to keep adulterated country liquor at bay has given us an additional key segment – country liquor – whereby a few states are in favour of aseptic packaging as a means of controlling the quality,” he advises. Certainly, UFlex’s status as a total system supplier means it is well-placed to meet growing demand in the domestic market for country liquor in aseptic packaging, and the associated requirement for new filling lines. In fact, ASEPTO’s multi-format machine, launched in 2019 – the servo-based Asepto Flexpress 10000 – offers advanced integration with PLC, making it an ideal proposal for country liquor manufacturers. “The advantage of our ASEPTO Flexpress 10000 machine is that it offers high flexibility for all-in-one portion packs – from 90ml to 200ml,” informs Mr Sharma. “Having an operator-friendly HMI [humanmachine interface], this machine works on a servobased drive mechanism. It is a highly flexible machine with low changeover times and a low total cost of ownership. It offers high output with minimal machine downtime,” he advises. o 43

Company Profile: Ricciarelli S.p.A. Written by SARAH PURSEY

ITALY’S PRIME MOVER IN PASTA PACKAGING With roots stretching back nearly two centuries, pasta machinery manufacturer Ricciarelli S.p.A. is a true pioneer in its field, having produced the first automatic weighing machine and the first packing machine for short and long pasta. Today an internationally renowned player in the packaging areas of dried, fresh and frozen products, the Italian firm has clearly lost none of its innovative zeal. Alberto Mangani, Head of R&D, and Daniele Bagni, Commercial Director, describe the company’s innovation focal points for enhanced industrial automation and packaging plant design.

mages of shoppers with trollies piled high in supermarkets around the world will have become familiar to most over the past tumultuous year, as pandemic fears over shortages of supply in favourite staples reached fever pitch. One such stockpiled category was of course pasta (and specifically, the non-perishable, dried variety), which in the UK in March last year experienced an extraordinary spike, with sales rising by 55 per cent, according to Research & Markets. Firstly, the need to have enough food in the house in the event of requiring to self-isolate, combined with the closure en masse of restaurants to prevent the spread of the virus (meaning more consumers cooking at home), alongside the financial impact of the crisis prompting many consumers to seek out economical ways to feed their families – all such factors have contributed to a rise in demand for pasta products. While the former two will fade, the latter will likely be a contributor to the sustained growth in demand for pasta worldwide, with Research & Markets predicting a 4.44-per-cent CAGR from 2020–2024 for the sector, to reach a value of US$100.37bn by the end of the forecast period. Such prospects bode well for Pistoia, Tuscanybased Ricciarelli – an industrial automation and packaging plant design business with a strong heritage



spanning nearly 180 years in Italy’s pasta segment, and today a leading player on the packaging systems side of the industry worldwide. An evolution in automation

Indeed, it was back in 1843 when Garibaldo Ricciarelli established his modest factory focused on the production of dies for pasta. This would set the course of things to come for the business, which, in the following decades would extend its outlook to other areas of the process. In 1956, for example, the company was responsible for developing the first automatic weighing machine, alongside the first packing machine for short and long pasta – solutions that remain core products in terms of the group’s output to this day. Expanding its sales and reinvesting into its capacities and capabilities across the years that followed, Ricciarelli would become a world leader in the pasta market in the 1960s. In the decade that followed, the company would further refine its automated solutions and also introduce new electronic technologies to further enhance the precision and efficiency of its pastamaking machinery. The Italian company achieved another specific innovation milestone in 1984, when it became the first company in Europe to produce a multi-head weigher with micro-processor. By the 2000s, the firm had expanded its opera- ‡


tions to incorporate the development of packaging machinery solutions for dried, fresh and frozen pasta and other foods. From 2003 through to 2015, the company further evolved to complete its range of machines required for the automation of end-of-line packaging systems in the pasta and other food segments, with the introduction of its new palletising and handling systems. Indeed, beyond pasta (dried and fresh), the firm’s innovative systems also create packaging suited to an array of other foodstuffs – from dry fruits, cereals, biscuits, candies and chocolate, to snacks and chips, rice, cous cous, legumes, spices, flour, meat, salad, cheese, pet food, chemical powder and even more products besides. A 360º view of packaging systems

Crucially, Ricciarelli is today able to manufacture and install complete packaging systems, as Daniele Bagni, the firm’s Commercial Director, advises: “Within our company, we develop the mechanical, hardware and software design of all the machines that make up the entire automation line – starting from feeding systems, to weight determination, primary and secondary packaging, and up to palletising. This allows us to have a global view of the process, offering highly integrated and technologically aligned solutions.” A technological vision is essential for defining a development strategy. As such, research and innovation play has long played a decisive role in Ricciarelli’s evolution – particularly in recent years, as the pace of technological advancement has dramatically ramped up. Sustainability innovations

“In recent years, we’ve taken several paths based on technological focal points,” reports Alberto Mangani, the firms Head of R&D. “We start from the idea of eco-sustainability and energy saving – in particular, for primary packaging. Ricciarelli’s continuous attention to environmental protection has led us to confront the need to develop systems capable of treating ecosustainable materials – such as paper, or recyclable monomaterials – yet maintain the same production performance that was achieved with the more conventional films used by producers until now. Success in this area means that Ricciarelli lines today work with 100-per-cent compostable packaging material. For example, client Colussi Group – which produces the Pasta Agnesi brand – recently inaugu-


rated a new Ricciarelli line of packaging for pasta that utilises such compostable material. Installed at Colussi’s factory in Fossano in northern Italy, the line produces double square bottom and pillow packs. Produced with raw materials deriving from cellulose and corn, this new film is recoverable in the wet: this allows it to be sent to industrial composting and transformed into fertile soil within 90 days. To make the entire package compostable, the ink used for printing must comply with certain parameters, as well as the label for closing the double square bottom bags too. In so doing, each component of the pasta package can be disposed with organic waste. In addition to enabling the incorporation of compostable material onto its packaging lines, Ricciarelli has also encouraged the search for new proposals for pouch packaging – another valid alternative in terms of sustainability, Mr Mangani attests. Digitisation and remote assistance

A further hot topic for the company’s R&D team is the implementation of smart and user friendly interfaces. “We’ve developed systems that allow from time to time an increasingly simple and immediate management of machinery, through interface installation designed to offer high levels of ergonomics,” Mr Mangani continues. “Today, our technicians have the opportunity to connect to machinery at any time through their smartphone and manage many operations directly. In a world that changes and evolves as swiftly as the one in which we live today, this is a fundamental help for our customers.” Certainly, at the height of the pandemic crisis, when social distancing regulations and travel bans caused enormous disruptions to the operations of manufacturers the world over, such remote control capabilities for trouble-shooting with the client and overseeing their production are clearly capabilities that came into their own. Even as the world opens up and returns to some sense of normality, such remote access and control is clearly a game-changer in convenience and efficiency set to outlast pandemic restrictions. As such, when it comes to the interconnection of lines with business management systems and remote connectivity – especially for technical assistance purposes –the development of innovative solutions remains a continuous pursuit for Ricciarelli S.p.A. “Over the past year, we’ve really driven development in the areas of digitisation and remote assistance –

technologies that ensure remote installation and maintenance operations. Thanks to the sophisticated technologies incorporated into our machines, alongside the assistance – in some cases – of local technical teams worldwide that can perform the necessary operations on our technologies, we’re able to constantly monitor Ricciarelli machines across the globe,” the company’s Head of R&D tells us. “The next step will be to study a kind of predictive monitoring to intercept any problems even before they occur, in order to avoid production activity interruptions.” Where tradition meets innovation

