Food reformulation is expected to gather pace as the credit crunch hits home, predicts Reading Scientific Services (RSSL), which has seen an increase in enquires from customers seeking cheaper alternatives to costly inputs.
Food manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce costs, and momentum has been picking up in the last 18 months since food prices rose to highs not seen for decades.
RSSL believes that “extreme events” and “general panic in the financial markets” are persuading more firms to re-think what goes into their products.
Price competition between supermarkets can also exert pressure on manufacturers’ margins. Just this week Unilever products have been temporarily de-stocked from Delhaize stores in Belgium after a row over contracts, including price increases.
Sarah Britton, who works in RSSL’s product innovation and ingredients division, said: “There are options available, with new ingredients or new approaches, that can help take the cost out of production without compromising quality.”
Britton emphasised that every case is different, but when a specialist firm is working across the whole spectrum of food production, it has a broad view of the possible approaches and can try out techniques in new areas.
Ingredients firms, too, have recognised the need to come up with more cost-saving alternatives.
Innovations hitting the market in recent months include Ulrick & Short’s clean label tapioca-based starch for fat replacement in cakes and muffins called Synergie L526. This has the potential to replace up to 25 per cent of vegetable oil or margarine in bakery products, reducing costs while helping the industry to meet fat reduction targets.
Meanwhile the Swiss ingredients firm Jungbunzlauer is repositioning its ingredient glucono-delta-lactone (GdL) on the back of rocketing phosphate prices. GdL is used as a natural leavening acid in bakery products and is an alternative to phosphates.
Advanced Food Systems has also recently developed the Actobind clean-label ingredient system for completely or partially replacing sodium phosphate in meat products.
Protein manufacturer Proliant re-entered the dairy market with the launch of Versilac dairy solid, a new ingredient to cut costs compared to other dairy solids and add value.
Novozymes reported that it has benefited from increased interest in enzymes, which can work as cheaper alternatives to other ingredients.
And AAK said the high price of cocoa butter has led to greater demand for its cocoa butter equivalents (CBEs) from specialty vegetable oils, which in turn has yielded strong growth in its confectionery fat business area.