Food&Beverage Networker Issue 05/21

Page 1

ISSUE 05/21 | €15


PRIORITISING THE PLANET – Consumer focus on sustainability


AUGMENTED TAKEAWAYS – The future of food delivery service


Providing worldwide packaging solutions for global brands

olden Manufacturers Pte Limited’s secret to success is service, quality and sustainability. Throughout its 40 years in operation, such traits have provided the foundations to enable the company to build a client list that today includes an array of worldrenowned brands. A recognised leader in Corrugated Packaging in Fiji and the wider Pacific Islands region, Golden Manufacturers specialises in Die-Cut, Pre-Printed, Wax, Heavy Duty Cartons, Cores and Corner Boards. They have further enhanced their capabilities with a label plant that can print a variety of Self-Adhesive Labels up to 11 colours with


a combination of gravure and flexo printing, including lamination, over varnished or cold foiled on different substrates – on gloss art paper, BOPP White, BOPP Clear printed on surface and reverse side. Golden has obtained ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System certification, achieving outstanding performance and compliance with the quality requirements. Golden also has Safe Quality Food (SQF) and HACCP certifications. In October 2019, they also attained the Forest Stewardship Council FSC® Chain of Custody Certification, supporting the FSC sustainable global forestry conservation initiative and the company’s commitment to using

packaging products from responsible sources. Golden has earned much recognition, including receiving the Fiji Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Award on several occasions, as well as the Fiji Trade and Investment Board Exporter of the Year Award, and an Excellence in Flexography Printing Award. Our team is committed to supporting and empowering our people to uphold the highest standards of quality with continual improvements to our manufacturing processes. Golden’s success comes from continuous improvement, investing in research and development and continuing to provide superior quality products and service to its clients.

Golden Manufacturers: 6 Boila Circle Road, Suva, Central Division, Fiji | Tel: +679 339 1522 | |

EDITORIAL | Sarah Pursey, Editor

MITIGATE TO ACCUMULATE he connections are becoming ever more clear between the food we eat and the impacts those food systems that produce it are having on our planet. Encouragingly, practical steps exist that F&B industry players can take today towards being part of the solution. The F&B industry today employs 4.3 million people in the UK alone, and contributes £120bn to the national economy – making it larger than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined. It is also a major consumer of energy, with such consumption often inefficient – utilising outmoded, power-draining electrical infrastructure. The sector’s insatiable hunger for power is driven by high heat demand in all manner of processes – from drying, evaporation and baking, to pasteurisation, kilning and steam production – not to mention refrigeration. Meat and poultry, and baking and biscuits are the biggest energy users – although inefficiencies invariably run throughout the sector. Of course, energy inefficiency translates directly into needlessly high overheads for F&B players, with a Pan European survey recently concluding that annual losses attributed to power quality issues could amount to a far-from-insubstantial 4% of business turnover (p6). The world’s most progressive manufacturers now equate improved climate change mitigation measures with improved financial performance, yet an industrywide recognition of – and proactive response to – this win-win scenario will be crucial to see a meaningful reduction in the sector’s emissions. Beyond electrification and the muchneeded switch to renewables for powering future manufacturing processes, a more fundamental rethink of the value chain at the front end will undoubtedly be required, given the inevitable food security challenges presented by a world population set to far exceed 10 billion by the century’s mid-point. For many cultivars worldwide, scarcity of available fertile land is a challenge only compounded by accelerating climatic instability. Such dynamics demand a new farming paradigm – one that allows greater productivity yet requires fewer resources, and brings food sources closer to home. One fast emerging solution is the


much-vaunted vertical farming, which offers a means of achieving voluminous crop outputs in limited space (p10). Another is the unstoppable rise in plantbased foods, driven by consumer demand for products that promote health and reduce environmental impact, with innovators like Ingredion advancing formulations to drive this dietary evolution (p20). While tightening rules on the energy efficiency of equipment, or greater transparency on the energy emissions associated with products may be new areas for legislation in the decades to come, scrutiny of corporate sustainability performance is already moving up the agenda for consumers who want to see meaningful metrics from their F&B brands: “Sustainability is more and more a consumer issue,” notes Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova (p8). “Instead of making some big general proclamation about their credentials, brands now have to [do] something more understandable in terms of measurements or the social impact.” Inevitably, in tandem with the rise of the educated and connected consumer, communicating a brand’s sustainability message effectively and accurately becomes increasingly crucial. It can also create a space for conversation around complex CSR issues. The ‘missing treat’ in one of the windows in ethical chocolate-maker Tony’s advent calendar recently caused outrage amongst some consumers, yet the ensuing commotion could be seen as a positive PR opportunity for the company to communicate its ethical stance (p8). Elsewhere, Nestlé’s ‘Beneath the Surface’ initiative has been praised for turning the controversy around palm oil into a short educational film and questionnaire to help consumers understand just how complicated that subject is. Clearly, with the recent COP26 shining a spotlight on the environmental impacts of our current food systems, companies across the F&B industry spectrum can no longer afford to shy away from sustainability issues. On the contrary, their collective entrepreneurial, innovative and collaborative spirit will be pivotal to creating the meaningful, measurable change that will help protect both profit and planet in the decades 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 05/21




Editorial Mitigate to accumulate.


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


Sustainability Series Collaboration is key to reach net-zero in F&B – Decarbonising F&B processing. Tony’s (empty) window of opportunity – Communicating the ethical message. Bringing vertical farming down to earth – Vertical farming advances. Sustainability news.



Challenges Of Our Times Popping candy – Sugar dust explosions, and how to prevent them.


Science & Technology Science & Technology news. Augmented takeaways – The future of food delivery service.


Trends In Trade Innovating a region's dietary evolution – Ingredion experts unveil ingredients innovations for the Middle East & Africa. Prioritising the planet – Consumer focus on sustainability.


Special Reports Have you got the bottle? – Creating an alcoholic beverage brand. Pick & mix goes plant-based – ProSweets Cologne pre-event insights. Dining out on dining in – Deliverect’s tech advancements in on-demand food. Advancement on the horizon – Anuga HORIZON pre-event insights.


Events A round-up of F&B sector focused events for 2022.


18 20



34 54









ALL CLEAR AHEAD Sabo Industrial Corp.







AROL Group




UAE: Experts at the inaugural Global Business Forum ASEAN – held recently on the sidelines of Expo 2020 Dubai – explored how to enhance trade between the GCC and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), with the halal industry identified as a highly prospective area of co-operation between the regions. Participating in a discussion entitled ‘The Islamic Consumer: A PostPandemic Comeback?’ were Dato Dr Mohmed Razip Hasan, Director-General of the Islamic Tourism Centre, Malaysia; Saleh Lootah (pictured), Managing Director of Al Islami Foods, UAE; and

Riyanto Sofyan, Chairman of the Team for Accelerated Development at Halal Tourism, Indonesia. Research & Markets reported that the global halal food market reached a value of US$1.9 trillion in 2020 – and despite a pandemic-induced slump in the market, the experts expressed optimism for the future prospects of the halal sector. Mr Lootah of Al Islami Foods – a key player in the segment – observed that consumer spending is slowly returning in Dubai, and noted that the halal industry will reach pre-Covid levels by the end of 2022.

Dato Dr Hasan agreed, noting that with borders opening up and economies recovering, the halal travel industry is picking up momentum. He explained that while Muslim travellers are growing, and remain influential, it is necessary for governments and businesses to build strategies and goals that can meet these demands and to expand the sector to make it attractive to non-Muslim consumers. Hasan went on to outline five key strategies that Malaysia plans to execute to drive this demand: positioning Islamic consumers as discerning, niche and lucrative; enhancing leadership in Muslim travel businesses and destination management; enhancing knowledge and understanding of service providers towards Muslim travel needs and requirements; increasing investment in Islamic Tourism and hospitality infrastructures and business content; and increasing collaborations between stakeholders. Commenting on the resilience of the halal sector, Mr Sofyan said that although halal tourism – along with the tourism sector in general – was one of the

hardest hit during the pandemic, it is proving to be one of the fastest to rebound. “In Q3 2021 we reached a growth of 3.5-per-cent year-on-year, so we’re quite optimistic. This is the time and opportunity for halal market to go mainstream by using an inclusive approach. The government is supporting us as well, and have formed a new entity to develop the Islamic economy and the halal industry. This will help our ambition in being a leader in the halal industry by capitalising and using our large Islamic consumer market.” He added that the key goal in the halal industry must be to brand halal products and services in way that they can go mainstream to attract non-Muslims as well through its unique propositions. Held under the theme The New Frontiers, the first-ever GBF ASEAN was organised under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The forum is part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship series, which also explores economic potential in emerging markets across Africa and Latin America.

Fried chicken brand Mother Clucker takes flight with UK’s largest single-day brand roll-out

UK: Fried chicken brand Mother Clucker has spread wings, flown the nest, and landed in over 18 towns and cities. The brand is now available to its thousands of fans via food delivery service Deliveroo. Started in 2013 and initially launched at London's Old Truman Brewery, Mother Clucker is today part of Famously Proper. Also owner of popular gourmet burger chain Byron, Famously Proper has “very ambitious expansion plans for Mother Clucker”, according to its CEO, Gavin Cox.


A nationwide roll-out of the deliciously crispy, tea-brined, fried chicken brand has been long awaited, and this month Mother Clucker’s legions of fans rejoiced as its mouthwatering menu became available via Deliveroo in over 18 towns and cities across the country. Mother Clucker is today available via Deliveroo in Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Oxford, Chelmsford, Ipswich, Milton Keynes, Salisbury, Bluewater, Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge, York, Southampton, Norwich, Nottingham and Liverpool. Speaking on the expansion, Famously Proper’s CEO Gavin Cox remarked: “We are extremely excited to be taking this cult favourite, street-

food chicken brand from one location, in London’s Truman's Brewery, to over 18 nationwide destinations,” he enthused, adding that his firm had

“very ambitious expansion plans” for Mother Clucker, and that he looked forward to the brand “expanding rapidly in the coming months”.

REMEDY APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF SALES, SECURES NEW OCADO LISTING General Manager, added: “Kombucha is a fast-growth category in the sweet spot of key consumer trends: gut health, cutting back on sugar, rejection of artificial sweeteners and adult soft drinks with full flavour. Remedy has been at the forefront of this growth and key to sustaining this is ensuring that we have the right team

UK: Remedy, the UK’s number one kombucha brand, has appointed a new Head of Sales, with Ian Hadley joining the team from his previous role at Fentimans. Mr Hadley’s appointment will see him developing Remedy’s relationships with key retailer partners such as Tesco, Morrisons and Holland & Barrett, as well as driving new business. The appointment comes at an exciting time for the brand, which has seen extraordinary growth over the last 12 months: its DTC sales have grown by more than 300 per cent, whilst the brand has also secured a number of new listings, including Tesco and, most recently, Ocado, where Remedy

in place. We are delighted to welcome Ian to Remedy and are excited at the knowledge, expertise and energy that he brings to the team.” As well as his role as In Home Controller at Fentimans, Hadley has worked across a range of drinks companies, including Heineken UK and Magners Irish Cider.

Kombucha Raspberry Lemonade and Ginger Lemon are now available in a number of formats. Speaking of his appointment, Mr Hadley said: “I’m thrilled to have joined Remedy at this immensely exciting stage of its journey. Remedy Kombucha is perfectly positioned to appeal to consumers who are seeking healthier, sugar-free drinks that also offer wider functional benefits, but who don’t want to compromise on taste or quality. I look forward to continuing to grow our partner relationships across the UK, and to introducing more customers to Remedy’s delicious range.” Anna Dominey, Remedy’s UK

ADNOC DISTRIBUTION LAUNCHES NEXT-GEN RETAIL EXPERIENCE UAE: ADNOC Distribution, the UAE’s largest fuel convenience retailer, has become the Middle East’s first fuel retailer to launch a next generation retail experience – a fully autonomous and contactless and cashierless ADNOC Oasis store. The UAE’s new technologically advanced store experience offers state-ofthe-art cashless and contactless payment system and an AI tech enhanced shopping environment. Busy customers will no longer have to queue or wait for staff to become available – and unlike existing self-service terminals in retail outlets, there is no need to scan items. Customers need only tap in with a bank card or an Emirates ID, scan the QR code, pick

up the items they need, and then simply walk out. Payment is taken after the customer leaves the store – either through the app or the bank card used to enter the store – with all details of purchase stored in the app or through an e-receipt. Every shelf in the store is equipped with an electronic LED screen that digitally displays the price as well as any current promotions. Offers and promotions will also be added and updated in real time, with prices adjusted accordingly – ensuring customers get the best deals as they become available. Where previous technology has only used cameras to track customers throughout the store, the new ADNOC Oasis also utilises

cutting-edge technology via weight sensors on shelves, enabling both camera and weight sensing information to more accurately track the customers' shopping, and ensure optimal accuracy and speed for the generated customer basket. In addition to picking up snacks or essentials, another unique offering at ADNOC Go stores will be the opportunity to grab fresh coffee and food. Customers will also be able to shop as a family using a single QR code for entry. Once family members have scanned the code and entered the store, they will be tracked as a group and all items taken from the shelves by anyone in the group will be added to a single virtual basket.


SUSTAINABILITY SERIES | Decarbonising F&B processing

COLLABORATION IS KEY TO REACH NET-ZERO IN F&B The food & beverage industry requires a wholesale upgrade of its electrical infrastructure if it is to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets, according to leading European energy provider Vattenfall. onfectionery, snacks and crisps, baked goods, fish and seafood, frozen foods, and beverages – the UK food and drink sector is as diverse as it is important to the country’s economy. Employing 4.3 million people, it contributes £120 billion to the economy annually – making it larger than automotive and aerospace combined. It is also a major consumer of energy. Unfortunately, too much of this is either of the wrong type, or is inefficient, with outmoded electrical infrastructure wasting energy. Energy demand in the sector is driven by high heat



demand for drying, evaporation, baking ovens, pasteurisation, kilning and steam production – not to mention refrigeration. Meat and poultry, and baking and biscuits are the biggest energy users, although inefficiencies invariably run throughout the sector. The food & beverage industry’s climate contribution is now firmly in the spotlight. COP26 prompted the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) to publish a report of the sector’s energy usage that articulated a roadmap to reach net-zero by 2040 – with one fundamental emphasis:

“Collaboration… is the only possible choice if we are to achieve our net zero ambitions,” highlighted Ian Write, CEO of the Federation. One company keen to offer support in this respect is technology supplier Vattenfall, who has a track record of aiding businesses to make the switch to electrical energy, by taking responsibility for the implementation, upgrades and repairs of electric infrastructure. Decarbonisation for dramatic savings

It has been estimated that a mind boggling 2.85 terawatt-hours of recoverable heat is

being wasted by the F&B sector every year. The Pan European Power Quality Survey concluded that annual losses attributed to power quality issues could amount to four per cent of business turnover. For some companies, such losses can run into many millions of pounds. At present, fuel use is dominated by gas (which accounts for twothirds of the power consumed), followed by electricity and a small amount of coal. The FDF’s findings show that the global food industry faces a formidable energy challenge. But where to start? Experts agree that significant benefits lie in simply upgrading the sector’s existing – and often archaic – electrical infrastructure. A good example of this is installing modern, more efficient transformers, which can slash electricity bills by 20 per cent – meaning short payback times. “Although the industry understands the importance of energy efficiency, it still does not [position] decarbonisation as a priority in the current investment climate, due to energy’s negligible proportion (2–10 per cent) of total production costs across the sector,” noted Gary Jacobs, food and drink sector specialist at Vattenfall UK. “This thinking needs to change if the sector’s significant carbon footprint is to be controlled to meet the required CO2 targets,” he added. The FDF roadmap concludes by saying: ‘To reduce emissions, food and drink manufacturers must improve energy efficiency, decarbonise heat processes, and source 100-per-cent renewable electricity’. “The FDF is not a lone voice,” continued Mr Jacobs. “The [UK] Government’s Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmap Action Plan states that ‘electrification of heat is one of the most important options for decarbonising the food and drink sectors.”