The design of Ricciarelli machines reflects the concepts of compactness, flexibility and ergonomics. “This is another aspect on which we have focused,” continues Mr Mangani. “That is, the possibility of offering machines that incorporate more services, while maintaining a small size. We are aware that the space available to producers, in most cases, decreases as time progresses and their operations expand. That's why we’ve focused on compact devices that meet a high production standard. Our latest solutions are created with a view to producing different packaging formats that nonetheless occupy the space of just a single machine." Looking at the commercial offer, tradition and innovation merge into end-of-line solutions – a topic that Daniele Bagni is keen to expand upon: “In parallel with the primary packaging, we are carrying out several projects for the end of the line, to be able to offer our customers numerous solutions – from time to time customised – that ensure extreme efficiency and speed both for American type cartons, which we could define the standard models, and for the increasingly requested display cartons. We currently have many projects on the table that we’re testing – both on-site at our facility, and also in collaboration with our customers – to meet this constantly evolving market demand.” Emerging strength

Ricciarelli today enjoys a global presence, with packaging systems installed in markets across the world. Like the international brands that it serves, with the strongest economic growth figures today to be found in the emerging world, Ricciarelli identifies immense opportunities in such areas of Asia and Africa where an expanding middle class in many such countries means a flourishing market for packaged consumer goods. In a sign of Ricciarelli Packaging Systems’ drive to strengthen its presence in emerging markets, in October 2020 the group signed a collaboration agreement with BUA group – one of Africa's leading foods and manufacturing conglomerates. BUA group has invested resources and energies to develop its pasta processing plant in Port Harcourt, to become the second biggest producer in Nigeria. The order comprised 20 pasta packaging machines and 10 automatic case packers (double inlet). At the time of the signing,

Ricciarelli’s senior management said that the firm was proud to assist the Nigerian group in this important growing project, to dramatically transform pasta making capabilities in the West African country – oft considered one of the golden geese in terms of emerging consumer markets, on account of its scale and rate of GDP growth. The market appears to give positive signs for 2021, according to Daniele Bagni. “In the past year, we’ve seen a general increase in packaged products consumption, which, for our clients, has translated into the need to expand their production ranges and, consequently, packaging lines. Compared with previous years, more new areas and new consumers have also emerged: think, for example, Central African countries,” the Commercial Director observes. “On the other hand, we must also bear in mind that those areas strategically important to us, such as the South American countries, have recently been hit by significant socio-political issues, which have generally led to a reduction in economic investment from producers based there. Overall though, we believe we can continue to work continuously throughout 2021 and deliver further technical innovations for our customers in the years ahead.” The company states its motto as: “To protect and enhance products from around the world, to create packaging of the highest level of quality and safety for any type of need, to do it in close collaboration with the customer and establish a partnership and trust with them” in order to provide the end-consumer with the “maximum result of safety, protection and quality of the product offered.” Given Ricciarelli’s extraordinary longevity in the market and its impressive global reach, alongside the company’s enduring propensity for innovation and reinvention, it seems clear this stalwart manufacturer from Italy’s Tuscany region will continue to play a strong role in shaping pasta packaging production internationally in the decades to come. o


Company Profile: Al Islami Foods Written by GEMMA KENT

A TRUSTED TRAILBLAZER IN FROZEN HALAL FOOD One of many ventures conceived by legendary Emirati entrepreneur Haj Saeed Lootah, Al Islami Foods is the UAE’s premium halal food company and a leading frozen food distributor across the GCC region. As the firm celebrates its 40th anniversary, Mr Shahid Khan – CEO of Al Islami Foods – tells us how the company redefined its competitive edge during a global pandemic, and describes his five-year plan to expand the company’s capabilities and geographical reach. 48

he late Haj Saeed Lootah was a trailblazing selfmade businessman and a very well known figure in the UAE, with an entrepreneurial vision that was based firmly around Islamic values. In 1975 he founded the world’s first Islamic bank, the Dubai Islamic Bank, which is now one of the largest Islamic banks globally, and he later applied his strong belief in Islamic values to the education sector, when he established the Islamic Education School. When Mr Lootah passed away in June 2020, tributes to him were led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who described him as a “self-made merchant, with a mark on Dubai’s economy”. Together with many other initiatives in the fields of science, education, medicine and contracting, Mr Lootah’s third major achievement was his pioneering development of the halal food sector, in response to the need for a local brand that consumers could trust to be fully compliant with Islamic principles. Having already set up the Dubai Co-operative Society, which began in 1970 as a small grocery shop and quickly grew into a chain of supermarkets, by 1981 Mr Lootah’s concern had shifted from retailing to food distribution, triggered by a news story at the time about distributors


selling foods fraudulently labelled as halal. As well as stationing his own employees in his suppliers’ factories in far-off countries, to ensure that all slaughtering of animals was being carried out in accordance with halal requirements, Mr Lootah opened his own halal food processing plant in Jebel Ali. ‡

Mr Shahid Khan, CEO

Congratulations to Al Islami Food Group on 40 years of successful business.

friedrich ingredients is proud to be a part of this success by catering innovative food ingredients to Al Islami, including the AGAGEL® range of texturizing systems. spices · seasonings · texturizing systems · marinades casings · sundries · recipe service · specialist counselling

friedrich ingredients Germany | Dubai


The birth of a Super-brand

40 years later, Al Islami Foods is an award-winning halal food giant and one of the largest frozen food companies in the UAE and the wider GCC region, with its finger firmly on the pulse. Indeed, at the beginning of this year the company launched the UAE’s first plantbased burger, tapping into a burgeoning market that is projected to grow at an annual rate of 6.7 per cent through to 2024, according to Euromonitor International. Together with its prominent position in the multibillion-dollar global halal food market – which ReportLinker predicts will grow by almost US$625bn between 2020 and 2024 – Al Islami Foods is certainly well positioned for further growth. “Dubai Co-operative Society was rebranded as Al Islami Foods in 2006, to complement its offering of high-quality, 100-per-cent halal food products,” begins Mr Khan. “In that same year we began exporting those products to Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, followed by the Seychelles and Libya in 2009, the Maldives in 2014 and Mauritius in 2015. Then, in 2017 we inaugurated a new 10,000-squaremetre food manufacturing facility – our largest factory to date – in Sharjah’s Hamriyah Free Zone, which increased our production capacity by 150 per cent.” A year later, the company was honoured to receive a ‘Superbrands’ award from the UAE Superbrands Council, the internationally acclaimed independent 52

authority for branding excellence. “Also in 2018, with a view to aiding the growth of the business and driving our international expansion we entered into a strategic partnership with Mitsubishi Corporation, which acquired a minority stake in the company,” he tells us. “After a rewarding couple of years, last November we bought back our shares in the company from Mitsubishi as part of our new business strategy, although we continue to receive support from Mitsubishi’s vast expertise in the fields of foodservice, seafood procurement and new product development.” Premium frozen foods

Today, Al Islami Foods enjoys the second largest market share in the frozen meat sector in the UAE, and recently won ‘Best Halal Consumer Brand’ at the 2020 iHalal International Awards, which are awarded by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a body similar to the UN that is made up of 57 Islamic countries from around the world. “Our product portfolio has expanded over the years from whole chickens and chicken portions to include processed foods that we produce in our state-of-theart factory in Hamriyah Free Zone,” states Mr Khan. “These include beef and chicken burgers, chicken nuggets and breaded pieces, chicken and beef Frankfurters. We also have a line of frozen fruit and vegetables, French fries, and seafood including shrimp,

providers when needed for seasonal peaks such as Ramadan. Everything we supply has to be transported at minus 30 degrees Celsius, which requires extremely careful management and a fleet of high-tech vehicles. Every truck, van and lorry in our fleet is fitted with a GPS tracking device to ensure route optimisation,” adds Mr Khan. A vegan burger like no other

white fish fillet, squid rings and seafood cocktail, as well as some child-oriented items under the Aladdin brand. We import our meats directly from halal-certified slaughterhouses in Brazil, while our processing facility employs the latest equipment and highest safety standards, and is certified in accordance with the BRC, FSSC 22000 and HACCP schemes. The requirements of these programmes are put into practise thanks to our highly experienced QA team and inhouse laboratory for conducting microbial analyses.” Indeed, the company has made substantial investments in its processing technology, equipment, machinery and logistics in recent years, including the construction of a cutting-edge master kitchen for conducting R&D and working on the development of new products. “We also use this facility to carry out sensory testing with a tasting panel, in order to make product comparisons, benchmark with the competition and aid the development of new products,” he reports. “Other recent investments include X-ray technology for finished goods inspection and high-speed slicers for salami, while we have tripled our marination capacity and we are investing in a new coating line for making breaded products. From April we will be expanding the refrigeration capacity of our factory,” the CEO reveals. “Regarding distribution, we have almost doubled our storage capacity and we employ third-party logistics

