Kerry business chief: Clean label insights are the basis of our strategy

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

As Kerry Taste and Nutrition launches a natural taste modulator to cut sugar by almost one third, we talk to the firm's chief strategy and planning officer on how its business strategy is being shaped by the clean label movement.

This year the Irish ingredient supplier surveyed around 2,500 people globally on what they want from food and drink, and what they expect to see from products claiming to be clean label.

The survey found that over half (52%) of the 1,800 European consumers from UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy are buying fewer soft drinks, citing the high sugar content as the main reason. However, while two thirds (60%) said they were looking for more low sugar options on the market, 30% associated ‘healthier drinks’ with poorer taste.

Our message back to the industry, and the basis of our strategy, is to take these insights and craft solutions using our taste, nutrition and culinary expertise,” ​said chief strategy and planning officer Robert Phelan, speaking to FoodNavigator about the initial survey findings earlier this year.

The company's latest ingredient TasteSense, therefore, is a result of this strategy.

A natural flavour modulator that alters the overall taste of the finished product, TasteSense reduces the amount of sugar needed by 30% but “adds back​” the sweetness and mouthfeel that is lost when sugar is removed. 

Reduced sugar: A growing 'global requirement'

“The mouthfeel is not a result of bulking agents. TasteSense helps restore mouthfeel in sugar-reduced beverages due to the synergistic effect of the modulation of taste and sweetness,” ​said Ian McGarvey, general manager for the firm's taste division.

Listed as a natural flavouring, it can be added to beverages, yoghurt, ice cream, bakery, sauces and ready-meals - any category where a flavour can be used - and is stable in processing with a long shelf-life, the company said.

Artificial sweeteners have in the past been seen as the solution to the demand for low-sugar-but-still-sweet products but these are increasingly being shunned by consumers who want food and drink to be clean-label and as natural as possible.

“The initial key demand has been in beverage products in Western Europe, however is now a growing requirement in most markets […] and product categories,” ​McGarvey said. “This is driven by consumer demands for lower sugar products in combination with government regulatory activity to reduce sugar.”​  

Different consumers have different clean label demands

Meanwhile, Phelan said different consumer segments in North America do not have the same expectations of the benefits clean label ingredients should bring.

Interestingly, at a very simple level, senior consumers are looking for the removal of ingredients that they know to be unhealthy, and a big driver for that group is health.

“For younger consumers, in particular Millennials, there is a broader sense of what clean label means. They are looking for products that are closer to nature, minimally processed, have very short ingredient decks […] and maybe specifically having ingredients that are naturally healthy. Products that are not labelled as natural flavours but as a native ingredient.”

Consumers are also more willing than ever before to pay more for clean label ingredients, Phelan said, which he put down to the economic recovery in recent years.

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