recent research paper on the topic – ‘Decarbonizing the food and beverages industry: A critical and systematic review of developments, sociotechnical systems and policy options’ – concluded: “Securing financial resources through capital allowances, capital improvement projects, and company budgets is seen as a ‘key enabler’ of energy efficiency and therefore climate mitigation.” One way of achieving this is by outsourcing electrical infrastructure to a specialised third party, such as Vattenfall. Its Power-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering effectively buys the electrical infrastructure from the F&B company, upgrades it to modern specifications, and then manages it at a fixed cost over a 10-year period. The upfront cash payment that Vattenfall pays for existing infrastructure can be used to invest in further carbon reduction or other business improvement measures. The PaaS model also allows companies to switch electrical infrastructure upgrades from a capital expense, to an operational one. And having a modern HV network means it will be more efficient and waste less electricity – meaning significant cost, carbon and energy savings. Long-term shopping list

The benefits of this kind of collaboration

– i.e., between food and drink companies and electrical experts – is that it enables holistic carbon reduction strategies, covering the whole of a business's energy infrastructure, to tease out every available increase in efficiency. This can include introducing solar panels, EV charging and battery storage as part of a 10-year plan that future-proofs the business energy infrastructure. Upgrading HV electrical infrastructure and using electricity from a clean energy source is an essential step for the food & drink industry to meet its zero-carbon ambitions, and for the UK to meet its COP26 targets. But the timer is on, and F&B companies should act now to initiate collaborations and secure the required capital from energy partners. Partnering with an energy specialist not only gives food & beverage companies the assurance of known expenses related to their electrical use over the long term; it also relieves management of the legal responsibility to safely manage it. Vattenfall welcomes the conclusions from the FDF’s report and handbook, and is eager to collaborate with the UK’s F&B players: by providing its capital and expertise, Vattenfall can help the food and drink industry cook up an energy efficient menu. o

Financing electrical infrastructure

With so many good reasons to upgrade the sector’s electrical infrastructure, why the hesitation? In a word – cost. Securing financial resources to enable capital improvement projects is a key enabler of energy efficiency improvements – and therefore climate mitigation. But finding the money to invest in what some still see as ‘non-essential’ projects can be an uphill battle. As mentioned above, there needs to be collaboration between the food and drink sector, government, manufacturers and other stakeholders to realise the opportunities. Sovacool et al’s 7

SUSTAINABILITY SERIES | Communicating the ethical message

TONY’S (EMPTY) WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY Ethical chocolate producer Tony's Chocolonely has apologised after leaving the eighth window in its advent calendar empty. The Netherlands-based firm’s aim was had been to highlight inequality in the chocolate industry, yet it faced a barrage of customer complaints as children were left upset by the missing treat. Here, James Edney, Sustainability Strategy Director at Given – the London-based agency for purpose-driven brands – responds to the controversy, which he sees as a positive PR opportunity for the chocolate-maker. a parent of a five-yearold whose first thought upon waking is “where is my advent calendar”, and as a professional working in the purpose space at Given, I see Tony’s advent calendar and subsequent apology as an interesting piece of PR to consider. Both the calendar and the apology seem a positive PR opportunity for the brand to communicate its purposeful stance.”


Message undermined by apology

“Tony’s is a brand that has done a great job of raising awareness of an important issue,

and there is a real risk that for the consumer, the overriding message that will probably be left once the dust settles is one of a brand ‘getting it wrong’ – and that could undermine all of the important messaging that Tony’s tries to share through its purpose. I’m in a privileged position where I would be comfortable and knowledgeable enough to have a conversation with my daughter about an empty advent calendar window – and ultimately, I don’t think Tony’s should have apologised.”

Highlighting stance on inequality

“The controversy has created an interesting news hook in which the brand has been able to peg an explanation of its position on inequality within the chocolate industry. With many of the news pieces talking about the brand’s views, you could say it has helped cement its position as a brand with purpose credentials. However, making an apology for taking an ethical position seems odd. The brand’s disgust for children working in illegal conditions in Ghana and the Ivory Coast is justified, but is not something that should be associated with an apology”. 8

Creating space for conversation

“In terms of it ‘causing offence to children’, as some comments from parents suggest, children need to learn about issues of social injustice – and the empty calendar slot created the space for a conversation. But children need to be communicated to in the right way, and one that’s appropriate to their age – and that is where Tony’s could have done a much better job. For lots of children and parents, there would just have been disappointment, tears, and I’m sure the immediate opening of the ninth window to salvage some chocolate.” o

SUSTAINABILITY SERIES | Vertical farming advances

BRINGING VERTICAL FARMING DOWN TO EARTH With its new soil substrate agri-tech vertical farm system, Israeli-Dutch venture Future Crops is reshaping agriculture in a bid to sustain the world’s growing population with high-yield crops. he challenges posed by urbanisation and the gradual dwindling of arable land is driving more farming indoors. The agri-tech start-up Future Crops Ltd has developed the first indoor vertical farming system that grows its crops in a unique soil substrate composition, bringing this nascent farming concept closer to home and to the earth. The Israeli-Dutch venture has established a fully automated 8,000m2 indoor vertical farm in Westland, Netherlands – the so-called ‘greenhouse hub’ of Europe. The nine-storey-high structure is powered primarily by solar energy, and utilises high precision agricultural technology. The advanced facility can provide optimal growing conditions for a broad spectrum of leafy greens and herbs.



Future Crops CEO and co-founder Gary Grinspan attests that this method of cultivation not only delivers quality fresh produce; it also enables the produce to reclaim its original characteristic taste and aromas that have been degraded following decades of pesticide use and industry pressures to place the focus on boosting output. Future Crops’ advanced technology maximises yield per area unit in comparison to traditional agriculture, with no compromise on quality. ‘The Plant Whisperer’

The company utilises innovative, datadriven technology to tailor the ideal environmental conditions for crops to thrive within a highly controlled, automated structure. The system controls dozens

of parameters of growth conditions – including humidity, temperature and lighting – in order to create optimal climatic conditions to suit each crop. Mr Grinspan describes his firm’s technology as akin to a ‘plant whisperer’. “Plants will draw what they need from nature,” he explained. “Our team of agronomists are able to ‘listen’ to each plant to determine its individual needs in real time – how much ‘sleep’ versus light, the type of light, air quality, how much water, specific nutrient needs, etc. The plants ‘respond’ in their own unique language as expressed via small nuances such as changes in morphology, shape, size, and color. Via these signals, our algorithm can be primed to provide the plants with precisely what they need at each stage of their life cycle.”

Future Crops vertical farm have demonstrated a longer shelf-life and reach full growth in significantly less time, enabling multiple growth cycles. This significantly shortens the farm-to-table supply chain by weeks, including reducing food mileage. Start-up secures US$30m in first funding round

The crops are grown in a soil-based substrate. “We composed a unique, nutrient-enriched soil-like recipe as the bed for growing all our produce to keep it as close to what nature intended,” continued Mr Grinspan. “We learned from nature and did not want to change its rules. Our system can consistently grow a comprehensive range of herbs and leafy microgreens throughout the year, completely free of any pesticides or biological substances, and with zero dependence on climate conditions.” Rethinking the agricultural value chain

Experts globally warn of food shortages due to a growing population forecast to exceed 10 billion over the next decade. Lack of availability of fertile land dedicated to growing crops will soon strain the planet. This is further compounded by climatic instability which threatens many cultivars. These trends have challenged the agricultural industry to rethink the farming paradigm in a way that allows greater

productivity in a more sustainable manner, and with less use of resources. Moreover, the combination of environmental, logistical and geopolitical bottlenecks is spurring initiatives to bring food sources closer to home. High-tech vertical farming offers a means of achieving voluminous crop outputs in limited space. Crops grown in the

Following a family tragedy, Gary Grinspan left a long corporate career within major CPG food companies, including PepsiCo and Unilever. Wanting to devote his energies toward bettering the world, he established Future Crops. The company was founded in 2016, in conjunction with the Israeli Agricultural Research Organisation (ARO) and A&F Ventures, a private equity arm run by the Lerman Family, leaders in the American steel industry. The company secured US$30 million in its first round of funding, providing a major portion to advance its efforts to transform the agricultural value chain. The company sealed a joint R&D venture with Nativ Dudai, PhD, and David Haimovitch, PhD, both of the Israeli Agricultural Research Organisation Institute (ARO), where Mr Dudai heads up the medical and aromatic plant unit. “Food system resilience is at the core of Future Crops’ vision, and the key to building a better future for generations to follow,” stated Mr Dudai, PhD. “It’s time to reevaluate the way we use our natural resources, to deliver clean, sustainable crops and ensure food security,” he stressed. Future Crops currently runs supply contracts with a leading grocery retailer in the Netherlands and with additional world-class retailers in Europe. o Gary Grinspan, CEO and Co-founder of Future Crops



EUROPE: Compassion in World Farming has launched its preliminary European ChickenTrack report, which aims to measure company progress towards meeting the higher welfare requirements of the 2026 Better Chicken Commitment (BCC). This introductory report rounds up progress over the past year, provides some examples of best practice reporting, and lays down a reporting framework for businesses to adopt ahead of the 2022 European

ChickenTrack. Over the past four years, more than 270 food companies have acknowledged their responsibility in improving the breeding, living conditions and slaughter practices for the meat chickens in their supply by committing to the BCC, promising to introduce the higher welfare criteria by 2026. Measures include using slowergrowing breeds that have better welfare outcomes, and providing the birds with more space to live and

enriching their environment via access to perches, pecking substrates (such as straw bales or scattered grain) and natural light. Signatories must also use more humane slaughter methods and submit to third-party audits. This move in the market is the biggest shift in chicken welfare for over a decade and ChickenTrack aims to drive compliance and encourage transparency, by sharing best practice from the companies who are demonstratively leading the way. This first edition highlights some examples of best practice reporting from companies like KFC, M&S and Sodebo in France, and provides a reporting framework that companies can adopt. It explains how Compassion will begin to track and report on company progress annually starting from 2022. ‘The growing number of commitments across the different food sectors is a positive and hugely important first

step towards making higher welfare chicken the norm, but a fundamental shift across – and from within – the industry is needed, and requires a collective effort to build supply of higher welfare chicken ahead of the 2026 BCC deadline,’ noted Compassion in a statement. ‘Companies must work with their suppliers and agree contracts; parent flocks will need to be laid down and scaled-up, product offerings may need to change, and the consumer needs to be brought on board.’ ChickenTrack will begin to highlight company progress towards broiler welfare commitments in 2022, and companies are asked to publicly disclose their reporting ahead of the 31 July 2022 deadline. To find out more about the ChickenTrack Report, go to: m/our-work/key-tools-forsuccess/chickentrack

Melodea spearheads new era in sustainable, bio-based packaging ISRAEL: Green-tech start-up Melodea, Ltd has joined the sustainable packaging scene with the launch of MelOx™ – a high-performance, plantsourced barrier coating that protects packaged products from oxygen, and oil and grease transmission. The company has also developed Melodea VBcoat™ , which protects packaged goods from water vapour, alongside oil and grease transmission. Unlike existing materials used for such purposes like plastics and aluminium, Melodea sources its barrier coating material for packaging from wood pulp – the same raw material used to make paper. The innovative coatings are sustainable and recyclable, and do not contribute to plastic waste pollution.


“Cellulose, the primary building block of the cell walls of all plants, is the most abundant biopolymer on the planet,” explained Shaul Lapidot, PhD – CEO and co-founder of Melodea. “It provides plants with extraordinary strength, and is a lightweight – yet strong – material We found that this bounteous and renewable material can be utilised to produce novel, ecofriendly packaging alternatives for the packaging industry.” The company applies proprietary technology to extract cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp sourced from trees grown in industrial forests. The sustainable barrier coatings are uniquely designed to offer protection from oxygen, oil, grease, and water vapour transmission. The coatings

help maintain the quality and integrity of the packaged foods inside, while eliminating the need for aluminum and plastic. As a forestry by-product, the innovation is also compostable, recyclable, and completely non-toxic to both people and the environment. Once used, one can simply throw it into the recycling bin. The award-winning start-up’s liquid formulas can be applied as a coating to various substrates, including paper, paperboard, bio-plastic, and even

plastic itself. The high-barrier coatings can be tailored to a broad range of packaging products, such as pouches, lids, and food and beverage cartons, and is suitable for packaging both dry and liquid products. “Our coatings can easily be integrated into standard industrial coating lines, including slot dies, rod coaters, and gravures,” noted Zvika Weiss, CFO of Melodea, adding that the coatings are already in pilot use by a number of major companies.

Saint Benevolence, the Haitian Rum Clairin that gives back with every sip HAITI/UK: Brand new to the UK, Saint Benevolence showcases the tradition of Haitian Rum Clairin – a rustic, terroir-driven sugar cane spirit. Produced in partnership with its third-generation distillers, Saint Benevolence sends 100-per-

cent of its profits to charity – to work the brand has been funding in Haiti for 20 years. Saint Benevolence was founded by Calvin and Chase Babcock (pictured) as a means of merging a love of rum with the charitable endeavours that

this father-son team has brought to the island nation of Haiti over the last four decades, in partnership with Reverend Gueillant Dorcinvil – a Saint Michel native. Working closely with longstanding non-profit partners

Innovating Health International, Ti Kay and Living Hope Haiti, Saint Benevolence is dedicated to dramatically improving the quality of life for people living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Every sip of Saint Benevolence 50% ABV rum clairin directly funds lifechanging medical services, educational programmes and economic developments that benefit the people and local communities of Northern Haiti. Saint Benevolence is available to purchase online from The Whisky Exchange and DrinkSupermarket (RRP: £44.99), and is distributed by Skylark Spirits:

Delafruit announces B Corp certification SPAIN: Natural food manufacturer Delafruit has announced it has achieved B Corp status, which recognises businesses who are meeting higher social and environmental standards. Delafruit (previously known as Go Fruselva) is one of Ella’s Kitchen’s biggest partners and the company credits the baby food brand with inspiring it to seek certification. Delafruit began the B Corp certification process back in 2018, after taking part in Ella’s Kitchen’s ‘B the Change’ programme, which used an adapted version of the B Corp assessment to measure and then report on its partners’ social and environmental impact. As part of its certification, Delafruit has now created a new multidisciplinary team to lay the foundations of its new B Corp objectives, with sustainable packaging and climate action identified as two of the main commitments, alongside concrete short-term actions such as reducing energy impact and water consumption; and enhancing the recycle ratio, as well as a long-term focus on impact on local community and environment. Since beginning the certification

process, Delafruit has been working to reduce its environmental impact and introduce new initiatives and benefits for their team. In order to reduce its impact on the environment, Delafruit has already successfully implemented several changes such as switching to LED lighting throughout its facilities and replacing boiler burners, reducing the consumption of gas by the business. Further changes include improving wastewater treatment facilities to be more efficient, switching to a 100-percent renewable electricity provider, upgrading chemical storage, and increasing its use of sustainable packaging by 50 per cent. Delafruit is also

in the process of improving production processes to reduce energy and water consumption and changing product heat treatment technology to reduce water consumption. To improve the working environment for its staff, Delafruit has introduced a free bus for all staff – to both ease travel for employees and reduce the environmental impact of transportation – as well as free physiotherapy session for employees. Delafruit has also introduced English classes during working hours, enabling employees to boost their language skills and improve their communication and relationship with English-speaking clients within the working day. Delafruit have also

implemented a new Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Luis Blanc, CEO of Delafruit, said that his firm “would like to thank our partner Ella's Kitchen for being the inspiration to become a member of the B Corp community, as there is no better way to contribute to a better world than through business. Becoming part of this transformation project ensures we are placing people, health and our planet as our top priorities,” he added. Katie Hill, CEO of B Lab Europe, called it a “double pleasure” to have both Ella’s Kitchen and Delafruit representing the B Corp community. “We see this impact-led collaboration as a model that any business can adopt,” she stressed. “It starts by opening up the conversation.”