As part of an ambitious plan to expand its operations and consolidate its position further in the frozen food market, Al Islami Foods has released a flurry of new innovations in recent months, as Mr Khan outlines: “Since the final quarter of 2020 we have launched 10 new products in total. In Q4 2020 we introduced four new processed chicken products – namely Zing Strips, Zing Fillet, Chicken Tikka and Tender Chicken Breast, as well as Skinny Fries,” he details. “These were followed in Q1 2021 by the launch of our Jumbo Shrimps, Chicken Fries, Chicken Bites and Paratha, which offers consumers a quick and easy way to enjoy fresh, authentic paratha bread for breakfast.” By far the most pioneering and cutting-edge new product to be launched by the company, however, is its 100-per-cent plant-based burger, which was developed and produced at Al Islami’s factory in Sharjah. “We debuted our first plant-based product in response to the growing appetite for healthier vegan options, and just in time for Veganuary – a global campaign that encourages people to try a plant-based diet in the New Year,” asserts Mr Khan. “Producing a plant-based product across our supply chain was the logical next step to bringing new value to this category. It took our team eight months to research, test and develop this product, and we are proud to have created one of the healthiest and best-tasting vegan burgers in the market today.” As well as being the first plant-based burger to be produced in the UAE, Al Islami’s product is made from sunflower protein instead of soya protein – the base of many other plant-based burger brands, yet a common food allergen. Derived solely from sunflower seeds, sunflower protein contains more fibre than chicken or beef burgers, provides all the essential amino acids, and is safe for those who suffer from nut allergies, as ‡ 53

GEA Middle East FZE | Office 601 & 610, LOB 15, Gate 4, JAFZA, Dubai, UAE | Tel: +971 4 887 56 50 |

well as being free from trans-fats, MSG and gluten. “Initial feedback from distribution of our plant-based burger has been extremely encouraging, and it is the first in a series of plant-based products that we intend to roll out,” he remarks. An unprecedented year

Rolling out additional plant-based products is only one element of the company’s new five-year plan, which will see Al Islami strengthening its presence in the GCC before looking further afield. “Being the UAE market leader, we serve a strong portfolio of customers across a variety of distribution channels – from retail, where our products are available in every supermarket and hypermarket as well as in smaller mom-and-pop stores, to the HORECA segment, including in-flight catering,” Mr Khan points out. “Last year we made our first foray into e-commerce, and our products are now available via 23 online platforms. It is still early days, but last year many people did not want to visit supermarkets due to the pandemic and chose to shop online instead, so our timing could not have been better,” he remarks. “On the other hand, the pandemic had a negative impact on exports, but we remain strong in our home region of the GCC – particularly in Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, and we will spend 2021 bolstering these core markets,” he affirms. “Then, from 2022 we have

identified two market areas where we see potential for our products, the first being predominantly Muslim countries – Al Islami’s products are a natural choice for countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, Libya, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Malaysia – and the second being non-Muslim countries with substantial Muslim populations.” Mr Khan was appointed CEO of Al Islami Foods in March 2020 – and being placed at the helm of the firm right at the start of a global pandemic was undoubtedly a challenge, he admits. However, ultimately Al Islami went on to enjoy one of its most successful years in business to date – thanks in part to Mr Khan’s illustrious background as an FMCG business leader, with strong achievements in building power brands, turning around problem businesses, and launching greenfield projects. “I joined Unilever as a trainee and spent 17 years working across Asia, Europe and the US,” he recalls. “I was Vice President by the time I left in 2000, when I moved to Dubai with my family and became MD of branded businesses at IFFCO Group. “During my time at IFFCO we created a mega brand called London Dairy, a premium ice cream that we created from scratch, and which is now the biggest ice cream brand in the Middle East,” states Mr Khan. “In 2005 I was headhunted by Kuwait’s Al-Ghanim Industries, where I initially led their FMCG business before moving to their electronic retail business. I spent many years in Kuwait, before returning to Dubai to join Al Islami Foods in March 2020, and I am very happy with the company’s performance since then.” Making frozen the new fresh

Indeed, Al Islami’s achievements during the past year include continuing to operate despite the challenging circumstances, such as supply chain disruptions in transhipment ports throughout Europe and elsewhere. “Our supply chains are very long and we had to ensure that we didn’t run out of product, so we took a calculated risk and ordered more than we required to avoid running out,” explains Mr Khan. “The gamble paid off and we were able to further strengthen our market share, while motivating our sales executives in order to maximise our availability and visibility in the market- ‡ 54

FPT is proud to supply equipment from leading manufacturers who are renowned in their respective field!

FPT offers the best ingredients & consumables to produce high quality products

FPT is uniquely poised to offer consultancy & services for all your food industry requirements

Your One Stop Solution in the Meat & Food Industry for Equipment, Ingredients, Consumables, Consultancy & Product Development Our main target is to add value to our customers products’; to produce healthier foods, longer shelf-life without chemical treatments, better product presentation, higher quality with

least costs, full traceability with automatic control & monitoring, more efficiency and less production time, higher yields and many more.

FPT MIDDLE EAST FZE: P.O. Box: 9429, Q4-135 – SAIF Zone, Sharjah, UAE | Tel: +971 6 552 9971 | Fax: +971 6 561 9181 | |


Springsnow Food Group Co., Ltd

pringsnow Food Group Co., Ltd – located in Laiyang city, Shandong Province – specialises in the research & development, production and processing, and trading of chicken products, with corresponding feed production and broiler farm activities to support its multifaceted poultry operations. Springsnow Food Group Co., Ltd is committed to becoming China’s leading enterprise engaged in the chicken processing sub-sector. The company’s established and wellrespected processed chicken brands – ‘Springsnow’ and ‘Shangxian’ – have garnered a reputation for fine quality and great taste. Within the domestic market, Springsnow Food Group Co., Ltd predominantly supplies its products to supermarkets, fast-food outlets, convenience stores, e-commerce platforms, food processing firms, and the wholesale and retail segments.


Springsnow is the long-term supplier to an array of supermarkets, including Walmart, Carrefour, RT-Mart, China Resources Vanguard, and Jiajiayue. Within the fast-food segment, Springsnow supplies well-known chains both at home and abroad, including China’s renowned fast-food enterprise Dicos.

