The availability and costs of starches and maizes uncontaminated by GM-variants were causing headaches, Short, who heads the clean label ingredients firm with Andrew Ulrick, told FoodNavigator.
“We see starch businesses who work with different cereals and crops who find it increasingly difficult to offer GM-free or non-GM crop varieties,” he said. “It’s difficult to maintain segregation.”
“You get huge maize-based processing plants for big-volume commodity products. If they can’t get hold of grain in the EU, they go outside the EU for top-up supplies. It is becoming increasingly difficult to segregate these top-up supplies.
“So you get restricted amounts of non-GM top-up supplies. That pushes up prices and that pressure pushes down the line to the food manufacturer and retailer.”
He said he could envisage a time when the lack of guaranteed segregated supplies and the consequent price premium for them would tip the scales in favour of using GM. “There will be a tipping point where consumers will say, ‘if it [non-GM] is going to cost that much, we’ll have GM products.”
However, he said Ulrick & Short was committed to providing non-GM ingredient solutions to maintain consumer choice.
Short predicted increasing pressure to use GM ingredients would create a growing conflict with the clean-label movement, for which there would continue to be strong demand from the food industry and shoppers.
GM will conflict
“The problem is if you’re a manufacturer or a retailer does having a clean label premium product sit with having a GM-product. For example, in the UK you are not allowed to use modified starch in clean label premium foods. GM will conflict.”
He suggested that GM ingredients would begin to creep into economy lines and the trend would spread from there. However, since there was still considerable resistance to GM foods in Europe he said the transition would still not occur for some time.
Ulrick & Short’s drive to keep sourcing non-GM ingredients sat alongside its current strategy to broaden its sourcing and variety of functional ingredients to give manufacturers more choice. In particular it is extending its operations into Asia-Pacific markets and one of the benefits of doing so would be its ability to process and source more GM-free ingredients such as starches, said Short.