‘Clean label alone is not enough’: Firmenich on why taste is still king

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Firmenich is experimenting with extraction techniques to bring innovative ingredients to the market © iStock/Maren Winter
Firmenich is experimenting with extraction techniques to bring innovative ingredients to the market © iStock/Maren Winter

Related tags: Clean label, Natural flavours, Firmenich, Traceability

Firmenich is launching a new business platform to focus on natural and clean label products. But, the ingredients supplier says, it is important to go beyond clean label to convert purchase intent.

The Swiss flavour group is launching what it calls a “Natural and Clean Label platform​” to drive sales of its ingredient solutions. This is a “global, cross-functional team focused on a particular area of our business”,​ Stephanie Salord, who leads our clean label platform, told FoodNavigator. “It is about having end-to-end ownership and drive. Our Citrus and Taste platforms are already examples of such an approach in our company.”

Like others in the ingredients space, clean label is an important growth engine for Firmenich. “It is one of our major growth drivers and plans to remain so into the future,”​ Salord said.

Nature meets ‘world-class science’

The new platform builds on Firmenich’s existing clean label solutions, bringing together areas of the business that are already in growth.

“Firmenich already has an established portfolio of natural extracts that we will further strengthen. These are a good set of foundational solutions that are accepted by consumers because of the clarity of the source and process used, for example vanilla (source) extract (process).”

Firmenich is also gearing up its innovation capacity to focus on the development of additional solutions, Salord said. “We are not yet in a launch phase, but are exploring new extraction techniques that include more than just the functionality enhancement, but also use fewer solvents, reduced energy consumption, etcetera. It is about acting responsibly.”

Jerome Barra, VP of innovation and design added that Firmenich is putting its “world-class science to work​” to create “high-intensity taste profiles drawn from nature in a sustainable and traceable way.​”

Barra highlighted the range of extraction techniques that the group is working with, from soft, solvent-free and CO2 extractions, to “kitchen techniques​” leveraging culinary processes and innovative bio-based approaches like fermentation.

Taste and traceability

Salord said that while consumers increasingly want products that are free from chemical-sounding names on the ingredients list, she noted that food makers must also be cognisant of other factors that drive purchase.

“Clean label does not always contribute to taste. We are evolving our portfolio of solutions towards enhanced taste properties as clean label alone is not enough to drive consumers purchase. Taste remains the number one purchase criteria,​” she stressed.

The company is also focused on ensuring the traceability of its ingredients by working in collaboration with its suppliers.

“Our current approach is to be engaged at the source: our responsible sourcing program, called ‘Deep Roots’ is establishing collaborations with small holder farmers to ensure sustainable, good practices and to take a long term view with those communities harvesting some of our most important raw materials. Technology and enhanced connectivity support this program and will help us further deploy our traceability efforts.”

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