No. 382 Fushan Road | Laiyang Shandong | China | Tel: +86 1585 4205078

The company’s products are also sold on e-commerce platforms such as Jingdong ( and Taobao Mall ( Internationally, Springsnow today exports its products to more than 20 countries worldwide, including Japan and Korea, as well as to markets across the EU and Middle East regions.

place. We motivated the entire team to overcome these challenges, and this proved extremely valuable during the pandemic,” he reflects. From a consumer perspective, the company has also managed to cleverly highlight the purity and pristineness of frozen products compared with fresh produce, as Mr Khan informs us: “Shoppers tend to pick up products such as fresh fruit and vegetables to feel them, often replacing them several times before making a selection, which is not ideal in a pandemic. Moreover, while the consumer may think they are buying something fresh, if you look at the supply chain of fresh vegetables they often have quite a long journey from the farm in whichever country they were grown, to being cleaned, sorted, packed, transported and kept in cold storage, before finally arriving on the supermarket shelf,” he points out. “Frozen products can therefore actually be ‘fresher’ than fresh produce. Take spinach, for example: within an hour of being picked, it is washed and frozen at minus 30 degrees, which locks in the freshness and taste for an entire year, until its expiry date,” he continues. “Indeed, frozen vegetables offer convenience because there is no need to stock up on fresh products every time you want to cook a meal, and they still taste as fresh as the day they were picked – without the need for any additives.” Consumers have come to understand and appreciate this concept thanks to the company’s media campaigns, like ‘Frozen is the new fresh’, while not wanting to make frequent visits to crowded supermarkets during the pandemic has led shoppers to stock up their freezers. “This has undoubtedly given us an edge over competitors in the fresh produce sector,” reveals Mr Khan. Reaching halal consumers worldwide

As consumers prioritise hygiene, nutrition and long shelf-life in their purchases, alongside the phenomenal rise in popularity of plant-based diets and demand for halal food products worldwide, Al Islami will surely continue to enjoy a competitive edge in the market, going forward. “The company’s ethics also play an important role,” observes Mr Khan, “particularly our halal positioning and quality-conscious attitude,

together with our range of great products that we do not compromise on, in any way. “I am a firm believer in expanding capacity and making investments that are in line with the growth of the business – and our five-year plan reflects those principles,” he continues. “In the second half of that plan we would like to reach the Muslim population in regions like North America, where an authentic halal brand such as Al Islami would be welcomed – and in order to do that, we would even explore the possibility of using third-party or white-label manufacturers in those locations. If we wanted to sell frozen halal chicken burgers and nuggets in Canada, for example, it would not be financially sustainable to import the chicken from Brazil, carry out the manufacturing in the UAE and then export the products to Canada. Instead, we would need to find the right partners, who would adhere to halal principles and produce Al Islami products locally under our supervision.” While broadening production to reach distant markets is one aspect of the company’s growth, the second, equally important aspect is finding the right distributors in those markets. “We can do our own distribution in the UAE, but in all other markets we require importers and local distributors, so I am very open to networking with those who would like to bring Al Islami products into their local markets,” Mr Khan concludes. o


Company Profile: ADF Foods Written by HELENA HAIMES

A SEASONED PLAYER Over the past nine decades, Mumbai-based ADF Foods has firmly established itself as a global leader in Indian ethnic foods. Food & Beverage Networker catches up with the company’s CEO, Mr Bimal Ramesh Thakker, about successfully turning around its US vertical, achieving extraordinary growth in its frozen foods category, expanding its presence across India and staying constantly alert to opportunities in new markets.

DF Foods has a long and distinguished history, from its relatively humble beginnings in 1932 as a food retailer selling dry fruits and nuts, to its diversification into the processed food sector in the late 1960s and early 1970s, through to its current manifestation as a fully fledged Indian foods business. The company went public in 1991, before setting up its flagship spice processing facility in Nashik equipped with Bühler technology in 1995, enabling it to produce an even more extensive range of pickles, pastes, chutneys, spices and ready-made curries. When we last spoke to Mr Thakker back in 2011, the company had recently bought the US-based ethnic Mexican foods brand, Elena’s – ADF’s first inorganic expansion and a sign of growth to come. ADF Foods is now comprised of three distinct verticals: its USbased company, with headquarters in San Mateo, California; a second business, focused on the production and distribution of its Soul range in the Indian market, and its core vertical – exporting ethnic Indian foods to over 55 countries.


Frozen is flourishing

Within that core business, frozen foods have been experiencing particularly marked growth, as Mr Thakker explains: “Last year alone, sales of our frozen food lines increased by 40 per cent,” he tells us. “And now, overall, frozen foods account for about 40 per ‡ 58



cent of our total revenues. That’s therefore a key growth area for us – there’s a lot of new product development happening in that space. The ambient products also continue to be a growth area for us and we’re continuing to add more products to that range as well, but the major expansion has been coming on the frozen food side.” The US company, which ADF had just acquired when we last spoke to Mr Thakker 10 years ago, has undergone considerable – and transformative – changes since then. “We used to have our own manufacturing plant in the US, but we shut it down because it was an old facility and our lease was also expiring,” reports the CEO. “So we decided to move to a copacking model for our US products. That’s helped substantially in reducing our costs and improving our margins – the US company has been profitable for the past two years, and we’re just about to add in one more co-packer to our system. So, that business is now doing well, and there are new products that have been introduced in the burrito range. When we last spoke, that US firm was a loss-making business that we’d acquired, yet we’ve now been able to turn it around successfully.” ADF’s third business vertical has benefited from its acute awareness of and ability to respond innovatively to contemporary consumer preferences, as Mr Thakker describes: “We’ve entered the Indian market again with a brand called Soul,” he tells us. “The whole product offering under Soul revolves around health and taste – each Soul branded product has to have some health angle to it and has to have some point of difference compared to other products currently sold in the market. We’re building up our distribution on that side, and in the next two years we aim to have a presence in India’s 50 largest cities. Our products are very urban-centric, so we’re really focusing on urban India at the current moment, and we expect the India business to account for at least 25–30 per cent of our overall revenues going forward – at the moment the India vertical only makes up about five per cent of our overall business.” Clearly, the opportunities for expansions are enormous, given that India is on course to become the third-largest consumer market by 2025, according to

a report from Boston Consulting Group. Furthermore, the country’s food and retail market is expected to be worth between 1.1 and 1.3 trillion US dollars by 2025. with recent reforms making the sector more competitive and market orientated, according to a joint study by Indian industry body Assocham and Chicago-based professional services firm Graham Thornton. With nearly nine decades of operational experience under its belt, ADF Foods is ideally placed to leverage on such exciting dynamics in its home market. Organisational changes

Having been largely run by members of the Thakker family until very recently, ADF has also undergone some structural and organisational shifts since our last conversation. “My uncle – the previous CEO – retired recently, and my brother, who was CFO, has also stepped down to pursue other business opportunities,” explains Mr Thakker. “As a result, it’s now just myself remaining in the business from our family. And in our last board meeting, the board appointed me as Chairman and Managing Director.” In addition to Mr Thakker’s own appointment, the organisation recently appointed a new CFO, as well as a Chief Operating Officer. It has also created a number of new country manager positions that reflect its ongoing expansion – one specifically for Canada, a manager that handles its supermarket business in the UK and Europe, and another executive to oversee independent retailers in the same region. The company’s exceptionally robust financial condition is also allowing its board to repurchase a substantial number of shares from the public, as Mr Thakker reveals: “We’re a publicly-traded company, and we have zero debt and are sitting on excess cash, so the board thought it was appropriate to look at buy-back to the extent of a little under five million dollars,” he says. Indian opportunity

While ADF Foods Ltd as a whole is certainly thriving, the firm has faced inevitable challenges and stumbling blocks to the ambitious plans for its Indian vertical. However, a combination of considerable business acumen resulting from years of experience, tenacity ‡ 61

and long-term thinking are helping the firm to succeed in an oft difficult environment. “India has been a struggle for us in terms of building our distribution, so we’re taking it slowly; it’s a complex market,” explains Mr Thakker. “We were also looking at certain acquisitions in order to leapfrog the whole process of building our presence across the country, but we’ve not been able to find suitable targets. Resultantly, we’ve been growing organically, which has its challenges but we’re very committed to making it work. We appointed a Country Head for India – an individual who joined in January 2018, and who had previously been working for Nestle in India before joining us. Our Indian channels to market are via e-commerce, independents and supermarkets, with the latter currently our strongest route to market, although we are nonetheless seeing a lot of growth in the other channels too.”

