Claiming to take 'much of the risk out of buying exotic products', the new company established in May this year will target bakers with a range of seeds in its portfolio that stretch from poppy to pumpkin. Buying at source with no intermediary, the firm's co-founders aim to maximise on their collective 40 year industry experience to lock in contracts and help reduce risk to the supply chain. "As a result of our considerable experience in the industry we have noted and identified strong, trustworthy suppliers; remarking quality and consistency from specific sources," Frank Horan, co-founder of Unicorn Ingredients explains to FoodNavigator.com's sister site BakeryandSnacks.com. Food industry players are constantly exposed to the risk of unreliable supply sources, a risk compounded by today's climate that sees food businesses battling to rein in costs linked to soaring ingredient prices. And while much media coverage devotes column inches to the steep climb in price for staples like wheat and corn, the price hikes have spread much further into the food industry, permeating a large swathe of niche ingredients. "Sesame seeds have risen in price by almost 100 per cent in a year," says Horan. Poppy seeds are also "very expensive" although a swelling in recent stocks means some price relief is likely, he adds. In a further example, sister site ConfectioneryNews.com reported that a global shortage of licorice roots in all producing countries, particularly Iran and China had put upward pressure on prices by more than a third for this natural sweetener and flavour. While prices vary according to the block, paste or spray dried form for this popular extract, lots of between 10 and 20 tonnes are demanding €4.75 to €4.80 a kilo, compared with about €3.25 a year ago, with the €5 a kilo barrier hovering on the horizon. Horan claims that measuring performance of suppliers over time is a key method to test reliability. A factor that both himself, and co-founder Nicola Divers, suggest they can tap into as a result of their time in the industry. Most recently, Horan was divisional director of the seeds and natural products division at specialist ingredient supplier Fuerst Day Lawson and Nicola Divers the commercial director of the same firm. "What we can do is take much of the uncertainty out. Our close links with suppliers mean we can set up a secure supply base tailor made for every one of our clients," comments Horan. "We know the growers, the traders and the processors. We can help make the right choices for every type of food need," says Nicola Divers. Unicorn Ingredients, with a portfolio that also carries pulses and grains is arguably also keen to tap into the growing attention from bakers for seeds and grains; attention supported by growing evidence that suggests grains, in particular, may alleviate a range from health problems. Indeed, according to data from market researchers Mintel, out of a total 861 bread products listed on Mintel's Global New Product Database, 123, or 15 per cent, of new breads and bread products launched in Europe in 2007 contained wholegrains.