CHALLENGES OF OUR TIMES | Sugar dust explosions, and how to prevent them

POPPING CANDY The combustion of sugar dust is a very real risk for companies involved in the ingredient’s production and handling, with explosions posing a potentially deadly risk. Here, US equipment manufacturer BS&B Safety Systems ( explores how to reduce the risk and prevent a deflagration. ugar is combustible and therefore presents an explosion hazard when it is finely divided and dispersed as a dust cloud in air – all that’s needed is an ignition source. Sugar fines from the handling of crystalline sugar can trigger an explosion – and the finer the sugar, the greater the risk.

S 14

Resultantly, confectioners’ powdered sugar – also known as 10X sugar, or icing sugar – which has a particle size in the order of 60 microns, can be a particular hazard, with the milling of sugar to achieve this fine particle size presenting a potential ignition source. In facilities that handle or produce

sugar, fines can accumulate in numerous areas including on the production floor; along conveyor belts and on machinery; in hot rotary dryers used to dry sugar; in steel storage and conditioning silos; in dust collectors, and on beams, rafters, light fixtures and other horizonal surfaces. When sugar is then moved or disturbed

Aftermath of the deadly 2008 Imperial Sugar refinery explosion in the US city of Georgia, which killed 14 people and injured a further 40

– such as during start-up, shutdown, loading or unloading – it is prone to become airborne, with ample exposure to oxygen in the air. Add any ignition source, and the combination can result in devastating explosions. Potentially devastating explosions from sugar dust

In dust explosions, there is often a smaller initial explosion, followed by a larger secondary explosion. In such cases, the first explosion creates pressure waves that add turbulence and can increase dust loading, followed by a large ignition source.

Sugar dust fuelled the Imperial Sugar refinery explosion in the US city of Georgia in 2008 – an industrial disaster that claimed the lives of 14 people and injured some 40 more. After the explosion, OSHA proposed the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008, a bill that aimed to reduce dust explosion risk. When viewing a plant or process, it is helpful for plant operators and managers to ask three central questions: 1. How can I prevent a deflagration event from starting? 2. How can I mitigate the pressure created from a deflagration? 3. How can I prevent a deflagration from propagating to another piece of equipment, or into the environment around the equipment? To protect process equipment and personnel, a hybrid of technical measures is often required. Among the options are passive devices such as explosion vents along with active devices such as explosion suppression equipment. In addition, explosion isolation devices are vital to protect connected equipment and piping from propagating resulting in a secondary event, which can often be more dangerous and destructive than the initial event.

structure – and if it is not of adequate strength to withstand the pressure, extensive damage and injury to personnel can occur. Good housekeeping is essential since even relatively small amounts of combustible sugar dust can pose a dangerous explosion hazard. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the US, just 1/32 of an inch of such dust covering just five per cent of the surface area of a room “presents a signif- ‡

Dust explosion prevention

Explosions result from an ignition of dust when mixed with air during processing, handling, or storage operations. A rapid rise in pressure occurs in the containing

The holes and slots in traditional composite vents can admit particulates and debris over time, so the vents become heavier in weight and open slowly and less efficiently


CHALLENGES OF OUR TIMES | Sugar dust explosions, and how to prevent them for product accumulation within processing equipment can also help to reduce sources of ignition. Dust explosion venting

A single-section explosion vent from BS&B is more robust, lighter in weight, and largely eliminates the potential for build-up or contamination

icant explosion hazard”. Equipment where airborne dust can accumulate includes mechanical conveyors. Whenever an enclosed conveyor is being filled or emptied, there is a potential dust cloud at that point that could be ignited. Dust collection equipment such as baghouses are particularly subject to potential explosions since they typically handle the driest, finest dust in a process. Dust can also accumulate when conveyed or when product is discharged into silos. Additionally, process equipment such as bucket elevators and hammermills can generate not only dust, but also provide an 16

ignition source for a dust explosion. The first step in mitigating the risk of a dust explosion is preventing an event from occurring. Careful housekeeping keeps the area free of dust, and is a vital activity to protect both the building structure and personnel. Identifying and controlling potential ignition sources is also critical. While ignition sources cannot be totally eliminated, they can be significantly reduced. Techniques include monitoring belt alignment, slippage, motor drive overloading, and bearing temperatures. Preventative maintenance on equipment such as rotary airlocks as well as checking

During the early stages of a dust explosion, explosion vents open rapidly at a predetermined burst pressure, allowing the rapidly expanding combustion gases to escape to the atmosphere and limiting the pressure generated inside the process equipment to calculated safe limits. Venting is the most widely adopted protection mechanism because it provides an economical solution and is often considered as a ‘fit-and-forget’ solution. However, it is important to note that vents need to be regularly inspected: Product build-up from materials such as solidified sugar can prevent explosion relief devices from operating effectively. For decades, explosion vents have traditionally been designed using a “composite” approach that sandwiches plastic film between more resistant stainless-steel sheets with holes, or slots, cut into it. These vents are designed to ‘open’ at typically 1 to 1.5 PSI set pressure. With this type of technology, the holes and slots in the stainless-steel sheets can admit particulates and debris over time. The build-up can eventually affect the functionality of the vent. A vent that becomes heavier in weight will open slowly and less efficiently. A better solution is a single-section explosion vent, comprised of a solitary sheet of stainless steel in a domed configuration. Perforations around the perimeter aid opening at the desired low set pressure and are protected with gasket materials. The single-section domed design produces a vent that is more robust, lighter in weight and also largely eliminates the potential for build-up or contamination. Venting is not limited to process equipment. It should be considered for building volumes in which it is not possible to adequately control fugitive dust. Despite its popularity, explosion vents will not work for every application. With venting, the combustion process releases a large ball of flame into the atmosphere. While this might be an acceptable consequence for outdoor equipment such as silos, for applications within a plant it could endanger personnel or equipment, and even lead to a secondary explosion. o


Goya Foods boosts output with 16 Flexicon automated bulk bag dischargers USA: Goya Foods – the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the US today – has boosted productivity and capacity with the integration at its new Jersey City facility of 16 bulk bag and rigid tote IBC discharger systems supplied by Flexicon Corporation. Founded in 1936, Goya Foods today imports ingredients from around the world to create more than 2,500 food products of Latin cuisine traditional to Mexico, Spain, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. In 2015, the company opened its new HQ and distribution centre in Jersey City. At 22,300 square metres, the new site is four times larger than the previous facility and relieves several longstanding bottlenecks, said Luis Valencia, the new site’s Plant Engineer.

“We had run out of capacity for rice mixtures at our previous site. In fact, all of the existing lines, including the bean and flour lines, were over-utilised. We were overdue for a change.” To prevent supply disruptions, Goya continued operating all 12 of its rice, bean and flour lines at the previous site while outfitting the new site with a new high-speed pouch-filling rice line, and more efficient bulk handling and packaging equipment, including 16 bulk bag and rigid tote IBC discharger systems supplied by Flexicon Corporation. “We had Flexicon equipment here already, so we knew they were reliable systems,” Mr Valencia said. “Efficiency is the focus because the product and process demand it,” he noted. “The processes are relatively uncomplicated,

so the simpler the process, the higher our efficiency must be. We’re always looking to increase quality, safety and efficiency.” To increase productivity, Goya needed to accelerate its handling of bulk bags. The Bulk-Out® BFC bulk bag dischargers load bags quickly by means of a cantilevered I-beam, hoist and trolley. Mr Valencia informed that the fast-loading units allow just two forklift drivers to serve the site’s 16 bulk bag dischargers. A single operator can load and discharge bulk bags across several product lines. Goya Secaucus packages products from around 50 different varieties of

beans and 30 different flours. Each has slightly different flow characteristics. “We change over constantly, and when you change a bean or a flour or a rice mix, there’s a lot of fine-tuning,” Mr Valencia advised. “Fine flours are among the tougher products. “It’s a challenge to dial it in – the higher the speed, the more precision is required,” he remarked. “Flexicon helped us with upgrading our electronics. They made sure the dischargers were feeding correctly and the controls were reading the hopper levels correctly. We control the weights better now and avoid process loss,” he added.

Flux unlocks cashback offers marketing for hospitality SMEs

UK: Digital receipts data platform Flux is levelling the playing field for small businesses: Retailers using Zettle, Square, Shopwave or Sumup can now onboard and set up a Flux cashback offer in less than 10 minutes. Flux is introducing a new simple sign-up process that allows retailers to join Flux in a matter of minutes and launch offers quickly – making it easier than ever for retailers to boost their brand and grow their sales. Built for SMEs, “Flux Offers is a freeto-join cashback offers platform designed to turn customer eyes into buys”, the firm told Food & Beverage Networker. The

subscription-free service uses unique attribution capabilities to only charge users once a genuine sale has been generated through its platform. It allows selected SMEs to join in 10 minutes, with cashback offers going live within a week. Retailers that use Zettle, Square, Shopwave or SumUp POS systems can sign up to Flux and link their PoS system into Flux’s network via Joining Flux grants access to Flux’s merchant portal and unlocks a world of useful receiptsbased tools and benefits, including Flux Offers, which allow retailers to create instant, fully-customised cashback offers, targeted at Monzo and Starling customers, generating brand awareness and sales. Signup also offers access to Flux Insights, where retailers can view core data to better understand their performance, with bespoke insight commentary and easy-to-understand graphs. Additionally, Flux Receipts allows retailers to generate digital receipts for their customers in Monzo and Starling banking apps, increasing brand exposure.

The new onboarding flow is suitable for any retailer using the relevant POS systems, and reflects Flux’s ambition to scale its retail network across the UK’s high streets. The system has already been adopted by a range of London favourites and big name brands, including Itsu, KFC, and online retailer Just Eat. For retailers that do not use Zettle, Square, Shopwave or SumUp, Flux has said its tech team is able to

support quick and simple integrations. “Designed as a tool to help increase brand visibility, awareness, and growth, Flux can take your offers to thousands of consumers, enabling the smallest of businesses to compete on the big stages,” the firm said in a statement. Since 2016, Flux has delivered over 8.5 million digital receipts to UK customers – available at more than 33,000 locations.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY | The future of food delivery service

AUGMENTED TAKEAWAYS Augmented reality could transform the food delivery space within the next five years, predicts Ardian Mula, CEO of Foodhub. 18

win-win – for the consumer, who will enjoy a never-before-seen buying experience, and for the trader, with access to a new and exciting marketing tool. A “game-changer” for takeaway firms and customers alike

An artist’s impression of how AR could enhance the takeaway experience

ugmented reality (AR) will enable customers to experience the sights, sounds and possibly even smells, of their favourite takeaway, offering consumers the full takeaway experience without leaving the house. That’s the belief of Ardian Mula, who together with his management team at online food portal Foodhub ( have put plans in place to develop AR within the business, placing the food delivery company at the forefront of the tech revolution. Mr Mula says that many of the 20,000 restaurants and takeaways currently partnered with his Stoke-on-Trent-based firm could have access to the tech within just five years. He sees the development as a


“I see this technology as being a gamechanger for both the industry and the takeaway consumer. Imagine as a consumer if you could have the full takeaway experience, using just your smartphone and a pair of goggles?” the CEO suggested. “This could allow customers to effectively walk into a takeaway and get the full flavour of the business – from the branding to the shop interior. They could then ‘shop’ their own order, from building a burger to picking a pizza off the shelf, as well as interacting with staff – all from the comfort of their own living room. “Since the Covid-19 pandemic, people’s ordering habits have changed, and technology such as this will revitalise the industry in a way we haven’t seen for a long time,” he added. As progress is made developing this software, Foodhub is also funnelling significant resources into improving the technology available to independent takeaways right now, with the aim of using technology to improve efficiency, order levels and profitability. “Whilst larger chains have had access to different technologies for some time, at Foodhub we want to see a level playing field across the big players within the industry and local high street takeaways,” Mr Mula stressed. The entirely cashless takeaway

It is also possible that takeaways will soon become entirely cashless, with more affordable technology such as pay by QR becoming the norm. “QR codes can be printed for pennies, a stark contrast to expensive payment hardware,” Mr Mula advised. “In global markets such as India, there has been a big emphasis placed on providing businesses with these more affordable technologies, and we see a big opportunity to providing business owners with the chance to save on tech and instead invest elsewhere.” In fact, deploying software online will reduce the need for takeaway owners to

rely on hardware across the board. Fusion 2.0 – an update to Foodhub’s software system currently in trial with 100 takeaways across the UK – will see traditional tools such as tills and printers being replaced with the need for only one device, such as an iPhone or iPad. Using one device that can act as a digital chef ’s menu, order management system, payment device and a tool to remove boundaries across multiple sites will result in less waste and increased efficiency. Modularisation within the platform also gives takeaways the ability to access different features, whilst simply and easily being able to turn on and off anything they do not require access to. In turn, this provides access to cutting-edge technology, at an affordable cost. Transformation through automation

Another development that aims to bring independents in line with larger chains is the more widespread introduction of automation. In practice, this involves kitchens having access to machinery that cooks food the same perfect way every time. “While this tech, which has been used by big businesses for years, would reduce the need for staff, it would additionally solve staffing issues for many, whilst also resulting in increased customer satisfaction through providing a better, more precise, product,” Mr Mula said. “We’d love to see more independents with access to technology like this.” An exciting era of evolution

Looking further into the future, within a decade Mr Mula foresees drones and robots delivering food – particularly in more remote rural areas. Overall, he sees it is an incredibly exciting time for an industry that thrived throughout the recent lockdowns and now needs to sustain consumer appetite for food deliveries. “We’re incredibly excited about the evolution that the food industry is experiencing right now – and Foodhub is pleased to be at the forefront of it,” Mr Mula added in closing. “We are dedicating a lot of resource to ensure that we are on the cutting edge of this technology and are in a position to help our independent partners capitalise when the time is right.” o 19

TRENDS IN TRADE | Ingredient innovations for the Middle East & Africa


Fresh from Ingredion’s impactful appearance at Gulfood Manufacturing 2021, some of the ingredient heavyweight’s key executives get their heads together to respond to Food & Beverage Networker’s quick-fire questions on the leading firm’s recent advancements in the EMEA region, and to explore the future regional trends and dynamics to watch out for in the ingredients space. ngredion is today a very well established presence in the Middle East and Africa. With rising demand throughout these regions for convenience products that fit into consumers’ increasingly busy lifestyles, the demand for specialty ingredients likewise continues to expand. With this in mind, Ingredion has expanded its presence and distribution network, and

I 20

currently boasts three sales offices and Idea Lab® innovation centres across the region. Besides the sales and Idea Labs, the ingredients giant keeps local inventory through its impressive supply chain infrastructure with four warehouses in Africa (three in South Africa and one in Kenya), complimented by the firm’s logistics partners. Ingredion also has a fully-fledged

customer service and supply chain team in Africa – managing imports, exports and customer order delivery and invoicing process. A strong network of distributors across Africa and the Middle East completes Ingredion’s customer management process in the region. Following another successful showcase at this year’s Gulfood Manufacturing, a

“This year, we have showcased more of our food solutions that combine our technical knowledge with our ingredient functionality to support our customer challenges such as cost and fat reduction without compromising product quality. For example, our PRECISA Thick 1210 solution provides this in Greek-style yoghurt, where we have been able to reduce the amount of costly milk proteins and unwanted high-fat content while maintaining the mouthfeel and texture of a full-fat and protein Greek yoghurt. It’s important to connect to our customers and to support presence in the region.” What resources does Ingredion draw upon in the Middle East and Africa regions to support its operations?

“Ingredion has offices and Idea Labs across the region in Dubai, Kenya, and South Africa, with multi-lingual and local technical and sales functions supported by experts in the regional headquarters in Europe. In addition, we work with an established distributor network. This enables local, flexible and fast prototyping – while we can leverage from the expertise and special resources like marketing and application specialists in our global network.” What factors have been most important to Ingredion’s success within the highgrowth Middle East and Africa markets – and, more broadly speaking, on the global stage?