of it and pride ourselves on being innovators in our sector. We have a team of chefs and food scientists who work in our R&D kitchens, and we have kitchens in our corporate offices as well as our factories. Typically we pick up new trends in processing methods or packaging by visiting food shows internationally – we get a lot of feedback on new product trends and ideas from our country heads in various countries. A lot of new product trends in India are either new types of foods or street foods which can be adapted and sold abroad.” Accordingly, ADF Foods regularly visits and exhibits at the world’s most prominent industry events, including Gulfood trade show in Dubai and Expo in Los Angeles – the US’s largest show for natural and organic foods. The organisation also regularly attends the Fancy Food Show in New York and San Francisco, alongside Anuga in Cologne via its distributors. Healthy prospects

Innovation and adaption

As the conversation turns to the secrets behind ADF’s enviable success and expansion over the decades, Mr Thakker unhesitatingly emphasises the importance of constant and committed innovation, as well as a willingness to adapt traditional products to suit contemporary consumers in various international markets. “New product development is key to every successful food business because consumer needs and trends change so fast,” he explains. “We continue to be on top


Very much in line with current consumer trends, the company is moving ever further towards explicitly healthy, ‘clean label’ products in both its international and Indian operations. With that in mind, the firm’s facility at Nasik – which, like all its facilities, was already BRC-accredited and ISO 22000-certified – achieved USDA Organic certification in late-2017, meaning all of ADF’s sauces and ready-to-eat lines that it exports to the US are now certified organic. “Healthy but still tasty food is very much in demand – organic, non-GMO – and the whole clean label trend is really coming on too,” he explains. “Within our Indian food category, a lot of so-called ‘street food’ products are gaining popularity.” In its Indian operations, ADF’s Soul brand is also steadily growing in popularity – a trend Mr Thakker is keen to continue cultivating. ADF Food’s business remains overwhelmingly international and export-based, as reflected in its current revenue segmentation: 95 per cent of its revenue comes from international sales, with North America representing a little under 40 per cent of the total, followed by Europe at 20 per cent – and within Europe the UK is the largest market. The company also has a strong presence in the GCC and wider Middle East, which account for around 20 per cent of its earnings.

The remainder of its revenue comes from Asia Pacific and other countries. Despite its considerable success to date, the company refuses to stand still, and is always on the lookout for fresh opportunities in untrodden markets that could reap huge rewards in the longer term if skillfully capitalised upon, as Mr Thakker tells us. “We constantly keep entering new markets – we’ve just opened up some in Europe, for example, and we’re working in some other regions as well,” he says. “These smaller markets do take time to build. A lot of our work is going on in existing markets where we’re adding both width and depth of penetration, adding more distributors within some existing markets, and looking at other distribution channels.” Another key factor to the organisation’s exceptional longevity and global success comes down to its sincere passion and exceptional knowledge of Indian food culture, as the CEO tells us: “It’s our understanding of Indian food culture which continues to give us the edge over our competition,” he says. “We also have strong brands that we continue to invest in, and our distribution network overseas is excellent, as is our vast product range – we have over 500 products across both frozen and ambient. Finally, of course, our people are also essential to our success – we have a very com-

mitted and loyal workforce, numbering in excess of 700 employees in total, including factory workers.” The future for ADF certainly seems to be a fruitful one, as it keeps a constant eye out for opportunities to expand while ensuring it maintains its hard earned reputation for high quality products. “We continue to look out for opportunities on the inorganic growth side,” concludes Mr Thakker. “If good acquisitions come our way we would definitely look at doing that. On the capex side, we also continue to invest in our plants in India – and our vision is to double the company’s revenues within the next few years.” o


Company Profile: Foodtech JSC Written by GEMMA KENT

TOP-LINE TUNA Established nearly three decades ago, Foodtech JSC is today Vietnam’s pioneering producer of canned tuna and a renowned exporter to markets across the globe. Mr Taveesak Rittinarongchai, General Director, speaks about the company’s firm commitment to sustainable tuna production, and reveals the auspicious opportunities that lie ahead for the business thanks to recent international trade agreements.


espite facing important challenges in recent years, including significant issues regarding the preservation of wild stocks and the sustainability of harvesting methods, the global market for tuna products continues to increase – and Vietnam is at the forefront of such efforts. The South East Asian nation is one of the world’s biggest exporters of tuna, earning roughly US$600m from such activities in 2020. Amidst Covid-related restaurant closures worldwide, the lion's share of sales were generated by canned tuna products, as the category soared by nine per cent, with the US and EU being the two largest importers. As a fully certified manufacturer and experienced exporter, Foodtech JSC is strategically positioned to capitalise on the growing global demand for canned tuna, which it has been producing since 1996. “At the time of our establishment in 1993 we were producing canned mushrooms,” recalls Mr Rittinarongchai. “When this venture was unsuccessful we went into canned pineapple production, before finally settling on canned tuna in 1996. That area of activity remains our core business today – in fact, we were the pioneers of canned tuna in Vietnam, and we are now one of the country’s leading canned tuna exporters.”


Tuna from local fisheries

Foodtech is wholly owned by a Thai investor, who was attracted by Vietnam’s potential business opportunities and relocated to the country in 1992. “After the devastating civil conflict ended, the Communist victors opened up the Vietnamese market to foreign investment, and ours was the first foreign company to set up a canned tuna business,” Mr Rittinarongchai explains. “Our canning factory is located around 35km south of Ho Chi Minh City, in the province of Long An. With a production capacity for canned tuna of around 50– 60 tons per day, we pack tuna in can sizes ranging from 3.5-ounce (100g) to 2kg, then in 2014 we added 1kg ‡ 65

and 3kg pouches for the food service and catering sector. Our canned tuna is available in oil and brine, as well as tuna dressing and exotic salad. “Since 2008 we have operated a second manufacturing facility in Phu Yen, in the South Central Coast region, where we purchase the raw materials and produce pre-cooked tuna loin, which is sent to the Long An facility for canning,” he adds. One of Foodtech’s greatest attributes is that fact that 70–80 per cent of the tuna processed by the company is obtained locally, caught off the mid to southern coast of Vietnam. “Our agent buys the fish from fishing vessels in the eastern provinces and supplies it directly to our factory,” Mr Rittinarongchai tells us. “In terms of sales, around 50–60 per cent of our canned products for the retail sector are exported to customers in the EU, including supermarket chains such as Aldi and Edeka. Our second largest export market is North America, which mainly consumes our 2kg catering-size cans and pouches, and is the destination for around 30 per cent of our production. We also sell around 10 per cent to Japan and five or six per cent to South America, with the remainder going to small destinations in Asia like Hong Kong and Fiji.” 66

A future of free trade

Foodtech is a private-label manufacturer that exports 100 per cent of its production. As a result, the company often finds itself at the mercy of government policies and levies, which can make it difficult to compete. Mr Rittinarongchai elaborates: “There are many tuna packers across South East Asia and we all compete with each other based on price, which tends to be determined by the proportion of tax we are bound to pay at the export destination. If there are big gaps between the tariffs in each country, it has an impact on our production volumes and makes it difficult to sell our products. “Our turnover each year also tends to rely on the tax policy offered to Vietnam by the governments of those countries where our main customers are located,” he continues. “Demand for canned tuna is strong but at the moment we cannot be competitive enough on price to serve all markets where there is demand. For example, the Philippines benefits from the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which entitles Filipino exporters to duty-free treatment for thousands of products, one of which is canned tuna. As a Vietnamese exporter we still have to pay

a tariff of 20.5 per cent but we buy our raw materials at the same price, which makes it very difficult to compete.” Foodtech has experienced a long wait on the ratification of Vietnam’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, which took effect in August 2020 and has led to the removal of over 99 per cent of tariffs on goods between Vietnam and the EU. "Since the FTA's implementation, we've had a quota for tuna exports that now enables us to export around 1,000 containers tax-free,” states Mr Rittinarongchai. “We are also pleased with the progress of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) between Vietnam and 10 other countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia and Mexico, which came into force on 30th December 2018. We're very keen to further

leverage on the abundance of opportunity that these new agreements afford us.” High-quality products

