Current top 3 sustainably sourced and better-for-you ingredients: and why consumers are looking for them

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6 min read

It is a well-known that consumers have been increasingly interested in both health and sustainability claims of the products that they choose to purchase. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend further. In fact, the International Food Information Council conducted a Food & Health Survey this year, which found that a staggering 54% of adults reported they find it “important that ingredients don’t have ‘chemical sounding’ names” and 31% stated that sustainability influences their food and beverage selection.

Timo Nieraese, Senior Area Sales Manager at Lecico GmbH has further reported that “due to changing perceptions from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are now much more likely to pay attention to individual ingredients in their foods and beverages.” Transparency is another factor that currently highly influences consumers’ purchasing behaviour and has been named as one of the top trends for 2021, according to Innova Market Insights. In the same vein, Eric Reynolds, Director at Kelco explains that “transparency is closely linked to trust in the mind of the consumer, and manufacturers can earn the trust of consumers with simple and clear labelling”, which above all “proves that ingredients matter.”

According to Ingredion Incorporated’s proprietary 2020 clean-label research, 80% of North American consumers read both the ingredient list, as well as further claims, such as sustainability and health related statements, found on product packaging. Moreover, “brands that are able to offer [fewer] ingredients or more naturally sounding ingredients — as opposed to chemical ones — and are backed by eco-ethical sourcing transparency are likely to perform well in this space with consumers”, Nieraese adds.

All in all, it can be very much understood that both sustainable sourcing and better-for-you ingredients are at the top of the modern consumer’s agenda. So, what exactly are the current developments within this sector allowing the ingredients community to meet these relevant and ever-increasing consumer trends?

1) Barry Callebaut and Prova’s cocoa and vanilla chocolate

Barry Callebaut’s renowned Swiss chocolate brand Carma, has become its first brand to deliver 100% sustainable ingredients for its couvertures range, through a partnership with vanilla supplier, Prova. The partnership has allowed the launch of a new charter in Madagascar that will increase its vanilla sourcing credentials and bring forth 100% sustainability to Barry Callebaut’s ‘better-for-you’ chocolate portfolio. Not only that, but this product range has likewise moved towards 100% sustainably sourced cacao.

These novel developments are impressive changes being made along the company’s supply chains, allowing it to progress towards the achievement of its 2025 Forever Chocolate sustainability goals. Barry Callebaut’s ‘better-for-you’ portfolio has seen great innovation and growth over the past few years with the supplier commenting that “being fully cocoa and vanilla sustainable adds to the value proposition of our products, which our customers can leverage in their product development and storytelling” says Laura Bergan, Director of Barry Callebaut Brand. 

Bergan adds that the company’s “sustainable portfolio goes beyond health benefits including the quality of the ingredients and the impact on the planet and farmers’ livelihood, which plays an important role for consumers.” In addition to this, both Barry Callebaut and Prova are currently supporting the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative, a platform where the stakeholders of the vanilla sector are brought together. 

All of Barry Callebaut’s ‘better-for-you’ cocoa products are verified through the Cocoa Horizons Foundation, a foundation which aims to construct self-driven and self-sustaining cocoa communities. Barry Callebaut sells their Sustainable Cocoa Horizons-verified cocoa products with a premium as a means to better the livelihoods of farmers and their communities. Furthermore, these premiums contribute towards the Cocoa Horizons Foundation to support cocoa sustainability initiatives such as farmer coaching, cocoa and non-cocoa seedling distribution, and community development in an externally verified process.

2) Sternchemie’s new sunflower lecithin

Sternchemie has released a new hydrolyzed, de-oiled sunflower lecithin called ‘SternPur S DH 50’ which is suitable for powdered ingredients, baked goods and beverages and is allergen-free, non-GMO and marketed as the ideal alternative to artificial emulsifiers. This new sunflower lecithin has been deemed as an ‘ideal alternative’ to artificial emulsifiers as the ingredient’s enzymatic treatment and effective removal of oils and flavours results in a pure, “practically odourless” and flavour-neutral lecithin. Additionally, the easily miscible powder is suitable for making stable oil-in-water emulsions, rather than the artificial emulsifiers or chemically modified lecithins frequently used.

While emulsifiers have been significantly used in the food manufacturing industry, the ever-increasing consumer awareness of what is being included in the products that they are buying, industries have had to “reduce the use of chemical or chemically sounding ingredients such as mono/diglycerides, DATEM or PGPR in their products”, reports Roland Rabeler, Business Development Manager at Sternchemie.

“Only recently, some scientific studies suggested that two emulsifiers used in food processing (polysorbate-80 and carboxymethylcellulose) could even be promoting inflammation and metabolic syndrome,” Rabeler furthers. He continues to report that “While the evidence behind negative effects is still preliminary and can be debated, we see increasing interest in lecithin-based solutions. Lecithin carries an E-number, but it is perceived as a well-known, familiar and healthy ingredient with a long history of safe use.”

Timo Nieraese, Senior Area Sales Manager at Lecico reports that “deoiled lecithin is an excellent and sustainable addition that’s easy to obtain, offering reduced transport cost, less packaging disposal and reduced storage capacity”“Since these types of ingredients are much easier for manufacturers to handle during production, primarily due to their improved wetting properties and the ability to emulsify surface fat, they are much more sustainable in the long term.” Furthering lecithin’s sustainability appeal is the fact that it is able to be produced via a CO2 extraction method instead of hexane which “thereby ensuring it is ecologically produced and 100% natural.”

3) Kelco’s dual-fuction gellan gum

Dual-purpose ingredients are a further way in which an ingredient can increase the sustainability of a product given how it is able to help reduce the number of ingredients in a formulation. For example, CP Kelco offers dual function gellan gum that provides both suspension and mouthfeel. It also offers “a new pectin that simplifies the process of making fruited yogurt drinks,” notes Eric Reynolds, Director, of Atlanta-based CP Kelco.

As CP Kelco utilizes fermentation to produce a its gellan gum, Reynold further points out how fermentation is able to provide us with “more reliable functionality and help us towards a more sustainable, resilient future.” He further comments that “the ancient method of fermentation provides a consistent, more sustainable approach to ingredient technology that is less reliant on climate and harvesting, thus avoiding some of the volatility farmers experience.”

The search for a plant-based ingredient that creates gummies with excellent sensory properties has led manufacturers, such as Kelco, to pectin. Pectin is a familiar ingredient to both consumers and formulators that enables production of plant-based, clean-label and organic gummies. Pectin has been noted to be a plant-based ingredient that performs and delivers on the aesthetic, taste and texture preferences of consumers.

The ingredient has additional benefits over gelatine which melts at 35℃, a melting point low enough so that gelatine-based gummies often lose their structural integrity on hot summer days and unwantedly cluster together. As a means to prevent gelatine products from melting, manufacturers often ship these products in temperature-controlled trucks which unnecessarily adds to the environmental harm caused by distribution. Producing gummies using pectin thus eliminates these melting problems as pectin melts at around 143℃, meaning the ingredient is able to contribute towards a company’s sustainability efforts.

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