“Ingredion’s Middle East and Africa

presence offers customers full solutions, like in-depth technical support, re-formulations guidance and supports implementing products in factories. Our highly motivated and local team has a close relationship with customers to provide customers with what they need.” The rising popularity of plant-based foods sees no sign of abating. How does Ingredion help manufacturers to tap into this ever-strengthening trend?

“Sources of plant protein include ingredients such as chickpeas, dried peas, beans and lentils – all rich in protein and high in fibre. They help deliver a high nutritional value. Suitable for a range of applications, including bakery, snacks and dairy and meat alternatives, pulse ingredients enable manufacturers to make various ontrend claims such as ‘clean label’, ‘allergenfree’, ‘gluten-free’ and of course, ‘a source of protein’. “With more people adopting a flexitarian diet, consumers are frequently switching between meat and non-meat products. However, they expect the quality of their products to remain the same. Plant proteins can be used in the formulation of alternative products to help deliver a consumer-preferred experience. For example, in meat alternatives, plant proteins help to improve bite and firmness, while in dairy alternatives, they can help deliver a creamy mouthfeel. Manufacturers can provide the preferred texture and sensory profile while enriching with protein and making dairy-free or meat-free claims. ‡

group of Ingredion’s top EMEA executives – Esen Kural (Senior Business Development Manager – Emerging Markets, Ingredion); Muserref Karadayi (Regional Lead, Emerging Market, PureCircle by Ingredion); Firas Abu Irshaid (Technical Sales Accounts Manager – Middle East, Ingredion), and Kevin Alder (Ingredion’s Senior Culinologist™ – EMEA) – give us the lowdown on how the firm is leveraging upon key trends and supporting its clients with a whole host of innovative new food solutions. Could you tell me more about Ingredion’s participation in Gulfood Manufacturing 2021, including the specific solutions showcased?


TRENDS IN TRADE | Ingredient innovations for the Middle East & Africa

“In gluten-free applications, plant proteins help add appeal by improving the colour and browning of products. They can also help stabilise crumbs and replace ingredients such as eggs, enabling vegan claims and the replacement of costly ingredients. “We are also seeing growth of hybrid products, whereby manufacturers are formulating recipes with a reduced meat content combined with plant proteins. This enables manufacturers to benefit from the reduction of costly ingredients such as eggs, while boosting the health appeal of their products and attracting the flexitarian market. “Both consumer demand and manufacturing challenges must be addressed

together to create market-accepted, innovative products. Ingredion has the right on-trend, plant-based, allergen-free portfolio to solve those challenges. With our HOMECRAFT® Pulse 3105 ngredients/emea/homecraft-pulse-310570000031.html faba bean flour and VITESSENCE™ Pulse 1803 mea/vitessence-pulse-180337422e00.html pea protein isolate, you can add protein and fibre to cereals and snack foods, replace costly eggs in baked goods and extend texture in meat products while boosting health appeal. In addition, they’re a more sustainable choice than animal proteins. Using pulses in your prod-

ucts will help you to achieve success in key consumer trends such as higher protein diets, allergen-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, while improving structure, colour and clean label.” Are there any ways in which Ingredion’s solutions can enhance the sustainability credentials of its clients’ products?

“Sustainability is one of the most prevalent trends in the food industry right now. There are a variety of solutions from Ingredion to address sustainability topics. One of them is related to required formulation changes to address more sustainable packaging, e.g. – reducing plastic use by opting for glass or paper packaging. This change can influence moisture management. Ingredion can offer solutions to help keep the same texture though, whatever the packaging alternative.” The pandemic has served to accelerate consumer demand for healthy eating and has also boosted interest in functional foods. In what ways does Ingredion help its clients leverage upon such consumer demand?

“Ingredion has a broad portfolio to support healthy eating with a distinctive range of proteins, fibres and sugar alternatives. Protein is top-of-mind among consumers these days, and we are seeing people of all ages embracing plant-based proteins as an alternative to animal-based 22

proteins. Consumers are gravitating to pulse ingredients made from pulses like peas and chickpeas. “Regarding Fibre: HI-MAIZE® 260 edients/emea/himaize-260-22000b01.html resistant starch is a dietary fibre that enhances everyday foods’ nutritional profile, helping you meet the consumer demand for fibre enrichment. Comprised of approximately 53-per-cent resistant starch (dietary fibre) and 40-per-cent digestible starch, HI-MAIZE® 260 can be easily added to standard recipe formulations by partially replacing regular flour. “With regards to sugar and fat reduction, you can get the unique taste and texture of fruit juice without all the sugar; Moist, chewy cookies that are reduced in calories and entirely glutenfree; Creamy carbonara pasta sauce that is rich in flavour but low in fat. Can consumers really have it all? Yes, they can. And with science-based problem-solving at Ingredion Idea Labs® innovation centres, it’s easier than ever. “We can help our customers reduce sugar and fats in their products while maintaining every bit of taste, texture and functionality. With a global network of innovators in constant collaboration with customers and each other, we are always uncovering new ingredients and revolutionary ways to use them. This makes removing ingredients just another way of giving your foods and beverages an edge with consumers.

“Create reduced-oil or non-egg dressings that consumers can’t distinguish from full-fat or full-egg versions; Offer a reduced-fat sour cream that matches the gold standard or soup with the same indulgence of a cream-containing product. The just-right thickness and body come from N-DULGE® and PRECISA® optimised texture systems. “Using our unique DIAL-IN® Technology – a rapid, robust, consumercentric approach to texture optimisation –, we can help you achieve your desired textures quickly: from glossy sauces and seemingly high-calorie side dishes, to spoonable dressings and pulpy tomato sauces. Our formulation, CULINOLOGY®, and processing experts make it all straightforward – transforming your better-for-you products into consumers’ all-time favourites.” “With respect to proteins: Demand for protein is on the rise among consumers, and now is the time to capitalise on this growing trend. Pulses, including dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas, are an incredibly rich source of protein. These nutritional powerhouses are also high in dietary fibre, rich in micronutrients, vegan and gluten-free. With our HOMECRAFT® Pulse 3105 faba bean flour and VITESSENCE™ Pulse 1803 e00.html pea protein isolate, you can add protein and fibre to cereals and snack foods, replace costly eggs in baked goods and extend texture in meat products while

boosting health appeal. What’s more, they’re a more sustainable choice than animal proteins. Using pulses in their products will help them achieve success in key consumer trends such as higher protein diets, allergen-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, while improving structure, colour and clean label.” What other key market trends/ opportunities can you identify specifically in the Middle East and Africa today? And how is Ingredion responding to these?

“Along with the demand for healthier food, we see a growing interest in clean label food products. While it has been very niche in the past years, the growing education on healthier food also raises awareness for the ingredients used, and consumers are watching out for clean and simple labels. Ingredion’s proprietary consumer research shows that 75 per cent of consumers in the Middle East and Africa are looking for clean label claims when buying packaged food or beverages, such as no additives, natural or organic [Ingredion proprietary research ATLAS 2020, Algeria, Kenya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Africa]. The use of clean label positionings grew by 21 per cent in MEA over the past five years [Innova Market Insights, own analysis 2016-2021].” o To learn more about Ingredion’s latest innovations, visit: 23

TRENDS IN TRADE | Consumer focus on sustainability

PRIORITISING THE PLANET Sustainability and plant-based represent ‘major shifts in the industry’, having now surpassed personal health as consumers’ biggest global concern, according to Innova Market Insights, which recently launched its Top Ten Trends for 2022 in collaboration with the recently held Food Ingredients Europe. ased on consumer research and global surveys conducted across 11 countries, Innova’s trend predictions offer food and drink manufacturers insights into the issues that will drive and shape consumer choices throughout 2022. “Sustainability is very much on the agenda, and even if it’s not the number one purchase driver for consumers, it might be the tie-breaker,” said Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova. “Consumers are aspirational, so it’s definitely going to be on people’s minds more and more.”



“Sustainability is more and more a consumer issue. Instead of making some big general proclamation about their credentials, brands now have to [do] something more understandable in terms of measurements or the social impact,” she continued. Plant-based innovation

Innova’s second big trend for 2022 is the evolution of the plant-based category. According to Ms. Williams, plant-based products are no longer just about mimicking meat or dairy, but instead represent a whole platform for innovation with expanding sub-categories and increased premiumisation. The past year has seen a diverse range of product launches from vegan salmon in Brazil to a range of plant-based seafood in Asia by Omnipork, for instance, and over the past year Innova has tracked a 59-per-cent increase in new plant-based

products that also carry a premium or indulgence claim. “We now see top chefs offering vegan menus, we see whole muscle foods creep onto the agenda with more plant-based steaks or sushi, and higher quality [products],” observed Ms. Williams. “This is because, still, one-third of consumers across the 11 countries we surveyed said they don’t want to buy 100-per-cent plantbased products because of poor taste and texture. There is still a massive opportunity there.” Major shifts in the industry

Sustainability and plant-based represent “major shifts in the industry”, according to Innova’s Global Insights Director – and will at some point cease to be trends. “At some point, sustainability will go the way of ‘clean label’,” she predicted. “We talked about clean label for 15 years – and

products. People are seeking out food and drink brands that align with their political, social and ethical beliefs, and won’t hesitate to shop around to find them, or even co-create products that meet those needs. Some 75 per cent of consumers surveyed said companies should listen to them more when developing their products or strategies. “Today, consumers don’t want to be told what to do or be educated; it has to be a conversation,” stressed Ms. Williams. This approach can be applied to ‘lighthearted’ issues, such as asking consumers to vote for their favourite flavour for instance, but also to weightier topics. An interesting example of this, Ms. Williams said, is Nestlé’s Beneath the Surface initiative. The Swiss company, which failed to meet its pledge to source only deforestation-free palm oil by 2020, directly asked consumers for their opinion about its supply chain – posing questions such as ‘Should we stop buying palm oil from small-scale farmers who contribute to deforestation?’ “They turned the whole controversy around palm oil into a short educational film and questionnaire to help consumers understand how complicated it is,” noted Ms. Williams. “Everybody is always looking for really simple solutions to complex problems, and Nestlé did a good job of helping consumers to understand why it’s more complex than they think. There should be a back-and-forth between brands and their consumers.” o for the past five years, we’ve been saying: ‘It’s not a trend anymore, it’s that the rules have been rewritten’. I think we’re definitely going to see that with sustainability.” In 2022, food brands may also begin to make more diverse claims around sustainability, such as using regenerative farming practices or carbon neutral production, while plant-based will become increasingly embedded into people’s mindset. “Meat is not going away – meat consumption actually went up in the past year – but I think a larger proportion of the population will understand that there is probably a better balance to be had by consuming more plant-based,” predicted Ms. Williams. ‘The voice of the consumer’

Innova’s fifth defining trend for 2022 – ‘The voice of the consumer’ – ties in with demands for sustainable and plant-based 25

SPECIAL REPORT | Creating an alcoholic beverage brand

HAVE YOU GOT THE BOTTLE? Why creating an alcoholic drink for the UK market is full of potential pitfalls and problems, by Richard Horwell of Brand Relations. Innovate, innovate, innovate – don’t imitate

very time I walk into a bar, someone – usually the bartender – will tell me about his great idea for creating a new drink. And the first thing I will ask is: “How deep are your pockets?” Creating an alcoholic drink is like tiptoeing through a minefield. The sale of alcohol is far more restrictive in the UK than anywhere else in the world, and yet it’s the most saturated market – and while many entrepreneurs might start out with gusto, many more vanish without trace. Here are some of my tips for navigating what is an extremely difficult, fast-paced, often fickle and hugely expensive path.



I can’t stress enough how important it is to check out the market before parting with any money. If you don’t do your research, you will fail. Is your idea unique? Is there a need for it? If it isn’t, then why would you expect to knock a competitor off the shelf to make way for your product? It’s not going to happen. You need to stand out from the crowd. The alcohol industry is dominated by a few big players – who have vast teams, research facilities, influential connections, and the very deep pockets to fund it all. Most new alcohol brands don’t see any return on investment in the first three to five years – are you prepared for this journey? Don’t limit your research to the UK – you need to think global. Any similar, wellestablished brands overseas will easily be able to blow you out of the water. Learn from mistakes as well as successes. If you

know why something didn’t work, it might help you to avoid making the same mistake again. Be smart and be transparent

In the UK, soft drinks – by law – have to declare the ingredients on their drinks. It’s laughable that there is no information on alcoholic drinks. However, this will come – and soon. Transparency is the way forward, and the last thing you want is to have to change all your labelling, incurring further costs. Do it from the start. Get the recipe right from the outset, list the ingredients, and it will save a fortune in the long run – but beware as there are a LOT of calories and sugar in just the alcohol, before you add anything else. The current voluntary system has seen a few scrupulous drinks manufacturers include QR codes which do list the ingredients in their products, but why should consumers have to rely on these few honest brands? The chances are, the ones

who have signed up to this are using good ingredients, but the ones with high sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients will ignore it. The trend is for lower alcohol rather than high, plus there is the added issue of duty payable, so the higher the alcohol content the higher the costs, and the greater the retail price. Times are changing, however. Yes, we are all becoming increasingly health conscious, but alcohol isn’t going away. Given this, it would be wise to understand that people are reading labels more. Tapping into the healthy market is the way forward. Many well established and historically successful brands will suffer hugely when the time comes to make ingredients available to the public – stay ahead of the curve and don’t use cheap ingredients now for a quick win. Don’t expect to sell to Hospitality

Anyone who thinks they can sell direct to hospitality and make money is deluded. You will not make any money. They can do it cheaper and better themselves, plus this area is dominated by the big brands that pay a fortune to be there. Stick to retail. You’ll have a lot of hard work ahead of you, but by far the best way to build your brand is in retail. But don’t think you are going to set the world on fire with one idea. One drink is not a brand. You need at least another two or three ideas to take up space on the shelf. Consumers need to be able to see you and that won’t happen if you are tucked in between a whole load of other brands that dominate. If anyone came to me with an idea for one drink, I would send them away to think up some more. Dig deep

Creating an alcoholic drink is likely to cost around £50,000 at the very least. You also have to have enough funds for HMRC to believe in you. If you plan to start trading in alcohol, you need to be approved by AWRS (Alcohol Wholesalers Registration Scheme). You cannot sell alcohol in the UK without this registration – and if you look like a tin-pot business, they won’t give you the time of day. The soft drinks industry doesn’t have this issue; there is no-one looking over their shoulder looking for paid duty. The best way to save on costs is to seek out a bonded co-packer and a bonded warehouse that has experience in the alcohol industry, as this will save an average of 20 per cent

wastage lost in production. No-one wants to be paying duty on a drink that’s gone down the drain. Get rich quick?

Not likely. Expect to be in it for the long run. Launching a product in the drinks industry is a long, slow journey. It is always the dream of a new brand to have an instant success, and there has been a lot of innovation over the past 10 years where some small brands have indeed been snapped up by the big players. But while it can happen, it is rare, as most brands don’t stand out enough to make a real difference. It took me several years to get traction with my alcohol brand, without any income, but in the long run I sold it to a very wealthy Dutchman, making it all worthwhile. What’s in a name?