In spite of the aforementioned financial challenges, there are clear benefits to having a tuna canning operation based in Vietnam as opposed to other countries in the region, as Mr Rittinarongchai affirms: “The greatest advantage that Vietnam offers as the location for our company is the availability of tuna – mainly the yellowfin, skipjack and tongol species – while many other countries have to import their tuna. This means that we can maintain production and we are not affected by fluctuating prices for imported tuna, which are often too high for the processing and canning sector. By using local fish, we can control the price of at least 70 per cent of our raw materials and compete ‡


effectively with companies from other countries. “A further advantage of being based in Vietnam is the fact that around two-thirds of the population are of working age, meaning we don’t have to recruit labour from overseas – like the Thai tuna sector, for example, which relies on labour from Myanmar,” he comments. Foodtech currently employs around 900 people and its factory in Long An operates on a single shift of up to 12 hours in peak season. “Being a HACCP- and BRC-certified factory, we run training programmes in order to ensure all staff are fully up-to-date with these standards, and the high-quality nature of our products is maintained as a result,” asserts Mr Rittinarongchai. “Our quality management system is also certified in accordance with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) IFS Food Standard and the US FDA, and our products are accredited by the Halal Food Council and Orthodox Union.” Prioritising sustainability

Regarding the company’s approach to investment in the continuous development and improvement of the business, Mr Rittinarongchai explains that the majority

of Foodtech’s efforts are focused on sustainability, which is of the utmost importance in the tuna sector – and to the wider seafood industry. “In order to extend our collaborative responsibilities regarding the environment and our commitment to sustainability, we have joined several campaigns and become an active member of world-class institutions, including the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Earth Island Institute, Dolphin Safe Organization, and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF),” he outlines. In addition, Foodtech maintains a strict anti-sharkfinning policy that means the company will only purchase from vessel-owning companies that have a published policy prohibiting shark finning on board its vessels, and it will not purchase from any vessel that has been found to have finned for two years following the date of the most recent finding. “Of course, we also continuously improve our productivity and quality control system in order to better serve our customers’ requirements, provide full satisfaction and maintain the quality of our products and services,” notes Mr Rittinarongchai. “When investing

in new equipment we tend to focus on machines that will enable us to reduce the number of operators needed, which is in line with our projections for the future. Indeed, as the younger generation reaches working age we are anticipating a decline in the number of people who will be willing to carry out manual jobs in the seafood industry, so we are focusing on equipment and machinery that will enable us to automate our processes as far as possible. “Human resources nevertheless remain a key element in achieving success,” he reflects. “That means we have to keep fine tuning our employment policy and approach to recruitment, while tuna purchasing is also a vital aspect of the business. Having all of these different elements under control and up to a high standard is what enables us to sell large volumes of our product, because we meet all the requirements of the market.” Growing globally

Foodtech participates regularly in overseas exhibitions like Seafood Expo Global in Brussels – the world’s largest seafood trade fair – as well as SIAL Paris and

Anuga in Cologne. Such events are very important for Foodtech as an exporter – particularly as the company strives to strengthen its international market position while exploring new product formats and expanding its production capabilities in the years ahead. “Going forward, there is a possibility we may introduce tuna pouches for the US retail segment,” reveals Mr Rittinarongchai. “We have been approached by the company commanding the largest market share for tuna in the US, who asked us if we would be able to supply tuna in pouches for them, and we are in the process of carrying out a study to assess the viability of this from our perspective. Our main concern is whether or not we would be able to meet their demand requirements because this client’s sales volume is very high, and if this contract were to consume too much of our fish there may be repercussions for our distribution setup as it stands. “We have also received a request from a client in Japan to produce more tuna for pet food and to enter into a joint venture with them in that regard, so we are also studying this project at the moment,” he concludes. o


Company Profile: Masdar Al Hayat for Food Industries Written by GEMMA KENT

AN APPETITE FOR GROWTH Established just over a decade ago, Masdar Al Hayat for Food Industries has made swift progress as part of Tamimi Group to become one of Saudi Arabia’s leading producers and distributors of baked goods and other products today. Chief Operations Officer, Mr Mohammed Binmahfoodh, outlines the company’s plans to expand its distribution and launch new products, with a view to becoming the number one supplier in the bakery sector.

audi Arabia is the biggest country in the Middle East and the world’s 20th largest market for bakery products today – partially due to its bread consumption, which is higher per person than any other country in the region, according to a recent report from Mordor Intelligence. As the manufacturer and distributor of a wide range of fresh and frozen bakery products, Masdar Al Hayat

S 70

is looking to capitalise on the Kingdom’s penchant for bread, bolstered by its role as one of 43 subsidiaries belonging to the multifaceted Saudi conglomerate, Tamimi Group. The company was originally set up in 2009 as part of a 50:50 joint venture between Tamimi Group and the Lebanese bread, pastry and confectionery manufacturer Pain d’Or, which has been operating in ‡



Lebanon since 1986 and is a household brand in the country. “In 2011 we acquired the other half of the business and replaced the Pain d’Or name with our own brand, Fonte, making Masdar Al Hayat a 100-percent Saudi-owned company,” recalls Mr Binmahfoodh. “We started out manufacturing bakery products and other consumer packaged goods (CPG) from a factory in Riyadh Second Industrial City, which we also distributed from our own retail outlets in Riyadh. Since 2011, however, we have been distributing our products primarily through grocery stores, hypermarkets and the HORECA segment, while retaining some small outlets inside the headquarters of elite companies and banks in Riyadh that offer a wide range of our products to employees.” The company also owns two restaurants in the city that are known for their high-quality products and excellent standards of service. Authentic breads and pastries

“Our product portfolio encompasses an array of fresh and frozen bakery products, and we are one of the market leaders in Saudi Arabia for this segment,” Mr Binmahfoodh asserts. “Regarding our frozen partbaked products, we make French bread in various formats, from baguettes to boules, and Italian ciabatta with the option of added olives or walnuts, as well as focaccia and panini. We also produce frozen part-baked croissants and other pastries in a variety

of flavours, including pain au chocolat, apple strudel and cookies.” In the fresh bakery segment Masdar Al Hayat produces an assortment of rolls – from hamburger and hot dog buns to milk bread and submarine rolls – as well as sliced bread in white, brown and multi-cereal varieties. Arabic bread is also available, while wheat flour tortillas are one of the company’s best-selling products. “In fact, we are the Saudi market leader for tortillas,” he states, “which we make in white, brown, spicy, tomato and spinach flavours. “We also produce various cakes, Swiss rolls, cupcakes and cake bars, as well as Ma’amoul, ice cream and confectionery. “We recently launched some new bakery products, namely potato buns and alt bread. The latter is a healthier alternative to conventional bread, and represents an important trend we have identified in the market,” notes Mr Binmahfoodh. Alongside its bakery items Masdar Al Hayat is a leading manufacturer of tomato paste in the Kingdom, while the company also distributes edible oils, canned tuna, breadcrumbs and fruit juices. Delivered fresh

