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Special edition: Reformulation

'Rollercoaster of pricing and availability' for key ingredients driving reformulation solutions: Ingredion

By Stephen DANIELLS , 19-Dec-2012

Increases in the price of key ingredients, or widely fluctuating prices, are driving reformulation efforts in the industry, with suppliers like Ingredion offering solutions to replace ingredients and cut costs.

Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA, Bob Allin, director of marketing, savory, North America said: “Key ingredients, like vegetable oil or guar gum, are increasing in price, and it’s been a rollercoaster of pricing and availability."

Indeed, with soybean and canola oil prices are virtually doubling their historic prices, it comes as no surprise that manufacturers are looking for dependable and cheaper alternatives.

The impact of increasing vegetable oil prices is perfectly illustrated by salad dressings, he said, because about 45% of the product is vegetable oil.

“If the cost of that ingredient is doubling, then that puts pretty significant pressure on manufacturers.

“We have texturizing solutions [Precisa Cling system] to allow a manufacturer to reduce the oil content from 45% to 30%.

Do the math

“If you’re manufacturing one million pounds (lbs) of salad dressing, and 45% of that is vegetable oil, that’s 450,000 lbs of vegetable oil. With our solution, you can reduce this by 150,000lbs. If you think the price of vegetable oil is 50 cents a pound, then you’re saving $75,000.”

The replacement is not one-for-one, but Allin said a manufacturer is putting in about 2% of the system and the balance is made up of water.

Allin added that Ingredion has done rheology and sensory panels for the ingredient in finished products and found that the results matched the control.

“The brand quality remained,” he said.  

The guar gum stand-off

Even in a world of fluctuating prices for raw materials and commodities, guar gum stands out as a special case: Historically, prices have been around $2 per pound, but they are currently up around $10 a pound.

Indeed, the standoff between guar gum buyers and sellers was recently described as “a game of Russian Roulette” by hydrocolloids industry expert Dennis Seisun.

“Buyers are not buying and sellers are not selling,” wrote Seisun in his Quarterly Review of Hydrocolloids. “Since June of this year, orders for fast hydrating guar (FHG) have dried up.”

The guar gum stand-off is creating opportunities for Ingredion and other suppliers, however.

“Companies put an awful lot of time into planning, and it’s difficult when you have a key ingredient that is fluctuating that widely,” observed Allin.

“Many manufacturers are actively reformulating guar gum out of their products.”

Clean label and free-from

For clean label innovations, Leaslie Carr, marketing manager, Wholesome, Ingredion, told us that most manufacturers are simply looking for ingredients that consumers understand. The company has done a lot of work in the dairy sector, with Greek yogurt a particularly hot topic at the moment.

On the other hand, gluten-free is about building the label, she admitted. “It is more complex overall, because you’re replacing one ingredient with many, but they are still clean label ingredients.”

Indeed, ingredients like rice flour and tapioca flour are instantly understandable for consumers, she said.

When it comes to reformulation with a natural twist, cost reduction gets tricky since “natural alternatives tend to be a little more expensive”.

For ‘natural’ reformulation it’s more about a holistic approach, she said.

Reformulation series

To read the other articles in our reformulation series, please follow the links below:

The lowdown on commodity prices, what they mean for food prices in 2013, and why 2012/13 is not going to be a repeat of 2007/8

How to save cash, boost nutrition and clean up product labels…Tate & Lyle on win-win reformulation

New flavors can broaden product line's appeal, but won't supplant old standbys

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