Finding consistent supply
Going natural with flavors and colors does not come without a cost; natural sources can face supply hurdles. The raw materials these ingredients are derived from are subject to market volatility and even scarcity. These challenges can drive up prices and even sometimes have an impact on the consistency of performance of the flavors and colors.
“Natural flavors do, in many cases, cost more due to raw material availability and expense to produce," said Michelle Finley, marketing communications associate for Edlong Dairy Technologies."However, with rather persistent consumer demand for natural flavors, food and beverage developers are creating new products with this in mind from the beginning."
Despite higher price tags, consumer demand seems to be making the sacrifice worth it to bakers and snack producers to have a cleaner label. To help maintain their sources, suppliers of natural flavors and colors cultivate strong relationships and keep a sharp eye on markets around the world.
“Our R.&D. and procurement teams have developed very close relationships with our raw material suppliers to help ease some of the sourcing challenges,” said Roger Lane, marketing manager of savory flavors for Sensient Flavors and Fragrances. “We know exactly who to reach out to in order to source a new ingredient.”
Land O’ Lakes Ingredients not only has developed partnerships with global color suppliers to secure cost-effective color resources, but the company also watches agricultural markets closely.
“Our Land O’ Lakes Corporate Strategic Sourcing Team uses sophisticated market analytics and agricultural crop tools to monitor color ingredient supplies worldwide and track market forces,” said John McDonald, R.&D. fellow and technical director of customer solutions for Land O’ Lakes Ingredients.
With low supply and higher costs, it’s important that flavor and color performance lives up to bakers’ and snack producers’ standards. Because these natural ingredients are often derived from plant sources, quality can vary from season to season.
“Consistency of flavor and color delivery can also fluctuate with natural ingredients due to crop variation,” said Gary Augustine, executive director of market development for Kalsec. “With Kalsec extracts, we standardize on key functional attributes to allow consistent delivery of flavor and color without seasonal variation.”
DDW developed its Specialty Dark caramel colors, which the company claims are the darkest Class I caramel on the market. They could be used as a cocoa extender, helping expensive, volatile cocoa ingredients go further in a bakery formulation and making bakers less dependent on cocoa prices.
Some flavors, typically achieved artificially, may also not have a natural alternative, or it may be difficult to source one.
“Not all artificial flavors are available as natural, which limits creativity and the ability to meet customer and consumer expectations,” Ms. Howerth said.
With the company’s vertically integrated sourcing chain, Kerry aims to jump pricing and market volatility hurdles but also meet challenges in achieving those more difficult natural flavors.