The company’s state-of-the-art facility in Riyadh covers an area of around 55,000 square metres, including a 5,000sqm central kitchen for catering – a service that Masdar Al Hayat provides to corporations as well as ‡ 73

consumer retail outlets, starting with one in Riyadh. “We hope to forge ahead with developing the first outlet some time in 2020,” Mr Binmahfoodh reveals. Aiming for the top

for private functions and special events. “Regarding our supporting infrastructure, we have warehousing in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, and a logistics fleet comprising 200 trucks for distribution across the Saudi market – particularly the central region of the Kingdom and the Eastern Province,” Mr Binmahfoodh reports. “In the next few months we intend to open a new office and distribution base in Jeddah, from which an initial fleet of 25 trucks will serve the western region. We already have a warehouse in Jeddah, from which we supply frozen products to customers in the HORECA segment, but the new regional branch and fleet will enable us to bring our range of fresh products to the retail sector in the region – these products have a shelf life of seven to nine days, so they have to be available every day,” he points out. “Indeed, increasing our truck numbers is crucial if we want our products to be widely available all over the Kingdom. We are currently very strong in the eastern part of the country, but in the north and south our market penetration is low because we do not have enough trucks to serve those areas.” In order to widen the reach of its distribution network Masdar Al Hayat is also looking to recruit additional sales representatives, and to open its own


Masdar Al Hayat also exports some of its products to other GCC countries, as well as to customers in Yemen, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq. “Trade shows are valuable networking tools when it comes to our export activities,” The company’s COO affirms. “We met our customer from Iraq at the Gulfood event in Dubai, for instance, and we are due to exhibit our products there again in February. Iraq is a very big market with great potential, and we intend to increase our exports there in future. We hope that this will be facilitated by the continuously improving relations between the Saudi and Iraqi governments, and the reopening of the Arar border crossing.” In the domestic market, the company is focusing on the latest consumer trends in the bakery sector, with a view to developing innovative new products. “Tortillas are experiencing a major upward trend at the moment,” he reflects, “and we are preparing to launch a new type of tortilla product based on our own special recipe. This product will be completely unique in the market, and we are confident it will be well received among consumers.” As well as innovating new products and enhancing its exports, Masdar Al Hayat is committed to growing its distribution fleet and strengthening its presence across the Kingdom – and Mr Binmahfoodh has identified a social media presence as being strategically important to the company’s future growth and success. “We are already one of the top producers in the Saudi bakery segment, and we are aiming to become the Kingdom’s leading business for baked goods within the next three years,” he concludes. o


Company Profile: Almar Drink & Food Srl Written by JAMES MIDGLEY

TASTE IS EVERYTHING For over half a century, Milan-based Almar Drink & Food Srl has made its mission the production of superlative quality powder preparations intended for both professional and home use. In recent years, the Italian firm has pursued rapid international growth, and now the manufacturer is developing a new line of healthier formulations to its old favourites. Food & Beverage Networker speaks to Mr Cesare Crosti, CEO, to learn how Almar is putting the joy back into healthy food and drink. rior to lockdown restrictions, the Specialty Coffee Association published figures showing that nearly half of all coffee was consumed out of the home, with 59 per cent that of the gourmet variety. Such statistics are driven primarily by younger generations, with those aged under 35 much more likely to drink ‘on the go’ versus older consumers. Despite seemingly ubiquitous, coffee shops in Europe and the US continue to register robust growth in keeping with such trends – and now expansion of the sector is getting fully underway further afield as the world opens up again.



Gulf News notes that in recent years “coffee consumption has moved out of the malls and into the neighbourhoods”, and that Western-style cafes have started to flourish in the UAE. Scant surprise, then, that the Middle East is one of Almar’s key target markets. The manufacturer is looking to capture the growth opportunities represented by this upward trend while also taking on another – the ever-present demand for healthier options. Age-old classics continue to be reformulated throughout the industry as consumers make their desires known and authorities clamp down with ‡



punitive sugar and fat levies. Indeed, what might be considered ‘The Holy Grail’ preoccupying most major players today is that of providing health-promoting products that do not compromise on taste. If the challenge is going to be cracked anywhere, then Italy might be one of the likeliest candidates – and innovative Almar is amongst the frontrunners. The quest for quality

Almar came into being in 1968, its first incarnation a small traditional shop near Milan. “The company’s original aim was to produce the best café hot chocolate in Italy,” Mr Crosti recounts, “so high quality was always the company’s reason for being – after all, it takes a lot to impress the average Italian consumer!” Today the firm operates globally, having extended its quest for quality to a much wider range of powder preparations and associated products. From its origins as a single outlet, Almar has grown to become a specialist manufacturer of innovative formulations. “By improving our R&D team and letting them guide us, we’ve managed to create a number of much loved products over the years,” the interviewee agrees. “Our main market remains HORECA trade (hotels, restaurants and cafés), although we also cater to retail and consumer markets.” Almar’s broad portfolio includes hot chocolates, coffees with ginseng, cappuccino, iced teas, icecreams, granita, sorbets, yoghurts, milkshakes and other powder preparations. In addition to manufacturing its own specially formulated products, the firm also produces on behalf of private labels. “About 20 per cent of our production goes towards catering for these private label goods,” the CEO reveals, “and about 40 per cent of our turnover is represented by international sales. Our products find consumers all over the world – from Japan to the Americas, all of Europe and the Middle East as well.”

The perfect mix

In addition to its wide range of powder preparations, Almar acts as a trusted distributor for professional-level café machinery. “From the early days of our business, we realised there were opportunities for mutually beneficial tie-ups with manufacturers of such equipment,” Mr Crosti points out. “Almar needed machines to prepare its drinks, and the machinery firms tended to lack much in the way of distribution – so a relationship was born.” The food and beverage firm distributes on behalf of several brands, including Ugolini, Gel Matic and Nuova Era, making available the full inventory of café necessities – slush machines, cream dispensers, soft ice-cream machines, hot chocolate and soluble beverage machines. “This symbiosis enables us to collaboratively fine-tune both the machinery and our powder preparations to ensure they work well together,” the interviewee adds. “Our products are approved for the machines, and the machines approved for our powders.” Almar also offers a range of branded teapots and cups to consumers eager to recreate the coffee shop experience at home. Expanding capabilities

A few years back marked the culmination of two major milestones for the Italian manufacturer. Firstly, the company moved its production base from the town ‡ 79

of Cologno Monzese to Pessano con Bornago – not a distant relocation, but a momentous one. “Our new facility is substantially bigger and more modern,” the CEO agrees. “At the same time, we were able to prepare the building specifically in keeping with the FSSC 22000 certification – which we consequently earned when we moved.”

The new plant has also allowed the firm to expand into further product and packaging options, and last year it opened a new production line. “The new line has enabled us to offer powder preparations in aluminium tins, in addition to the aluminium bags in which our products were already sold,” Mr Crosti explains. “The tins appeal to a more premium consumer market, while providing superior utility for HORECA buyers – the products can last better and be easily opened and closed again.” At present, Almar’s facilities can produce around five tonnes of powders per day, with still further room for expansion remaining. The plant is outfitted with state-of-the-art machinery hailing from the expert engineering houses of Germany and Italy. Healthy growth

Mr Cesare Crosti, CEO, Almar Drink & Food Srl.


Almar counts customers around the globe – the likes of Japan’s Kyodo International, Dubai’s La Marquise and Portugal’s Habitual Glamour. However, it is the Middle East where the firm is seeing the most signifi-

cant growth. “We see a lot of potential there, thanks to the rising café culture,” the interviewee confirms. “It can be a tricky market to get to grips with due to restrictions on international products and the language barrier, but we’re making great headway so far – particularly in Saudi Arabia, which is actually one of our strongest markets,” he reveals, adding that the US is another prime candidate for Almar’s future expansion. The many decades of the Italian manufacturer’s success are in no small way thanks to its eagerness to continue to develop new and groundbreaking products year on year – and this year has proven to be no exception. “We are thoroughly focused on the way the market changes – on what consumers are asking for,” Mr Crosti observes. “Right now we are developing new products to satisfy the demand for healthier options – low fat, without sugar, lactose-free, and so on. All our products are already gluten free and never contain any GMO elements or common allergens like eggs or nuts.” However, Almar is not content to offer merely healthier products – to be expected from a firm whose tagline is ‘Gusto Italiano’, or ‘taste is everything’. “Our mission is to combine healthy with tasty,” the CEO stresses. “There are plenty of healthy options out there, but they aren’t very enjoyable! We want to give consumers the best of both worlds – eating and drinking shouldn’t be a joyless experience.” In accordance with that vision, the company is currently working on a line with added protein and vegetable fibre, to enhance the nutritional benefits of such products. Boundless opportunities

Almar began as a family-run coffee shop in Lombardy – but from those small beginnings it has found a growing consumer base throughout the world thanks to its high quality, specialised formulations. “I acquired the company back in 2011 from its founder who, after much consideration, had decided to retire,” Mr Crosti recalls. “I wanted to gain experience in the sector, and also recognised it to be an excellent opportunity more generally – my wide-ranging experience meant I was ideally placed to bolster the firm’s international profile and market presence.”