Make sure the name you choose is relevant to your product – something memorable and simple is what you should be looking for, and be careful about choosing anything that might be attractive to children with alcohol-related products, or the Portman Group, established in 1989 to encourage responsible drinking, will hit you with a ton of bricks. With 90 per cent of the first sale dependent on branding, it’s important to give your brand name some serious thought. It has to be relevant. Research what the key attractions are to your target audience. Calories are high on the list of importance for consumers now, so one good way of cutting down on sugar is to be a skinny version. Sustainability of packaging, brand provenance, and a ‘background’ story are all far more important to the launch of a successful alcohol brand. Don’t give it away

It’s tempting to give away samples to entice people to stock and buy your product, but there are sound reasons not to do this. You will still be paying tax to HMRC on anything you don’t sell so you are instantly making a loss and you definitely can’t give out samples on the street because of the chances of it falling into the hands of chil-

dren. There is also a tendency for people to say they like anything that they are given free-of-charge, but when you ask them to put their hands in their pockets that’s usually a different matter. People are going to be far more critical of something they have to pay for, and you will find with focus groups that after half-an-hour they will say anything just to go home. Better to come up with a strong marketing plan which centres around knowing your audience. In summary…

• Make sure you have something innovative that is focused on the future and is health conscious. • If you haven’t got enough money, be prepared to lose. It’s a gamble, so don’t put in what you are not prepared to let go. • Know your target market, and research it thoroughly. Drinkers over the age of 35 are unlikely to change their habits, and younger drinkers between 20-35 tend to have a sweeter palette and will be looking for more modern flavours. • Research your retailer: Just because you like them doesn’t mean they are right for you. • Give careful thought to packaging: Glass is cheaper, but wholesalers hate it because of breakages. Smaller cans with less duty are the most price appealing. • Focus on retail rather than Hospitality. Once the brand gets known, you can more into this area through demand – but in the early days, it’s nearly impossible to be seen or heard in this area without spending millions. o About the author

Richard Horwell owns Brand Relations, a specialist food & beverage marketing and branding company based in London. Over the last 14 years, Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 100 brands in the UK. Richard has also built up and sold companies of his own in the F&B sector. He has over 30 years’ experience in marketing FMCG brands around the world, having lived and worked in the UK, USA, Australia and the Middle East. 27

SPECIAL REPORT | ProSweets Cologne pre-event insights


Ahead of ProSweets Cologne at the end of January 2022, the show’s organisers and partners offer insights into market-relevant trends, and identify a strengthening focus on health-enhancing, plant-based ingredients for sweets and snacks. onsumers are increasingly seeking healthy, plant-based foodstuffs that taste authentic and contain a pared back ingredients list – an exciting yet demanding stipulation for sweet and snack manufacturers, throwing up myriad technological challenges in pursuit of the right balance between products that deliver both joy and health. The world’s leading ingredients specialists will come up with the answer to this conundrum at ProSweets Cologne (30 January – 2 February 2022) in the form of innovative ingredients that not only help create



recipes that are rich in protein and fibre, but which also make clean label-conforming reformulations a possibility. Today’s consumers of chocolate, bonbons and fruit gums expect more than ‘just’ good taste; increasingly, they expect sweets and snacks to support an active, health-conscious lifestyle through sugarreduced or purely plant-based variants. Indeed, naturalness and health are two trends that are becoming ever more relevant to purchasing decisions, with the pandemic only serving to accelerate these as priorities. According to a survey by

FMCG Gurus, around 38 per cent of consumers worldwide are currently seeking out healthier sweets, and 63 per cent actively scrutinise the ingredients list,

with statements such as ‘free from additives’ or ‘100% natural’ proving extremely popular at the point of sale. Immune system boosting bon bons

The growing number of new product introductions with health benefits is also reflected in data collated by Innova Market Insights – a partner to Koelnmesse that will be presenting the most important ingredients trends of the sweets and snacks industry for 2022 at ProSweets Cologne. For instance, Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at the research company, expects to see an increase in awareness for the content of antioxidants and the potential immunity health advantages that snacks containing dark chocolate and ‘superfruits’ like pomegranates or goji berries can deliver. In parallel, the popularity of plant-based ingredients is driving confectionery and snack innovation for manufacturers, leading to creative scope for enriching food with fibre. In fact, the sweet segment is currently one of the product groups with the most health claims regarding grain-, vegetable- and legume-based fibre concentrates. As a rule, such ingredients can be easily integrated into existing recipes without altering the manufacturing processes, with wafer biscuits that contain wholegrain fibre in the filling – and crucially without a perceivable difference in taste, creaminess or crunchiness – a key example of this.

pletely conforms to such a claim several technological hurdles must be overcome – above all, relating to how those sensory properties of the original product (taste, texture and colour) can be kept intact. Switching from artificial to natural colours, for example, brings special challenges: If fruit gums, chewing-gum or bonbons are to impress in cherry red, carrot orange or lemon, the use of colouring foodstuffs is recommendable. In response, Aachen-based GNT Europa GmbH’s latest innovations include solutions based on non-GMO turmeric and spirulina to provide a yellow-green and blue-green shade, respectively. Protein-rich treats for enhanced performance

With the term ‘plant-based’ taking on an increasingly important role on the sweets shelf, both established producers and startups are faced with the challenge of providing recipes with improved nutrient profiles – and with good reason: According to Innova Market Insights, the global market for plant-based foods is expanding at a double-digit percentage rate, with par-

ticularly high demand for snacks that are rich in protein and sugar-reduced. Snack bars that boost energy levels after sport or which enhance performance are proving particularly popular. Protein concentrates obtained from chickpeas, beans or lentils – which have a pleasant mouth-feel and provide a creamy texture – are relatively new innovations in this area, while almonds, cashews and other nuts, packed with healthy fatty acids, are highly popular. Exploring new horizons for evolving consumer expectations

With the expectations of consumers changing, and healthy options undoubtedly becoming the priority for sweets and snacks manufacturers, the relevance new ingredients have and how they can be used to create products that convince will be a key theme in ProSweets Cologne 2022’s INGREDIENTS Event Zone in Hall 5.2. Meanwhile, future-focused congress #CONNECT2030, which will also be transmitted live on the digital event platform ‘ISM & ProSweets @home’, will be looking far beyond the year 2022: Keynote speakers Hon. Prof. Dr Sascha Peters and Diana Drewes from futurist agency Haute Innovation will explore sustainable solutions for sweets of high nutritional value, recyclable packaging and future raw materials in their lecture ‘Future Sweets What and how will we eat in 2030?’ o For more information on ProSweets Cologne 2022 (30 January – 2 February 2022 at Koelnmesse), go to:

Plant-based ingredients as clean label stars

Exhibiting companies at the Cologne fairgrounds are striving to cater for all such trends with tailor-made, all-in-one solutions – using ingredients such as fruit powder, nuts and vitamins, but also botanical extracts, functional fibres or legume-based protein concentrates. Against this backdrop, the development of new sweets in the clean label section is gathering speed, although for the implementation of a reformulation that com29

SPECIAL REPORT | Deliverect’s tech advancements in on-demand food


Founded in 2018 and today a global company specialising in SaaS for the food delivery industry, Deliverect’s mission is simple: to be the backbone of on-demand food, helping to support restaurants around the world to thrive in the online space. In this Food & Beverage Networker Q&A, CEO Zhong Xu explores the dynamics and technologies transforming delivery and the dining in experience. he hospitality world sits at an historical moment of change and digitalisation, with the delivery sector today increasinngly crucial for the segment’s survival. And whether you’re a local burger joint, a family restaurant that has passed down recipes for generations, a popular chain that serves as the local office watering hole, or a large FMCG player providing the world’s groceries and essentials, Deliverect is here to help such firms easily manage and grow their business. A global company specialising in SaaS for the food delivery industry, Deliverect has essentially created one seamless deep integration between digital ordering channels (the likes of UberEATS, JustEat and Deliveroo) and POS systems worldwide. Deliverect’s CEO, Zhong Xu, has been embedded in the restaurant industry from a young age. The executive’s father owns a POS company for Asian restaurants in Belgium, and in 2008 Mr Xu established



POSSiOS – Europe’s first cloud-based POS system for restaurants, stores, and other e-commerce businesses – with Jan Hollez (Deliverect’s co-founder and CTO). Clearly, given such experience, the duo were acutely aware of the often-slim margins and the fundamental need to maintain superior customer service in order to stay afloat. And using their extensive combined experiences and networks in the industry, the partners were able to launch Deliverect. Founded in 2018 and headquartered in Belgium, Deliverect integrates third-party food delivery platforms with restaurant POS systems, automating delivery so it can be managed more efficiently – and solving oft complex systems worldwide in so doing. For example, the firm enabled Unilever to sell Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice cream across thousands of distribution points, and powered restaurants to run four concepts out of a single location. “Deliverect’s mission is simple: to be the backbone of

on-demand food helping to support restaurants around the world to thrive in the online space. Our technology essentially brings various Point of Sale channels into a single SaaS platform,” Mr Xu explains. “Our unique business model has meant that we have been able to support these very restaurateurs as they adapted their services for the online delivery market so their customers could still enjoy great food.” For reference, a recent JustEat report observed a 79-percent increase in online orders in Q1 2021 – nearly double its forecasted growth rate – as the boom in eating at home during the coronavirus pandemic continued in the UK. Mr Xu saw this come to life when Deliverect found itself helping to process more than one million orders per week in the last year – an extraordinary 750-percent year-on-year increase. Since then, Deliverect has reached 80 million orders processed across its

30 markets worldwide. The company also announced its latest round of funding from DST Global Partners and Redpoint Ventures, totalling US$65 million in Series C in April 2021. Here, its CEO explores the most salient dynamics and technologies driving delivery and the dining in experience. Q. Have you observed any recent trends/shifts in terms of the type of F&B businesses that are using delivery apps today?

Zhong Xu: “There’s no doubt that the world of hospitality is changing rapidly, but the need for a solutions-based approach to help restaurants digitalise, streamline and manage this process for the long term won’t change. We’re making a bold play across the entire delivery tech industry, as it’s had to rapidly pivot to online delivery and ordering. “The ‘return to normal’ doesn’t alter consumer expectations, who have now grown accustomed to a seamless online delivery experience. We’re helping enable growth and empower control for our customers based on those changing consumer expectations. “As we continue to monitor the market’s evolution beyond restaurant and food delivery, we’re beginning to observe emerging marketing trends within the FMCG space. Building a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model is no longer the preserve of restaurants and upstart retail brands. Increasingly, FMCG brands are looking towards trends in online ordering and home delivery to keep on top of consumer demand and stay relevant. “To see the huge potential of D2C for FMCG brands, you just have to look at the success that Amazon, Apple, and Tesla have had in taking products directly to consumers and building lasting relationships to foster extraordinary loyalty.” Q. What are the key ways you observe smart tech starting to transform the food industry in terms of its automation journey?

Zong Xu: “Much of the restaurant industry has invested – and will continue to invest – in in-store tech, in order to pivot and meet the demands of customers and remain competitive. Many have gone toward contactless payment solutions by using QR codes and/or tableside ordering technology to minimize customer contact with restaurant workers. Operators are also

experimenting with cutting-edge air filtration and surface cleaning technologies to make diners more comfortable when sharing space with a crowd. “More smart tech, such as robots, will be used for restaurant food delivery. For example, Starship Technologies has built hundreds of little robots to deliver pizzas around college campuses and even some city sidewalks in the US, UK and elsewhere. The reason for the surge in demand is due to the pandemic effect, with more than 1,000 robots being added to its fleet – up from just 250 in 2019 – and hundreds more are being deployed soon.” Q. There is currently a growing demand for customisation across various aspects of the F&B industry. What role can/does AI play in such personalisation when it comes to delivery?

Zhong Xu: “Artificial Intelligence will be an integral part of the F&B industry because it simplifies and automates workflow. Not only does AI simplify many of the tasks that need to be done; it also reduces cost, and ensures the best business environment by providing future predictions and sharing recommendations accordingly. For example, some countries now are starting to open-up after Covid-19 lockdown, but restaurants are only allowed to operate outdoors. Owners need to be able to get the weather for the upcoming week, engineer the menu based on customer purchase analytics, and re-price items based on the ordering rate. AI therefore offers competitive advantage to restaurants.” Q. How does Deliverect support the sustainability goals of its clients and the end-consumer, and help reduce environmental impact?

Zhong Xu: “On-demand delivery of meals, groceries, and medicines is great for the customer. It offers the ultimate convenience. With more vehicles making these smaller deliveries, more packaging needed, and more food waste being generated, sustainability needs to remain at the forefront of people's mind. “With consumers actively seeking more sustainable ways to get their food and groceries, the incentives are there for forwardthinking food companies to make the right changes. At Deliverect, sustainability is an important issue close to our hearts. Inefficiency within the delivery process contributes to the food waste crisis. Our

platform helps restaurants reduce order error by almost 80 per cent, which leads to less food wastage (as well as less lost revenue on refunds for our customers). Beyond this, we provide all partners with resources for sustainable suppliers to help them along their journey. “While the environmental impact of food delivery remains a huge challenge to tackle, it’s promising to see restaurant brands and food delivery apps taking steps to tackle the biggest sustainability challenges in the sector.” Q. Looking ahead, what advancements do you anticipate in the delivery technology space in 2022, and how will Deliverect be leveraging upon those dynamics?

Zhong Xu: “The hospitality industry is critical for supporting the global economy in a post-pandemic environment. To continue growth as an industry, we expect to see an uptick in the number of restaurants investing in tech and innovation. “For most, life under lockdown may be a thing of the past – but the effects have reshaped the market and caused permanent changes to the behaviour of consumers, who now have heightened expectations from the brands with which they engage. Consumers now expect their everyday products to be available through more convenient means – including online delivery – in a way that suits them personally. As such, restaurants will need to rely on technology to harness and analyse customer insights, to provide a more personable service for customers. By doing so, the dining-in experience will truly begin to rival in-person experiences.” o Deliverect integrates all your online orders to your existing POS or its Delivery Manager app. Restaurants large and small rely on Deliverect to reduce failures and order mistakes while speeding up order preparation. To learn more or request a demo, go to:


SPECIAL REPORT | Anuga HORIZON pre-event insights

ADVANCEMENT ON THE HORIZON Anuga’s new event for the transformation of the F&B industry, Anuga HORIZON will for the first time in September 2022 address the future of food across all segments. Pioneering manufacturers, alongside the technology providers, start-ups and other partners advancing the food industry ecosystem are invited to present their F&B products and solutions at this future-focused event aimed at nothing short of advancing and transforming the sector. Moreover, interested companies can benefit from the organiser’s early-bird campaign up until 31 March 2022. ew technologies, changing consumer behaviour, the global food transformation, and the search for new forms of nutrition: For the first time in 2022, Anuga HORIZON will be providing cross-industry answers to myriad fundamental questions on the future of food. As a new business and innovation platform for the transformation of the food and beverage industry, it offers market leaders, medium-sized and young companies, as well as industry start-ups, the opportunity to present products and solutions on future themes and trends such as sustainability, alternative products, new nutrition, the ecosystem and the Internet of Food. At the same time, the Anuga HORIZON trade fair grants access to investors, multipliers, stakeholders and other institutions that promote the innovations in the F&B section.


