And it seems to have caught on further up the supply chain too, as suppliers of ingredients and processing machinery increasingly build mutually beneficial relationships with one another and with other technology providers.
Jan-Olof Lundberg, technical manager with Swedish ingredient supplier Culinar AB, sets the scene that has paved the way for greater collaboration between food industry suppliers: “In the past 20 years, we’ve seen food manufacturers dramatically downscaling the resources they commit to R&D and process development, but at the same time they’re under pressure to speed up the innovation process,” he says. “With fewer R&D staff, they’re looking to their suppliers to come up with solutions that can speed up time to market.”
Within this context, there are various reasons why food industry suppliers may choose to collaborate with one another. One scenario is when an ingredient manufacturer comes across a technology that could enhance or advance its ingredients.
Chr Hansen, for example, is reportedly working with Jurag Separation to test whether Jurag’s filtration technology can be used to make its probiotics more robust.
Kim Binderup, director of strategic innovation at Chr Hansen, told Food & Beverage International magazine that it was too soon to divulge details of the project. However, he did outline the company’s philosophy with regard to collaborative projects, saying: “Our core business area is enzymes and cultures, and whenever we see technologies that are proprietary to other companies that could improve our processes either from a cost or quality perspective, we look at collaboration.”
Another project involving probiotics is at a more advanced stage at LeSaffre Human Care. The company was keen to target the beverage industry with its Lynside Pro, a yeast that acts as a probiotic. However, adding the yeast directly to beverages containing sugar and water would result in a highly unstable product.
To overcome this issue, LeSaffre has teamed up with Capable, which has developed a patented in-cap delivery system that releases the yeast into the drink at the point of consumption. Feasibility tests are yielding positive results so far, according to LeSaffre, which means it’s well on the way to having a concept to present to potential customers.
“It was very tricky to get this just right, but we believe we have suceeded,” says Benoît Laplaize, sales and marketing director of LeSaffre.
For many ingredient manufacturers, collaboration with equipment manufacturers is key to helping them develop new ingredients or technologies. Demonstrating that such an approach can be extremely successful, DSM has just won the Gain (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) Business Award for Innovation in Nutrition for NutriRice – a fortified rice product it developed in conjunction with processing equipment manufacturer Bühler.
The collaboration resulted in fortified rice kernels that are said to be indistinguishable from non-fortified rice in appearance and taste, yet remain highly nutritious after washing and cooking.
Another innovation that has come out of collaboration between a machinery and an ingredient supplier is a flavour system from Culinar AB. Culinar previewed the technology, which was developed in collaboration with extrusion equipment specialist Lalesse, at the Snackex show in June, where the two companies shared a booth.
The technology is essentially an encapsulation system that enables flavours to be built into snack products before extrusion. “The minute you put the various flavour components into a matrix, you have unprotected flavour molecules,” says Lundberg. “The problem with this is that when the product expands, the water turns from liquid into steam, and in doing so takes with it all the volatile components, which obviously affects the flavour. We have overcome that with our encapsulation system.”
He says this system could be of potential interest to manufacturers looking to reduce the salt and fat content of their extruded products. Lalesse is also working in collaboration with Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients (LCI), a vertically integrated supplier of cereal ingredients, on direct extrusion breakfast cereal and snack applications.
LCI bought a test extruder from Lalesse to better understand the interactions between raw materials and the process, with the objective of achieving greater consistency in finished products. “We wanted to look at how the extrusion process needed to be adapted to accommodate the variations in raw materials that occur from one harvest to another, look at ways of reducing costs for customers, (for example, by increasing production yields), and bring a complete raw materials and process solution to our clients,” says LCI’s marketing manager, Patricia Panel.
It may seem as though such collaborations are weighted in favour of the ingredient supplier, but Peter Lindner, sales manager with Winkler und Dünnebier, insists that both parties stand to benefit from collaborating.
The confectionery equipment supplier has had an ongoing relationship with Wild for the past seven years. When it does customer trials, it uses Wild’s masses or fruit fillings to demonstrate its triple-shot depositing technology. And when it holds workshops for its customers to train them in the technology, Wild is often invited to explain the challenges of working with different masses and fillings.
“We see it as a way of promoting our capabilities,” says Lindner. “We think having a relationship like this is a marketing instrument for both parties: we benefit from Wild recommending us to customers, while Wild benefits from us telling our customers we know someone who can supply quality ingredients.”
Baker Perkins is another firm advocate of the collaborative approach, viewing it as an important way of driving customers’ investment plans and marketing its confectionery and snack processing machines.
The company has a development laboratory for testing recipes and ingredients on its machinery and even has a website dedicated to showcasing the end product prototypes that are developed on its equipment.
Baker Perkins’ first collaboration was with flavour supplier Firmenich, testing flavour technologies for hard-boiled candies and lollipops on its cooking and depositing equipment.
The company has since collaborated with a string of ingredient suppliers, including Beneo-Palatinit (developing confectionery products to promote Isomalt), Cafosa (developing a process for its gum bases), and Taura Natural Ingredients, to create 100% fruit snacks and co-extrude cereal-based products with fruit paste centres.
Lynda Searby is a special technical feature writer with a broad knowledge of the food and beverage industry.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020