”Being transparent is an obligation”

24 September 2018


In part two of the interview with Peter Roël, we asked him about his experience in the food industry and his thoughts on the developments within this industry.

In the previous article I mentioned that the food industry has an obligation to inform the consumers of how products are made, and why certain ingredients are used. Generally, the more you explain to consumers what you use and how certain food products are made, and also have the appropriate checking mechanism in place.

Being transparent is an obligation and a trend. However, there is more going on in the food industry, such as an increase in the interests towards healthy foods in the mature markets. There is a large amount of people suffering from obesity, which is linked to an increase in consumption of carbohydrates, fat, and protein combined with a certain life style. You clearly see a trend that is heavily guided by local governments. This trend involves implementations such as sugar tax, which has the goal to reduce the intake of energy-containing raw materials. To conclude, I am of the opinion that artificial sweeteners are not supporting the obesity problems, however, it is the habit of consumers that is.

I mentioned before that consumers are used to having a sweet tongue, but still want to eat or drink good tasting products with a reduced intake of energy linked to carbohydrates, fat, protein or salt. Then the question arises of how Firmenich is trying to facilitate both of these wants. Firstly, these trends have been going on for more than twenty years. However, consumers are not willing to compromise on taste, they want to keep a very tasteful and acceptable food or drink. If you take out sweeteners or sugars in general, the drink is not that tasty anymore, it is just flat water with a taste. And if you know what that tastes like, you know that it is flat, boring. So about 20 years ago, Firmenich started to invest heavily in conducting research on products which will enhance the sweet perception of certain products. This does not mean that at this moment 100% of the sugar can be replaced. I mean, you can, but then it is not a clean label anymore, because you can do it with stevia for example, which is an extract from a plant. Stevia gives a sweet impression without calories, which is the same with intensive sweeteners. These give a sweet impression without calories, but it is artificial.

So, at Firmenich we have been aiming, especially since the last 10 years, at looking for natural ingredients which enhance sweetness without looking at stevia or other sweetness systems. Currently, we are able to reduce 30% of carbohydrates in food products by replacing them with flavouring ingredients. However, if you reduce sugar (carbohydrates) with 30% by taking sugar out, you need to replace the second effect of sugar next to sweetness; body. When that is the case, you need to work with mouthfeel agents (flavour ingredients, no separate declaration) and or bulling agents which need declaration; hence the clean label trend. This is what we have done, and I think we are currently in a good shape to offer these solutions to our customers.

We want to thank Peter for his time and his insights on the food industry. Do you agree with Peter, or do you want to share your own story with us? Please contact us via info@foodsciencescommunity.com or +31(23)7548660