Dedicated conference stages for ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Innovation’

The centrepiece of the event is the three formats – Exhibition, Conference and Experience. Across two exhibition halls, Koelnmesse will present a combina32

tion of modern showrooms featuring the exhibiting companies, interactive experience zones and two conference stages – the ‘Inspiration Stage’ and the ‘Innovation Stage’. A diversified, trade-oriented programme on the future themes and trends of the food industry with top speakers and the opportunity for a mutual exchange of knowledge as well as networking await the visitors here. Organiser Koelnmesse is an international leader in organising trade fairs in the food and beverage and F&B technology segments, boasting Anuga, Anuga FoodTec, ISM and ProSweets Cologne amongst the established, world-leading trade fairs within its portfolio in Cologne – and numerous food trade fairs with different sector-specific areas of focus and content in further key markets across the world, including Brazil, China, India, Japan, Columbia, Thailand and the UAE. Anuga HORIZON in 2022 will mark the launch of an additional event format dedicated to food industry innovations in Cologne. Celebrating its debut in Cologne from

6–8 September 2022, Anuga HORIZON is already gearing up for its inaugural show. With immediate effect, companies from across the F&B industry, including the technology providers, start-ups and other players that support the sector, can register for the new event of Koelnmesse. Early bookers can reserve their desired stand area now and can benefit from a special discount up until 31 March 2022. o For further information, visit:


JANUARY 2022 Winter Fancy Food Show – The largest US West Coast event focused solely on the specialty food industry. San Francisco, USA 16–18 January 2022

MARCH 2022 FHA-Food & Beverage – One of Asia’s largest F&B trade events. Singapore 28–31 March 2022

APRIL 2022 Fermentation-Enabled Alternative Protein Innovation 2022 – 2nd annual summit exploring advancement in traditional, biomass and precision fermentation for the alternative protein industry. San Francisco, USA 18–20 January 2022 ProSweets Cologne 2022 – World’s leading supplier fair for the sweets & snacks industry; co-located with ISM Cologne, the leading sweets & snacks trade fair. Cologne, Germany 30 January – 2 February 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 Fruit Logistica 2022 – Leading fresh produce trade show. Berlin, Germany 9–11 February 2022 Gulfood 2022 – The Middle East’s largest F&B industry event. Dubai, UAE 13–17 February 2022 Packaging Innovations and Empack – Showcasing the future of branded packaging & technology. Birmingham, UK 16–17 February 2022

ISM Japan 2022 East Asia’s first dedicated trade fair for the sweets & snacks industry. Tokyo, Japan 13–15 April 2022 ANUFOOD China Leading expo focused on South China’s F&B market. Shenzhen, China 20–22 April 2022 Anuga FoodTec Leading international technology supplier fair for the F&B industry. Cologne, Germany 26–29 April 2022

MAY 2022 SIAL China Asia’s largest F&B innovation expo. Shanghai, China 18–22 May 2022 Thaifex Anuga Asia HYBRID 2022 – Hybrid (on-site & virtual) edition of the leading F&B trade show, powered by Thaifex and Anuga. Bangkok, Thailand 24–28 May 2022

JUNE 2022 FoodEx Saudi 2022 – KSA’s leading international trade expo dedicated to the F&B industry. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 28 February – 3 March 2022

Africa Food Manufacturing – Egypt’s biggest F&B processing & packaging expo. Co-located with Fi Africa and ProPak MENA. Cairo, Egypt 5–7 June 2022

Alimentec 2021 – The region’s leading expo for the F&B and hospitality industries. Bogota, Colombia 7–10 June 2022 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 June 2022 Africa’s Big 7 – Africa’s premier F&B tradeshow. Johannesburg, South Africa 19–21 June 2022 Future Food-Tech – Alternative Proteins – Connecting global food leaders to map out the future of protein. New York, USA 21–23 June 2022

SEPTEMBER 2022 The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia – KSA’s premier trade event for the food and hospitality industry. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 6–8 September 2022 Asia Fruit Logistica – Leading continental trade show for Asia’s fresh produce business. Hong Kong 7–9 September 2022

OCTOBER 2022 SIAL Shenzhen – New tradeshow powered by SIAL for the fast expanding Shenzhen region. Shenzhen, China 27–29 October 2022


Company Profile: Fauchon Written by SARAH PURSEY

WHERE FRENCH ELEGANCE MEETS INNOVATION As Paris-headquartered luxury food and delicatessen business Fauchon celebrates its 135th anniversary, Food & Beverage Networker catches up with CEO Mr Samy Vischel to learn how the luxury French gastronomy brand has weathered the pandemic and emerged as a stronger, wiser and more multi-faceted player – with five-star hotels, education and e-commerce amongst its newer avenues of growth.

It’s been just over a year since Food & Beverage Networker magazine last spoke with you (in July 2020), and the world changed over that period. How has Fauchon faired since then?

Samy Vischel: “Last year was quite hectic in terms of new openings. We’ve recently launched a number of new shops, including our second shop in Mexico, and a fantastic new outlet in Qatar, as well as another opening in Montparnesse, Paris. So, there’s certainly a lot going on: within a very short period of time we’ve effectively opened around 10 outlets – from cafés, to restaurants and retail shops. There are also plenty of further projects in the pipeline when it comes to Fauchon hotels, as well as our upcoming gastronomy

school in Rouen Rive Gauche, of course. We have already commenced construction – we expect the school to be an amazing addition and I’m so excited about how it’s progressing. “We opened a café in Dubai very recently, which I visited a few weeks’ back. It’s a fantastic new opening in the Mall of the Emirates – one of Dubai’s best malls, close to the movie theatre and close to other famous restaurants too. This prominent, prestigious location provides great visibility for our brand, with the café offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, and of course afternoon tea and pastries, while at the retail shop you can purchase chocolates, tea, jam, biscuits and more. At 3,000 square feet, the Dubai café is quite ‡ 35

a large outlet, with around 80 seats, and offering all of our signature dishes. One of these is ‘Riso pasta’, cooked like risotto, and used in various recipes – one with Gruyere cheese, another with lobster, and another with mushroom. It’s really a special dish and guests are loving it. We started the dish when we opened our café and hotel. As it’s made from pasta, the dish is lighter, yet it boasts great texture and taste, and could be considered a comfort food – the kind that tastes so good you’ll want to lick your plate! It’s also a dish that we proposed during the recently held ‘Taste of Paris’ – a big event featuring most of the top chefs in France. We presented three signature dishes at the event, as well as a few crazy desserts, including sweet gnocchi with vanilla and chocolate, which was a really interesting expression. “Elsewhere, a few months ago we also had our new opening in Nice in the South of France – a beautiful restaurant, as well as a boutique and winery. What is interesting with this new place is that we really tried to take a few signature dishes from the South of France culture. Such plates included Pan Bagnat (an olive, vegetable, tuna and egg sandwich), and of course we could not open in Nice without having the famous Salad Niçoise – presented with a Fauchon twist and elegance, of course. We see it as very important to adapt to the local culture – whether we’re opening in Nice or Dubai or Mexico. While around 70 per cent of our menu will be the same, for the remaining 30 per cent we try to capture that local culture through the ingredients we use, the dishes we create, or those signature meals from the region. We see such local adaptation as important and, indeed, key to our success.” We’ve therefore been very busy. Of course, like other businesses we’ve also experienced challenges relating to the pandemic – but things are starting to move swiftly again now. I’ve recently been out in Mexico and Dubai to see our new projects, for example. So, we feel that things are opening up, although not necessarily as before – the world has undoubtedly changed, although today there is a feeling that everyone wants to move and they want to move fast, to make up for lost time, including when it comes to investment. Typically, when we discuss a new project, it would normally be a four-, five-, even six-month discussion – now it’s more likely to be within a month. This is something of a challenge – albeit a welcome one – for our relatively small team: in Paris, we have around 40 people in the office, so handling the opening of around 10 new shops like this over just four or five months is tough. That said, it’s undoubtedly a positive, because for a stretch of time it was very challenging for us – but finally we can now breathe again.” Could you please describe your offer in the Japanese market, and how FAUCHON L’Hôtel Kyoto has performed over its first six months of operation?

Samy Vischel: “FAUCHON L’Hôtel Kyoto opened in March of this year – amidst the pandemic – and we ‡ 36



still see that Japan remains quite deep in terms of Covid restrictions. It’s a project that we worked on for nearly three years, and not being able to see how it is progressing in person is really frustrating. Nonetheless, January 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Fauchon’s presence in Japan, and we’re planning huge celebrations to commemorate this milestone. There are not a lot of French gastronomy brands that can claim to have been present in that discerning market for half a century, so we are extremely proud. Japanese gastronomy and culture are really top-notch, with an unerring focus on precise execution and achieving perfection. It’s an amazing country with amazing people that are completely different from us in many ways, but they are such a pleasure to work with. It takes a lot of time – everything must be extremely clean and neat, and 100-per-cent prior to opening, but when you reach this level, and sustain it for 50 years… well, that speaks volumes for the brand. I was not even born when Fauchon first established its presence in Japan! So, we are still there today, and now offer a five-star hotel – one of the leading hotels in the world. “Due to the pandemic, we are currently at around 20 per cent occupancy at FAUCHON L’Hôtel Kyoto, which is obviously very low. However, our restaurant, our hospitality, our bar and our shop are doing extremely well – we’re typically fully booked a month in advance. Of course, such bookings comprise only Japanese customers at present, although the hotel has undoubtedly become a real gastronomic destination offering something fairly unique given that there are very few French restaurants there within a five-star hotel. With the restaurant located on the 10th floor, you also have a truly stunning view looking out onto a mountain. Our Grand Café features the highest range of food and beverage products – we like to play with ingredients like matcha, yuzu and spices. It is quite important also to incorporate a few local dishes that are adapted by Fauchon with a few innovative twists – a concept in keeping with all of our restaurants. “In Japan, when you receive your plate, everything must be just perfect – and it’s a pleasure to work with Japanese chefs, as they understand this and absolutely get it first time. You could go back 20 years later and they would still be doing it exactly as specified. That sensibility is really unique in the world. So, we’re hopeful that the country will open up soon to foreign travellers and tourists, in order to boost our hotel’s occupancy rate to the standard 80 per cent or higher that Fauchon typically achieves elsewhere.” Also on the international front, I understand that Fauchon recently relauched its ‘travel retail’ strategy. Could you please describe the motivations behind this?

Samy Vischel: “The travel retail segment is particularly interesting for Fauchon. We have a strong presence in France and Paris in particular, but also across other ‡ 39

locations in Europe as well as the Middle East and Asia. Post-pandemic, the segment remains very slow, with a number of airports and destinations still closed. For Japanese customers especially the travel retail is extremely important, as the brand is well recognised in Japan – unfortunately, we don’t have many Japanese or indeed Americans coming to Paris, so travel retail is still down. “A few months ago we opened a new outlet at Bahrain Airport – a kiosk offering macarons and chocolates. However, the airport is currently operating at about 50-per-cent occupancy, and results from our kiosk are therefore not as good as expected. Travel retail remains quite complicated because it’s still quite difficult to travel. I was in Dubai and Qatar the other week – I did four PCR tests and had to download applications, log into websites and wait for confirmations. Business people are travelling, because they often have to, yet the number of tourist travellers is clearly down. Last November, we opened an outlet at Paris Montparnasse Station, the results of the first months are good and this is encouraging for the future. So, hopefully in 2022 the activity and the business will start to return.” How has Fauchon responded to the need for a strong digital presence, and how is the firm leveraging upon what looks to be an enduring trend?

Samy Vischel: “E-commerce is booming worldwide of course – and Fauchon is certainly no exception. The pandemic has clearly accelerated this trend. We are still doubling our sales on figures from last year [2020], while in 2020 we were doubling our sales on those of the previous year. While previously it was around 100 orders a day, now we’re processing 300–400 orders per day. Christmas is a period of the year in which we expect to be doing more than 1,000 orders per day. That obviously requires a major logistical effort and is a little daunting. We’ve never before reached this level of sales in our history – it’s completely insane – and while we are present on a few other luxury gift websites, around 85–90 per cent of our sales are coming from our own website,, which of course enables us to better control the quality of the delivery. As you can imagine, we’ve recently recruited a lot of people to help with the web sales. Around 40– 50 per cent of our business on the e-commerce side is conducted between 15th November and 15th January, so it’s a completely crazy time for us, but we are as prepared as we possibly can be to ensure that orders are fulfilled in good time for Christmas.” It’s been over three years since you were appointed to the helm of Fauchon (in June 2018). What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt within the role over that time?

Samy Vischel: “I have to be honest and say that it was not an easy time to start heading up the company. Like other businesses, we faced a huge crisis – unprecedented in the history of Fauchon, in fact. It was desta40

bilising and meant we had to take extremely difficult decisions, such as closing shops and unfortunately reducing our workforce, too. However, I learnt that you have to put your personal feelings aside in order to really think for the company, taking difficult decisions to save the company, preserve as many jobs as possible and ensure that the brand can survive through such a crisis. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of brands worldwide that have fallen by the wayside, but we feel fortunate to have taken the right decisions at the right time – and now we are really on a fast-track to opening up and further developing our brand. “Personally, I would say I’ve learnt the importance of having your feet on the ground, having a clear head, and taking decisions for the company. Also, the importance of rethinking structure and way of doing things, regardless of how difficult such change might be. This crisis has led us to scrutinise everything about what we’re doing, to see if it could be done differently and better. Most importantly when making such changes, I’ve learnt how crucial it is to ensure that your people change with you, and grow with you. We’ve succeeded in bringing everyone along with this change – in the way that we work and the way that we think, and ensuring that everyone moves together in that new direction with a new shared vision. If you try to do this process on your own, without the passion of the team behind you, then it’s over.” Looking ahead, what are Fauchon’s upcoming plans and overall strategy for future growth?

Samy Vischel: “We recently opened our second store in Mexico, then in Qatar we’ve recently opened a restaurant in a beautiful place with a fantastic terrace. There is also a new shop in Argentina. Alongside such brand new ventures, we also have our upcoming Fauchon School – we have 10 people currently preparing the school, working towards a provisional opening slated for between September 2022 and January 2023. It’s a 50,000-square-feet school that will accommodate around 700 students annually, with training in the areas of bakery, pastry, chocolatemaking, and much more. We’re partnering with the prestigious NEOMA Business School. Encouragingly, we already have people who love the concept and are actually interested in opening other Fauchon schools across the world. For now, however, we’re really focusing on our school in Rouen Rive Gauche. We really want to succeed in this new area of business, so we’re taking the necessary time to ensure that everything is in order and just perfect. “Finally, I shall hopefully soon be able to announce a few more Fauchon Hotel locations slated for opening in 2023 or 2024 – crucially, in countries in which we do not currently have a presence, so these new launches will be very important to our brand. Without doubt, a lot will be happening at Fauchon within the next three to six months, so it is certainly an exciting time for us.” o


Company Profile: Blaauwberg Group Written by SARAH PURSEY

FAMILY VALUES FROM FARM TO FORK Having surpassed a milestone four decades in operation, family-owned Blaauwberg Group has grown over the years to become a renowned supplier of high-quality meat, and one of South Africa’s few truly ‘farm-to-fork’ players. Managing Director, Mr Mario Oberholzer, highlights ‘self-sufficiency’ and ‘continuous investment’ as amongst the most salient factors behind his Group’s longevity – with both clearly still in play, given the on-going development of major new facilities across the value chain and plans to further expand its value-add portfolio.

the end of the day, if somebody asks me what I do, I just tell them ‘I’m a butcher’, because if you start explaining everything it can get quite complicated,” remarks Mr Oberholzer – and it’s certainly easy to see why. Today, the South African executive sits at the helm of a multi-faceted and highly integrated group of companies whose all-encompassing reach throughout the meat industry spans everything from feed production and feedlots, to abattoirs (lamb, mutton and beef), skin and hide processing, cold storage, processed meats, imports and exports. Such activities serve the needs of an equally varied array of clients – from the wholesale, retail and HoReCa segments, to government entities and other public institutions, through to private sector customers requiring tailored products.


