FrieslandCampina reorganised its ingredients business earlier this year in a bid to align its structure more closely with what it sees as macro trends shaping the consumer and customer landscape.
The cooperative, which is owned by dairy farmers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, said the re-structure marked its “evolution to a unique position in value-added, healthy and functional ingredients and solutions".
Almost five months on, the business’s president, Kathy Fortmann, tells us that FrieslandCampina Ingredients is now better positioned to respond to shifting market conditions.
“Our reorganisation was aimed to even better deliver on changing consumer needs and help our customers to successfully develop and market products that address these needs,” Fortmann said.
To this end, FrieslandCampina Ingredients has invested in ‘development, marketing and sales’ as well as strengthening its regional reach.
High expectations: Consumers want more from F&B
The biggest change Fortmann sees in the market is elevated consumer expectations. People now believe the food and beverages they consume should not only be delicious but should also deliver added health and nutrition benefits.
She believes that the distinction between what would traditionally have been considered food ingredients and products for the wellness or nutraceutical space has eroded.
“As lifestyles are changing worldwide, we see consumer demand also evolving. Consumers are increasingly aware of the positive impact of nutrition in all stages of life and they expect more from the foods and drinks they consume. To respond to this increasing consumer demand our customers need new ingredient-solutions, while extending supply-chain flexibility and robustness, without compromising on quality or taste.”
No small order. But FrieslandCampina believes it can leverage this market shift by playing to its strengths: “Where customer insights, knowledge of functional and nutritional aspects of dairy, and the capability to develop good-tasting products come together, is where we are making the difference,” the business executive claimed.
This is being achieved by leveraging both nutritional and functional knowledge to build ‘various health and functional benefit platforms’.
Gut health going mainstream
FrieslandCampina has identified three focus areas where it is stepping up investment. Keeping diary at its core, the company is exploring future growth potential in gut health, protein and personalised nutrition.
Fortmann believes that these areas are prime ground for innovation in food ingredients as well as health and nutrition markets given growing consumer understanding of the impact diet has on health.
For instance, she elaborated: "Microbiome for overall wellbeing is on the rise. Digestive health is a key trend that we see play across both nutraceutical and nutrition markets as well as the food ingredients markets as consumers are increasingly seeking out products which they perceive are beneficial for their gut health.”
The company conducted a recent consumer survey which found almost half of consumers globally already claim they are regularly seeking out food and drink products which will aid their digestive health.
How is this playing out in traditional food categories such as the dairy aisle? “We know the demand for naturally fermented products such as yoghurts, and specific formulations containing active ingredients such as prebiotics or probiotics, is increasing with the Asian markets taking the lead. New products and formats are being launched,” Fortmann observed.
“Prebiotics is a new trending ingredient category. Prebiotics are fibers that act as a selective food source for the ‘good bacteria’ in the gut and as a result bring a tangible health benefit. For example, the prebiotic GOS is proven to stimulate growth of bifidobacteria and improve digestive health.”
Protein power: Adult nutrition taking off
Protein supplementation and whey powders were once the preserve of body builders and elite athletes. But Fortmann believes that there is now mainstream momentum behind protein products, which have expanded into everyday-use food and beverage categories.
She noted that this is being driven by ‘mainstream healthy active lifestylers looking for everyday nutrition solutions’.
Even when preaching to the converted, protein continues to move out of its niche: “Professional athletes are also approaching nutrition more holistically – looking to integrate performance nutrition into their daily diet rather than viewing it as a supplement.”
And then, of course, there is the healthy ageing appeal reflecting global demographic changes and older populations. “Importantly, with ageing adults seeking convenient, tasty and nutritious solutions to stay healthier for longer and the right medical nutrition support when health is compromised, this life course approach by FrieslandCampina Ingredients will enable better nutrition for adults globally.”
To ease the transition from what were once a niche nutra space, food and beverage innovators need to incorporate functional benefits into products that also deliver on taste and convenience. “Products for these consumers must deliver on nutrition, taste and convenience, so that people can incorporate them into their daily routines,” Fortmann suggested.
How does she see it playing out? With an increased emphasis on enriched protein products, products enhancing gut health or functional foods that trigger specific biological functions, ranging from weight management to sleep.
The future is personal
Personalised nutrition is still an emerging concept for an industry that is built on mass production models to keep costs down.
FrieslandCampina has largely spent the months since its re-organisation looking at how to build its gut health and protein positioning. But personalised nutrition is nevertheless an area that FrieslandCampina Ingredients is taking a serious look at.
“Personalised nutrition has always been a big focus point for the brand, and therefore we are exploring more interesting opportunities within that area, later this year” Fortmann said.
Teasing the outcome of the group’s development work she said she would be able to elaborate further at the beginning of 2020. “What I can say is that it’s all looking very interesting and exciting – so definitely stay tuned!”