The now-CEO’s judgment proved accurate, and the difficulties of those post-recession years have since given way to a flourishing business. “I realised there were great opportunities to expand abroad,” the interviewee continues. “And, besides, it allowed me to go to many fascinating places and meet with many people. I’m very proud to have been able to bring Italian quality to countries around the world.” As Almar Drink & Food celebrates over half a century in operation, there seems little sign of the loss of innovative spirit that often characterises longestablished players. On the contrary, Almar recently launched its new all-natural, sugar-free ginseng coffee with added protein and fibre – just one of many intended newcomers to its portfolio. Indeed, with boundless opportunities in its many international markets, its emphasis on excellence and a tight handle on evolving consumer trends, Almar looks set to continue flying the flag for Italian quality for many more years to come. o


Company Profile: New Wave Asia Written by INDUSTRY NETWORKER

MAKING WAVES As one of Thailand’s leading food import, marketing and distribution specialists, Bangkokbased New Wave Asia has made an impressive impact on the country’s burgeoning FMCG sector in its decade of operation. Industry Networker speaks to Managing Director, Mr Satharb Mukdeekrom, about prioritising partnerships over profit and spearheading the success of imported food products in a competitive market.

sia’s FMCG sector is broadly predicted to experience extraordinary growth in the next few years. A host of fortuitous factors including steady inflation, increased consumer spending and continued population growth are tipped to lead to a sales increase of US$1.2 trillion by 2022 according to Inside Retail Asia – amounting to a compound annual growth rate of more than six per cent. And South East Asia’s food and beverage sector is expected to experience especially rapid expansion, thanks to the region’s



increasingly dynamic business environments, burgeoning middle class and the swift transformation of ASEAN’s cities. Starting with a mission

Thai import, marketing and distribution company New Wave Asia is at the forefront of this regional surge. Established in 2008 with a mission to become one of Thailand’s most successful food distribution businesses, the company used a combination of long-standing industry experience and exceptional sensitivity to regional market demands to ensure success from its very beginning. “Over the past decade or so, as the popularity of imported food products has really started to increase in Thailand, we’ve sensed a big market opportunity,” Mr Mukdeekrom tells us. “The founder members – including myself – have more than 30 years of working with leading multinational food companies in sales and marketing in South East Asia: including Unilever; Mars; Johnson & Johnson; and Philip Morris, amongst others.” The company’s primary focus is on the marketing and distribution of major leading Asian food brands across Thailand, as well as a strong line of OEMs, as ‡



the Managing Director explains: “Our main activities involve the distribution of major leading Asian food brands in Thailand, including Julie’s Biscuits from Malaysia; Owl Coffee from Singapore and Orion from South Korea,” he says. “We also produce our own OEM brand products to distribute in Thailand. These are mainly drinks, but also include dried foods from Thailand – dried bananas and dried durian, for example. We’ve also grown and cemented key partnerships with key food businesses throughout Asia.” The company maintains an impressive range of distribution channels, giving it excellent market penetration and an enviable level of coverage, as Mr Mukdeekrom makes clear: “We serve all the major chains in Thailand, including Seven Eleven; Tesco; Big C; Makro,” he describes. “We also work through more traditional wholesale channels, and with individual supermarkets in the provinces. In addition, we have a number of HORECA customers, as well as serving hospitals, bookstores that sell coffee and biscuits, drugstores, schools and cinemas. It really helps us balance demand from different segments of the market – so, if one of our channels is performing under par, another is very capable of compensating for that.”

turing and logistics, to its work alongside valued retail and wholesale partners. All the company’s logistics, for example, are undertaken by reputable Thai firm Blue & White. New Wave’s activities are primarily concentrated on the Thai market for the time being, though the firm has a strong network across the continent that it plans to capitalise upon in the near future, as its Managing Director tells us: “We’re able to introduce products into the rest of Asia through our partners,” he explains. “We actually have a plan to set up another office in Singapore to expand and capitalise our existing partnerships, enabling us to expand our products into Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia. We’ve chosen Singapore because of its excellent access to other Asian markets.” A family-style business

As our chat turns to the reasons for New Wave Asia’s successes to date, Mr Mukdeekrom explains that – for this company at least – small is most definitely beautiful and comes with is own distinct advantages. “New Wave Asia is a unique company: we pride ourselves on being small, family-sized – we’re not a big company,” ‡

Building strong partnerships

Mr Mukdeekrom is keen to emphasise the crucial importance of establishing solid, trusting and mutually beneficial business partnerships to achieve success in a lucrative (but highly competitive) market. “We’re very focused on our relationships with our partners, which means we work very closely with them, as well as the other parties in our supply chains,” he explains. “We ensure our employees fully understand our partners’ and other parties’ needs, meaning we’re able to create win-win situations. We really make sure we focus on our partners rather than just ourselves….we carefully choose those who have a very similar reach and emphasis on the high quality of their products or services.” This ethos applies across New Wave Asia’s operations, from its outsourced warehousing, manufac85

he says. “We feel our success is down to our business philosophy, which includes speed, flexibility, commitment, humbleness, realism, and a focus on building relationships over profits. That ethos means we’ve attracted customers who are looking for a different kind of partnership when compared with the big distribution companies in Thailand.” The organisation currently has around 80 employees – including its highly experienced sales and marketing team, as well as a merchandising team that focuses on product visibility – a scale that allows it to maintain this intimate, supportive working environment that has proved so successful. Its team runs a booth at Thaifex every year, and also attends food exhibitions and events in Dubai, Singapore and Japan, regularly accompanying representatives from the Thai government. A healthy future

New Wave Asia is constantly working to stay ahead of the competition from the rest of Thailand’s FMCG sector, while ensuring it maintains those all-important solid relationships with distribution partners – both large and small. Staying abreast of technological advancements and increasing staff numbers in key departments is proving core to such efforts, as Mr Mukdeekrom tells us. “We’ve recently invested in cash van sales to enable us to sell more efficiently in smaller provinces,” he says. “We’ve invested in a new IT system to make our information dissemination more reliable,


and we’ve also increased our sales and marketing activation teams to support our board.” In terms of market trends, the organisation has realised that it must remain acutely aware of the needs of younger consumers, as well as more established ones. “The major trend in Thailand is forged by Generation X – a very ‘me-focused’ generation,” describes the Managing Director. “They want everything now! Meeting that appetite is our challenge – our products have to be very directed at catering to this age group’s distinctive demands.” As well as demanding faster service than ever before, South East Asian consumers are also becoming ever more health conscious. “There’s also a big trend towards health in Thailand, which we definitely take into consideration when choosing which products to work with,” states Mr Mukdeekrom. “Consumers are increasingly looking for GMO-free; organic and all natural products, for example.” The Managing Director identifies issues in the Thai and regional economy as potential stumbling blocks to his company’s further growth, but is confident that its solid market position and reputation for excellent quality products and services will ensure his firm continues to flourish in the years ahead. “We continue to look for new, high quality products for the Thai market,” he informs in closing. “In addition, we’ll further expand our sales, distribution and marketing teams in order to support those ambitions.” o