Four decades in the making

The Group’s story begins back in 1979, when its present-day Managing Director’s father identified the need for abattoir services in the Blaauwberg region, in South Africa’s Western Cape. “Prior to establishing his own business, my father worked for a national

butchery firm, through which he was able to glean valuable knowledge and expertise on meat and the meat industry,” Mr Oberholzer recounts. “However, he also identified strong potential to value-add via further processing of the carcasses. So, in the late 1970s, he set up his own butchery – purely for retail. From there, he opened a second butchery and during that process started selling a little into the wholesale business, supplying to firms who were in turn supplying restaurants, catering companies, schools and hotels. Overall, it was still quite a small-scale operation at that time, with the predominant focus on supplying to retail customers. Then, in the late 1980s–early 1990s, my father formed the Group’s first wholesale business, which supplied predominantly to retailers and butchers stores across the Western Cape.” Seeing potential to move further up the value chain, in the early 1990s Mr Oberholzer’s father set up the abattoir Karoo Lamb in the semi desert natural region of Karoo – an area of South Africa known for its lamb and mutton production. “The further need to find livestock to slaughter became the next piece in the puzzle,” the Group’s MD ‡ 43

resumes. “To resolve this, we procured a farm located logistically close enough to our abattoir, and established a feedlot – thus enabling us to finish off lambs from the surrounding area of dry lands prior to slaughtering them,” he informs. “Throughout that process, our business was growing very well in Cape Town, resulting in a move to larger premises. We built a cold storage facility as a separate entity – and, adjacent to that, a bigger wholesale division for bulk procurement and logistical purposes, including breaking up the product into smaller parcels for redistribution.” Namibian expansion

During that time, the majority of livestock utilised by the Group was actually coming out of Namibia – either directly for slaughter or for finishing in the Group’s feedlot, Mr Oberholzer tells us. “However, the Namibian government then stated its aim to help local companies and farmers generate more revenues – they 44

thereafter pushed for more animals to be slaughtered within Namibia by setting higher levies for live animals being moved out of the country. We found ourselves at a crossroads – if we intended to continue to procure livestock out of Namibia, then we would need to establish an operation within the country. We therefore set up an abattoir in Aranos in southern Namibia, close to the Kalahari. It’s a very good lamb-producing area in terms of the concentration and quality of livestock, and also due to the very dry climate, which means there’s a very low disease rate. By early-2000 we had completed the facility, which today can slaughter around 1,200 lambs per day. From there, most of the meat comes down to Cape Town – South Africa being our largest market for lamb.” With a footing in Namibia, the Group commenced an organic growth path similar to what it had pursued in South Africa. “With our abattoir in place, we went about establishing farms in Namibia,” the MD

informs. “We have three farms in the south of the country today, at which we raise around 10,000 ewes. In the north of the country, we have two cattle farms at which we raise around 1,000 head of cattle. We also have a catering company in Namibia, from where we primarily service various government entities (schools, hospitals, training colleges for the police, as well as various other departments, and so on). And through that catering company, we’ve expanded our activities beyond livestock farming and slaughtering, to encompass a basket of products including poultry, which we source both internationally and locally.” A self-sufficient stalwart

Returning to activities in South Africa, the Group procured the abattoir Groenland Meat in Overberg – the Western Cape’s agricultural district – whose operations rely predominantly upon locally-sourced lamb and beef, according to Mr Oberholzer. “Beyond

that, we today have our own feedlot in the northern Cape, where we’re currently feeding 6,000 head of cattle. These we supply to the local abattoirs surrounding the feedlot, as well as bringing some to slaughter at our own facility in Cape Town. “From there, and from our abattoirs in Namibia, some of our stock goes directly to wholesalers in and around South Africa – while perhaps 50 per cent of the livestock we slaughter will go to our main distribution plant at Montague Gardens in Cape Town. And from there, we’ll bring in our lamb, our cattle and various imported products into our commercial cold storage facility,” he tells us. Blaauwberg Group today provides cold storage for regional firms engaged in the frozen foods industry, although the lion’s share of the 2,000-pallet space is taken up by the Group’s own business endeavours. “Our cold storage, alongside our abattoir and processing plant, is, of course, export-approved, so we ‡ 45

use that as the central hub to store and distribute our meats – both locally and to markets overseas including Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America and Europe,” the MD informs. “Adjacent to our cold storage and wholesale divisions is Blaauwberg Meat Specialities, which is engaged in further value adding to all proteins – from smoking to filling and cooking – and covering everything from bacon and hams, to sausages, Viennas, polonies, chicken and smoked meats.” Put simply, you could say that Blaauwberg Group is one of the region’s few ‘farm to fork’ providers. “We’re self-sufficient when it comes to our raw materials, and that self-reliance is really key in any industry. Developing a presence throughout the food chain has therefore been a focus of ours over the years,” Mr Oberholzer attests. “It’s enabled us to stay one step ahead, with on-the-ground knowledge of what feed is going to cost for our livestock, for example, meaning we’re able to pre-empt the market sooner than others and have greater control over our operations as a result.” Continuous investment

Blaauwberg Group pursues a policy of continuous investment, purchasing new machinery as certain units approach obsolescence, and as new technologies come onto market that make production either safer, faster or more efficient – particularly when it comes to reducing wastage. In terms of other major investments, the Group has recently expanded its feedlot in South Africa to accommodate a further 2,000 head of cattle. It has also just purchased a second farm on the outskirts of Jan Kempdorp – an agricultural town in the Northern Cape – so that the Group can produce more of its own feed to further enhance the business’s self-sufficiency.


“Beyond that, we’re also in the process of developing a second 10,000-pallet cold storage facility, located in Cape Town,” reveals Mr Oberholzer. “Obviously, Covid-19 has somewhat disrupted our plans. Nonetheless, the land has been purchased and planning has already been approved, so we’re now looking to be operational with that new cold storage facility within the year.” Additionally, Blaauwberg Group currently has one retail store in operation and its management team is exploring the possibility of opening more retail outlets in the future, although there are no tangible plans in place at present. Always one step ahead

Having built up the business and amassed considerable capabilities and renown throughout the meat industry value chain over the past four decades, Blaauwberg Group is certainly noteworthy for both its longevity and its continued positive growth trajectory. So, what factors does its MD see as the most salient when it comes to sustaining such successful expansion? “I think the key has been our ability to grow up the value chain. Also crucial has been our focus on bringing down costs in terms of our raw materials – and, indeed, keeping an eye on the overall costs and overheads across our businesses – while reinvesting profits in the Group to make it bigger and stronger,” he responds. “We’ve closely observed the markets to anticipate where there might potentially be problems ahead, and intervened in areas in order to become our own supplier or producer, as required. Equally important has been forming good relationships with our suppliers – especially with the farmers that supply our abattoirs, without whom we would not have the volumes of livestock we require to slaughter and value-add. Beyond that, we work closely with our importers and exporters,” he tells us. “Relationships and integrity play a crucial role in this business – in their absence, I believe it would prove difficult to achieve success in the long-term. “Ultimately, we’ve successfully anticipated the market, expanded into those segments within which we identified good growth potential, and learnt this business in all its facets – from farming, to slaughtering and processing,” he continues. “And as we’ve grown, we’ve kept learning, acquiring the additional knowledge that has allowed us to expand yet further.” ‡


Sound food safety systems

High standards are a given at Blaauwberg Group, although Mr Oberholzer is nonetheless keen to highlight the paramount importance of health and safety when it comes to generating trust and confidence within a food industry. Our Group places a very strong focus on learning maintenance and improvement across all of our operations – with each and every group business assessed by various independent auditing bodies to ensure that high standards prevail throughout. “We’re audited and approved for export activities, as well as being subjected to internationally recognised audits in alignment with our HACCP and ISO certifications. Beyond that, individual retailers often have their own auditing systems, and therefore send their own representatives to inspect our plant and processes,” he tells us. Despite such unerring focus on health and food safety, incidents beyond the control of the Group have, in recent times, dealt a sizeable blow to this veteran food industry player, as its MD laments. “About two years ago, one of South Africa’s big processing plants – owned by Tiger Brands – was hit with a major outbreak of listeriosis. That scandal had a hugely negative impact on everybody in the industry – overnight, we lost 50 per cent of our sales just because we fell under the same category, in terms of the type of products affected at that other firm’s facility,” he tells us, adding that the crisis keenly demonstrates the importance of having a good food 48

safety system in place, “as the negative repercussions of such an incident are obviously considerable”. Beyond such challenges, the more connected consumer is a trend that all food players must carefully consider, Mr Oberholzer suggests, given that people today are more knowledgeable about how their food is produced, packed, transported and how it ends up on their plate. “There’s definitely a hunger out there amongst consumers to learn more about where their food comes from and how it was produced,” he remarks. “The use of hormones in farm animals, the slaughtering process, animal husbandry, and so on – these are all aspects that today’s consumer will be aware of in a way that far fewer were a decade ago. With that in mind, producers need to be able to provide answers if someone is asking questions related to those issues – and those need to be the right answers. Your processes therefore need to be in place and to have been done correctly.” A plateful of plans

Looking ahead, Mr Oberholzer identifies myriad openings for Blaauwberg Group – both in terms of bolstering and broadening its position within the domestic market, and strengthening its presence in existing and prospective export markets across the world. Across its various companies, around 20 per cent of the Group’s production is today exported – and Mr

Oberholzer is keen to build this up further after the market-wide fallout that resulted from the listeriosis scandal. “Such events can have an impact that outlasts any import ban,” remarks the MD. “It can take time to recoup that business as the client will inevitably go on to buy the product from another firm following any halt in supply. And once you lose traction, it can be hard to climb up that hill again. It’s like snakes and ladders in that respect.” While such volatility obviously plays out beyond the Group’s control, its keen focus on building strong relationships is likely to prove an advantageous trait in scenarios of this kind. Volume-wise, the Group’s major market is South Africa, followed by Namibia. However, as Mr Oberholzer informs, his business’s most lucrative markets at present are predominantly in West Africa, plus Indian Ocean islands like Mauritius and Réunion. One clear region of interest for many meat producers is East Africa, where protein consumption per capita has risen significantly in recent years as incomes have flourished and those populations have swiftly adopted more Westernised tastes. Yet Blaauwberg Group’s MD identifies an abundance of opportunities elsewhere, too. “The protein market and food security has become a priority for many countries, so we’re trying to tap into that,” he advises. “The Middle East is a region in which we’ve been trying to gain traction with our

products, and we’ve also been supplying into Asia. That said, the local markets remain our bread and butter – it’s obviously important to keep your feet on the ground and not overlook those local consumers and businesses that have helped expand the business over the years. In tough times, it’s inevitably those markets that remain.” In terms of production activities, Mr Oberholzer reveals that Blaauwberg Group will be looking to further expand its value-adding activities in the months and years ahead. “The more value we can create out of our raw material, the more beneficial it becomes for our business, so that’s definitely the direction in which we are heading,” he tells us. Alongside that value-enhancement drive will be the aforementioned second cold storage plant upcoming in Cape Town within the year, as well as the strong potential for further retail stores opening up across the region in the longer term. “It’s fair to say we have enough on our plate at the moment,” the Group’s MD remarks. Yet, looking back over more than 40 years of amassing resources, assets, capabilities and experience that has served to drive a strategy of multifaceted yet highly integrated expansion, it seems self-evident that such multi-tasking has always been the way for this dynamic family-owned group of companies. Indeed, as the old saying goes, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’. o


Company Profile: Sabo Industrial Corp. Written by FOOD&BEVERAGE NETWORKER

ALL CLEAR AHEAD Automated wastewater treatment systems can help food processors remain in compliance with EPA and local standards, while significantly reducing the cost of treatment, labour and disposal. Food & Beverage Networker learns more from food processing industry consultants at Sabo Industrial Corp. – a New York-based manufacturer, distributor and integrator of industrial waste treatment equipment and solutions, including batch and fully automated systems, Cleartreat® separating agents, bag filters, and accessories.

ood processors in the US must meet wastewater effluent requirements for the EPA as well as National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and state or municipal regulation. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA has identified 65 pollutants and classes of pollutants as “toxic pollutants” – of which 126 specific substances have been designated “priority” toxic pollutants. Failing compliance can result in severe fines that can quickly escalate. However, wastewater generated from food processing operations can contain large amounts of suspended and dissolved solids, inorganics, nitrogenous organics, organic carbon, as well as nutrients. It can also have high biochemical and chemical oxygen demands. Consequently, such wastewater needs to be treated so it will not impair receiving waters or disrupt publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) when discharged to sewers.


A complex challenge for food processors

The challenge is complicated by the wide range of food products processed, which can range from grains, sugar, confections, dairy, fruits and vegetables, fats and oils, meat and poultry, as well as beverages and brewing. Resultantly, different types of wastewater 50

contamination can require various strategies to remove the contamination. For many food processors, this can require installing a wastewater treatment system that effectively separates the contaminants from the water, so it can be legally discharged. However, traditional wastewater treatment systems can be complex, often requiring multiple steps, a variety of chemicals and a considerable labour. Even when the process is supposedly automated, too often a technician must still monitor the equipment in person. This usually requires oversight of mixing and separation, adding of chemicals, and other tasks required to keep the process moving. Even then, the water produced can still fall below mandated requirements. Although paying to have food processing wastewater hauled away is also an option, it is extraordinarily expensive. In contrast, it is much more cost effective to treat the wastewater at its source, so the treated effluent can be legally discharged. In addition, when treated sludge can pass a TCLP (Toxicity Characteristics Leaching Procedure) test, it can be disposed of as non-hazardous waste in a local landfill. Fortunately, complying with EPA and local wastewater regulation has become much easier with more ‡


Complying with EPA and local wastewater regulation has become much easier with more fully automated, wastewater treatment systems.

fully automated, wastewater treatment systems. Such systems not only reliably meet regulatory wastewater requirements, but also significantly reduce the cost of treatment, labour and disposal when the proper Cleartreat® separating agents are also used. Cost-effective, automated wastewater treatment

In contrast to labour-intensive multiple step processes, automated wastewater treatment can help to streamline production, usually with a one-step process while lowering costs at food processing sites. An automated wastewater treatment system can eliminate the need to monitor equipment in person while complying with EPA and locally mandated requirements. Such automated systems separate suspended solids, emulsified oil and heavy metals, and encapsulate the contaminants, producing an easily de-waterable sludge in minutes, according to food processing industry consultants at Sabo Industrial Corp., a New York-based manufacturer, distributor and integrator of industrial waste treatment equipment and solutions, including batch and fully automated systems, Cleartreat separating agents, bag filters, and accessories. The water is typically then separated using a dewatering table or bag filters before it is discharged onto land, into sewer systems, or further filtered for re-use as process water. Other options for de-watering include using a filter press or rotary drum vacuum. The resulting solids are non-leachable and are considered non-hazardous, so will pass all required testing. These systems are available as manual batch processors, semi-automatic, and automatic, and can be designed as a closed loop system for water reuse or to provide a legally dischargeable effluent. A new, fully customised system is not always required. In many cases, it can be faster and more cost effective to add to or modify a facility’s current wastewater treatment systems when this is feasible. 52

However, because every wastewater stream is unique to its application, each wastewater treatment solution must be specifically tailored. The first step in evaluating the potential cost savings and effectiveness of a new system is to sample the wastewater to determine its chemical make-up followed by a full review of local water authority requirements, according to food processing industry consultants at Sabo Industrial. The volume of wastewater that will be treated is also analysed to determine if a batch unit or flow-through system is required. Other considerations include the size restrictions, so that the system fits within the food processing facility’s available footprint. Special separating agents

Despite all the advances in automating wastewater treatment equipment, any such system requires effective separating agents, which agglomerate with the

Automated systems not only reliably meet regulatory wastewater requirements, but also significantly reduce the cost of treatment, labor and disposal.

An automated wastewater treatment system can eliminate the need to monitor equipment in person while complying with EPA and locally mandated requirements.

In contrast to labor-intensive multiple step processes, automated wastewater treatment can help to streamline production, usually with a one-step process.

solids in the wastewater so the solids can be safely and effectively separated out. Because of the importance of separating agents for wastewater treatment, Sabo Industrial uses a special type of bentonite clay in a line of wastewater treatment chemicals called ClearTreat. This line of wastewater treatment chemicals is formulated to promote flocculation, agglomeration and suspended solids removal, as well as break oil and water emulsion and provide heavy metals removal. Bentonite has a large specific surface area with a net negative charge that makes it a particularly effective adsorbent and ion exchange for wastewater treatment applications to remove organic pollutants, nutrients, heavy metals, and so on. As such, bentonite is essential to effectively encapsulate the materials.

This can usually be achieved in one-step treatment, which lowers both process and disposal costs. In contrast, polymer-based products do not encapsulate the toxins, so systems that use that type of separating agent are more prone to having waste products leach back out over time, or upon further agitation. Today’s automated systems along with Cleartreat separating agents can provide food processors with easy, cost-effective wastewater treatment so they remain compliant with the EPA as well as state and local ordinances. Although there is a cost to these systems, they do not require much attention and can easily be more economical than paying fines or hauling. o

Effective separating agents agglomerate with the solids in the wastewater so the solids can be safely and effectively separated out are essential.


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 56

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 segment 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. ‡


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 holographic 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 tech60

nology, 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. “Our customers therefore benefit from our status as a complete framework provider, offering solutions in designing packs that are aesthetically formidable, and delivering end-to-end personalised support,

ensuring packmat machine interface that includes assistance and maintenance of packaging material – from concept through to commissioning,” he adds. An innovative trailblazer

ASEPTO has clearly blazed a trail over the past few years as the first Indian manufacturer of aseptic liquid packaging material solutions, and Mr Sharma stresses that innovation has been the foundation upon which the brand has built its swift success. “It is clearly our guiding light, and all other elements that push the brand ahead are connected to that thread of innovation in one way or other. For example, our indigenous plant in Sanand has been built as a progressive space with much consideration channelled into the design in accordance with aseptic packaging’s future outlook. It is a complete innovation in itself – one of the first aseptic packaging plants to have achieved all of the global standards within such a short span of time.” When UFlex Ltd conceived the project less than three years ago, the Group studied the liquid carton industry. “We discovered that, by and large, none of the existing major players had come up with packaging that makes the product look really different and attractive on the retail shelf,” Mr Sharma noted. “We were certainly surprised by this finding, given that packaging plays such an important role in attracting customers’ attention.” In China, the number of companies producing aseptic packaging has mushroomed over the past three decades, yet UFlex Ltd observed that every one of those firms was essentially copying one large player. UFlex therefore focused on how it might effectively differentiate itself in order to offer better value to the

Indian market, as well as to global customers. “We needed something unique. And at Uflex, our foundation has always been on innovation. With over 150 patents already to our credit, our focus has been on delivering a product that is unique, and which makes the client’s brand stand apart – time and time again, this has helped us creates a really strong connection with customers,” Mr Sharma informs. “Whether through holography, foil stamping, embossing or lens effects, we focus on creating a product that is very attractive on retail shelves and therefore grabs the attention of customers,” he continues. “About 95 per cent of the time, if the product’s packaging looks attractive, then it ends up in the customer’s basket. Once you’ve got their attention, the battle is won.” A competitive proposition

Operational consistency and efficiency have proved vital elements in making ASEPTO a competitive proposition, while the young division’s agility to approach its targets and expand in three prospective segments – juice, dairy and alcohol – has also proved crucial to the firm’s swift creation of a highly enviable market share. Additionally, ASEPTO’s proximity to its client base has ensured quick delivery times and exceptional service. “In our business, a critical component is undoubtedly supply chain management,” advises Mr Sharma. “And with excellent process management and inbuilt systems, we’re able to optimise our supply chain, leading to better purchasing practices, stronger inventory control and accelerated order fulfillment – all of which yields happier, more loyal customers,” ‡


he tells us. “Creating supply chain efficiency and resilience is paramount – and it’s only possible due to our strong acquisition processes.” Likewise, ASEPTO’s vast array of packaging solutions – both in terms of size and application – for the dairy, beverage and distillery industries provides market strength of its own, enabling the firm to cater to an impressive 90-per-cent of total domestic demand for quality aseptic liquid packaging. “To conclude, I would say that no single specific factor has played the dominant role in ASEPTO’s success,” Mr Sharma reasons. “Many key attributes combined have created this brand’s resilience in the face of competitive times.” Award-winning international presence

Today, ASEPTO clearly enjoys a formidable market presence globally, and Mr Sharma is evidently proud of the firm’s status as an Indian entity solely using indigenous capabilities at a time when there is much cause to promote Indian manufacturing excellence and self-reliance. “India offers us a sizeable, high-growth market to serve and penetrate. As a homegrown brand, we hold an advantage when it comes to addressing the needs of the country in aseptic packaging. Since inception, we’ve therefore worked tirelessly to educate this market and imbibe it with ASEPTO’s strengths.

There’s still much ground to cover, given the size and potential of the Indian market, yet we aim to consolidate our position on the home front,” he reveals. Beyond the domestic space, Asia-Pacific is today one of the fastest growing and most prospective markets in the world for aseptic packaging, and Mr Sharma sees huge potential for leveraging upon ASEPTO’s enormous success to date in order to tap further into high-growth markets across this region. Certainly, there has already been plenty of recognition for ASEPTO to date – both within India and internationally – with the brand having been conferred with a clutch of prestigious new awards for the unique innovations and quality it has brought to the aseptic liquid packaging category. In 2019, UFlex Ltd– ASEPTO Spark (Fresca) became a winner at ‘The Economic Times’ Polymers Awards 2019’ in the category of ‘Packaging – Beverage (Large)’. That same year in Mumbai, the firm was bestowed with a ‘SIES SOP Star Award: Excellence in Packaging’ accolade for its Juiceika holographic pack innovation. The changing face of packaging

With innovation clearly a key strength for ASEPTO, the pioneering firm is constantly looking to further elevate the brand’s value via an array of novel approaches. “One key element of ASEPTO’s innovation has been

the concept of becoming a complete solution provider – a status we’ve achieved by being a total system supplier. Time is critical to any process, so the ideal for companies is a packaging solution that’s holistic. Our strength lies in the backward integration strategy we’ve adopted to propel our innovative packaging venture,” Mr Sharma divulges, adding. “UFlex believes that, in the next decade, packaging will transform the way the point of sale zones are viewed within India’s beverage industry.” On the other hand, ASEPTO has created a sound competitor in its Smart 78 and Flexpress 10000 machines, energising brands with new possibilities, given the various packaging sizes that can be accommodated on these two innovative lines. Such flexibility will clearly prove more crucial than ever in a post-Covid-19 world – one in which agile operations are increasingly essential to success, and sound packaging solutions are more vital than ever. “Many companies are reorganising their approach and processes, in order to build their capabilities for the ‘new normal’ and survive in the long run,” Mr Sharma observes. “We definitely see our presence strengthening as we help such businesses with innovative packaging solutions, and progress further with speed and accuracy.” The executive admits that the market is definitely going through a testing time, yet

with safety today higher on the agenda, and concerns about maintaining the freshness of perishables on the rise, demand for high-quality aseptic packaging will only continue to increase in the years ahead, as the segment proceeds to offer up “great solutions that break stereotyped packaging,” as the ASEPTO executive puts it. Pursuing new innovation pathways

“There are undoubtedly challenges in the market, yet at ASEPTO we have always viewed challenges as the raw ingredients for our innovation pathways,” Mr Sharma continues. “As stated earlier, India presents us with an immense array of opportunities, and we intend to focus on those areas of growth. India’s aseptic packaging segment is expanding at about 20 per cent CAGR – we’re sitting on a 10-billion-pack market in India – supplying the machinery required to produce those packs should be low-hanging fruits for us, going forward. Obviously, there’s an opportunity for players to co-exist in the Indian market, because the growth in demand here is phenomenal,” he observes. “At the same time, the products we make are highly unique, and we’re confident in our ability to add considerable value for customers on the global stage as well. At seven billion packs per year, we already boast a decent capacity in India – and we can further scale that up, in order to keep pace with the demand.” Clearly, the achievements that ASEPTO has made in less than three years are remarkable – even more so when one considers how the firm’s growth trajectory has not been hobbled by the on-going pandemic situation. “Throughout this time, we’ve consistently moved forward, consolidating our progress, before moving on with our next set of growth steps. The ‘new normal’ could mean some change of plan to address the needs of new customers, yet that in itself could prove to be an opportunity for us,” Mr Sharma advises. Certainly, amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the aseptic packaging market is witnessing tremendous growth – not least due to the shelf stability and preservation of freshness such packaging affords an array of produce amidst an era of supply chain disruptions. Add to that the modern consumer’s heightened concerns regarding food hygiene and their increased sensitivity to packaging waste, and it is clear to see why demand for aseptic packaging will continue to soar and long outlast the pandemic. “The point of consolidation is extremely important for us – we’re yet to fully capitalise our plant capacity, but that’s our future short-term goal,” Mr Sharma tells us in closing. “Once we hit full production capacity at Sanand, we shall enter the next phase of ASEPTO’s growth.” Since day one, ASEPTO’s motto has been ‘Freshness Preserved’. In the years to come, as this Indian innovator’s operations ramp up – both at home in Sanand, and at new facilities overseas – many more beverage players will become well attuned to the true benefits contained within such a commitment. o 63

Company Profile: AROL Group Written by SARAH PURSEY

CAPTAINS OF CAPPING From its historic headquarters in Canelli, Italy, AROL Group has pioneered numerous technologies and solutions for capping – combining effective product preservation, with stringent safety standards and a high level of customer satisfaction, to serve the machinery needs of some of the most important beverage brands in the world. Federico Zannier, AROL Group’s Sales Director, reveals more about the vision and outlook of this dynamic capping company – a world leader in its sector today.

ethered caps – that is, caps that remain attached to the containers during the product’s intended use stage, including opening and closing – will become part of day-to-day life in Europe from 2024, due to the EU Directive 2019/904 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment. Proactive Italian capping specialist AROL Group is already working with beverage giants like Coca-Cola, alongside packaging manufacturers and bottling line manufacturers to minimise the impact of this directive on their operations – and for



those players taking this opportunity to rethink their packaging design, a company like AROL should be a first port of call to study the best equipment upgrades and format changeover. An historic Italian company established over four decades ago, AROL became a Group following a series of acquisitions that started in 2009 with Alseno-based FT SYSTEM – a company dedicated to the production of systems for the inspection and control of containers. “This aligned well with the business perimeter of AROL,” Mr Zannier advises. “In fact, we are today a world leader in the production of capping and closure systems, for any product, meaning anything with a cap that prevents products from escaping from a container.” Today, the Group is made up of four Italian companies. Firstly, there is AROL itself – a capping and closing solutions specialist serving leading global brands in the areas of food, beverage, wines & spirits, alongside other sectors like household and personal care, pharma and chemical. The second business of the group is Montecchio Emilia (RE)-based ‡


UNIMAC-GHERRI, which focuses on the production of filling and capping of glass containers with twist-off caps for liquid, semiliquid and pasty products. AROL Group’s third business is MACA ENGINEERING, which manufactures and supplies a complete range of automatic machines and lines for the production and assembly of aluminium and plastic caps and closures. Based in Pordenone, Tirelli in Marmirolo (MN), MACA ENGINEERING has recently incorporated another Marmirolo-based company, KTF Engineering – a specialist in net weight filling technology. AROL is currently headquartered out of Canelli, although the group’s various subsidiaries are managed across 10 branches globally to remain close to the companies that have chosen AROL as their technology partner over the past 40 years. AROL currently produces about 700 machines per year, and boasts a track record of around 30,000 installed machines – all engineered and produced in one of the group’s four Italian facilities, which together employ about 750 people.

prevalent function, notes the executive. “It was therefore decided to integrate the offer with collateral elements, which guided the acquisition process, based on companies that would have not only complemented but also completed the AROL range, thus expanding its portfolio and ensuring access into new markets. UNIMAC-GHERRI, for example, is a world leader in the manufacture of linear cappers for twist-off caps, but also realises production lines for the food sector, positioning the AROL brand in a new segment for which we produce small packaging lines with AROL cappers integrated within. Thinking about Tirelli, which recently incorporated KTF ENGINEERING – a firm active in the packaging sector of cosmetics, detergents, home and personal care – the main objective was to acquire skills in the world of capsuling and capping of special caps, such as triggers for sprinklers. With MACA ENGINEERING, we have machines and plants for the manufacturing of caps, especially in aluminium – that acquisition allowed us to bring in-house new specialist know-how in that area.

Integrated offering

“Not just a machine, but a complete service”

“The acquisition process began a few years ago and has accelerated over the last four to five years,” notes Mr Zannier, who has been working in the world of packaging for more than 20 years, and in addition to the role of AROL Group’s sales director also holds the position of DG of UNIMAC-GHERRI and another position of responsibility in MACA ENGINEERING. “AROL is a leader in capping – a specific product that comes in several options, with broad versatility but always with a single-product logic: special machines, with an exceptional level of customisation, covering a

Mr Zannier advises that the group is today promoting a synthesis of the group’s various facets to the prospective customer. “We’re keen to present our ability to integrate the different activities of the group, to offer a service to the customer that is complete and developed with operational methods in step with the times,” he notes. “I’m thinking of Industry 4.0, systems with a high degree of automation, and the ability to manage flexibility – which is constantly increasing – by introducing more automation, robotics, detection and use of data to improve performances. To this we add our ability to be close to the customer – for example, in supporting the selection of the most suitable application and process for the product being processed. All this with the scope to pool the skills we have at group level – both in terms of the manufacturing of caps and in the application – with the aim to offer not just a machine, but a complete service.” The group’s Sales Director goes on to provide an example of AROL’s comprehensive service offering. “Small environmental variations can lead to changes


in capping performance. But we at AROL can assure the customer that we will give all the necessary support with our equipment and our experience in solving the problem,” he advises. “Another emblematic example is legislation: let’s think about the new tethered cap, which remains attached to the bottle and will be compulsory throughout Europe in a few years’ time. At the beginning there was panic among beverage producers – our role was precisely that of finding a solution, also for the existing systems,” he points out. “The same can be said about reducing the environmental impact, with even lighter and thinner caps, which today means 0.6g–0.8g. Our focus is therefore to optimise the impact on the lines, proposing systems that are able to detect the conditions in which the product is handled, such as environmental conditions, speed, and materials. This is an important issue, on which we will also give support in the field, in the categorisation of materials and their management inside the plant.” Sustainability at its core

Mr Zannier continues with an assessment of the topic of sustainability, which is certainly not a new consideration for AROL – in fact, the issue has always been at the centre of the group’s activity, albeit in a different guise to how sustainability is understood today. “We’ve been talking about sustainability for a long time, because in the past it was called ‘cost reduction’,” the executive tells us. “Having lighter bottles and caps has always been a central theme. A few years ago the half-litre bottle of a soft drink weighed almost 30g – today, we are around 15g, and the caps go accordingly. Therefore, material reduction is a theme we have been carrying around for years: it is a continuous evolution that today we call by a different name. Mr Zannier opines that what is perhaps new is the speed with which these changes are happening, and especially their media impact. “In recent years, we have experienced an explosion in the sale of can lines and glass lines, as if glass and cans have less environmental impact than PET. They don’t – it’s all about behaviour: in terms of environmental impact, there is nothing comparable to PET recycling, not ‡ 67

even recycled glass nor aluminium. The issue of communication has greatly influenced consumption and consequently technologies. In this context, flexibility and speed of adaptation are key – for us and for our machines.” Positive outlook

Regarding trends and the prospects he sees in the market over the coming months and years, Mr Zannier notes that “the choice to diversify” has helped many businesses throughout the recent difficult period. “Some companies in the group have grown considerably and swiftly, driven by consumption at home,” he observes. “One example is UNIMAC-GHERRI, which produces – among other things – machines for packaging sauces and other products that are typically used at home, serving customers who have doubled their production. Tirelli is another interesting case with respect to the market for sanitizers, cleaning products: another important sector last year. In contrast, there was a modest return of plastics but we saw a lot of growth in glass for example: a trend that is continuing.” 68

As for 2020 – considered an annus horribilis by myriad businesses the world over, for obvious reasons – AROL did not experience much impact to its turnover. However, according to Mr Zannier, “the mix of growing and declining products has changed. Moreover, 2021 is confirmed with a positive trend where we see the return to plastics for the most important players, especially in areas that had been strangely abandoned, such as aseptic filling – a sector that has suffered everywhere except in China,” he observes, adding that this is perhaps due to the high start-up costs (on average, these are three times higher than a standard plant). “That aspect, combined with uncertainty, has led to a delay in investments that generally amount to around €15-20 million per line. Yet such investments are starting again, following a return to the confidence and optimism that also guides our growth path,” he tells us in closing. “Thanks to wellmodulated choices, this gives us a positive outlook upon the future, strengthened by performances with a plus (i.e., growth) sign, even in years like 2020 and 2021.” o

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.