Feeding the world, as well as the planet
DSM-Firmenich has a vision for the future of food. It encompasses better nutrition, a transformation to great-tasting natural food, and the plant-based revolution to enhance well-being for people, and the planet. And it has the statistics to show it’s making tangible progress towards that vision, being recognised as one of the world’s most ethical companies by Ethisphere, the number one rated sustainable company in the F&F sector by Sustainalytics, in addition to many other top sustainability accolades.
Founded in 1895, the newly rechristened DSM-Firmenich (thanks to its merger with DSM to create DSM-Firmenich, which will have a combined turnover in excess of €11bn) has three aims for the immediate future to accelerate its vision.
First, it wants to keep innovating to optimize natural resources, expanding natural and clean label solutions, and contributing to a transparent and traceable food industry. By leveraging innovation DSM-Firmenich wants to continue to transform its palette to exceed 80% of nature-based ingredients within its revenue by 2030.
Second, they want to contribute to the less sugar, less salt, less alcohol diet, for instance by reducing up to 2.8 trillion calories from sugar in people’s diets annually by 2030. “Sugar reduction is a definitive piece of work that we’ve been pioneering, we were the first to market in 2011 when we launched a range of products called TasteGem®,” says Darren Seaborn, a senior account manager at DSM-Firmenich.
Finally, it will continue playing a big role in the plant-based revolution, one example of which is the vegan carbonara it will serve up at Food Matters Live’s Tastes of Better event in Manchester in May. It tastes good, but DSM-Firmenich also says using Smart Proteins like those in the carbonara will help it save 285 billion litres of water, and help reduce 4.5 millions tons of CO2 emissions, per year.
If you’re reading this article you can taste that carbonara for yourself by requesting a VIP ticket for Tastes of Better. Indeed, this single plate of food encapsulates so much of what DSM-Firmenich is about and where is will continue to go – producing fabulous flavours and ingredients that become nutritious, natural, sustainable food.
“We are truly on a mission to bring positive emotions to a consumer’s day,” says Helen Ledos, customer experience director at DSM-Firmenich. “We know how much people taste from when they wake up to when they go back to bed, so we ask ourselves, how can we uplift the consumer in terms of happiness and positive emotions, and make sure that we do our best to protect people by respecting nature.”
Along the way, Ledos says DSM-Firmenich “does not compromise on taste. I think that’s one of the most used phrases we say to clients. How to accompany our clients and consumers at our best within this diet transformation? It is our mission on a daily basis!”
That attitude extends throughout the DSM-Firmenich supply chain, chiefly through responsible sourcing, which in itself is not without its challenges.
“We have specific programmes where we work with farmers as closely as we can to validate that their ways of working are ethical,” says Seaborn. “We invest in their farms and their working conditions. We partner and work with farms to make sure that everything is as secure as it can be.”
The plant-based sector has a foot in all three of the nutritious, natural and plant-based pillars of the diet transformation. DSM-Firmenich has a large and dedicated plant-based platform that launched five years ago that’s enriched with strong consumer and market insights. As a Business to Business to Consumer Partner Ledos says it is “key for us to be guided by consumers, to listen to them and validate our concepts with them. The same applies to market signals.”
Seaborn says DSM-Firmenich has customers that “don’t want to launch burgers, or chicken nuggets, their long term goal is about feeding the planet. This current development of meat alternatives is quite narrow. I think as the numbers of people on the planet increase, we do need better ways, and different ways, to feed the planet, and we must evolve. I think we’re just learning to use plants in a different way, they just happen to be taking the shape of sausages, nuggets and burgers at the moment. I think we’ll be moving away from that in the next decade, and there will be new things out there that people don’t actually recognise today.”
It’s about “looking forward to what could be beyond,” says Ledos. “What is exciting? What is sustainable? And what is healthier? Of course that’s what we wake up for that every morning, but we always keep in mind that if your transformative product doesn’t taste good, the consumer won’t join the journey.”
It’s why she says DSM-Firmenich deploys increasing numbers of culinary chefs to “bring a culinary approach to our food design” that produce a staggering array of ingredients, but at Tastes of Better it will focus on three savoury solutions, including that plant-based vegan carbonara sauce. Even swapping out chunks of authentic guanciale for streaky bacon is asking for trouble in some quarters, so is DSM-Firmenich confident it’s managed to go even further and create a satisfying plant-based alternative?
“It comes back to all the things we’ve spoken about,” says Seaborn. “Addressing the challenges around making it taste and feel like it should do, because of the technologies that we’re putting into it. It needs to taste of parmesan, fresh bacon notes, and the creamy notes. Take the cream out, you’re missing a lot of things, not just the cream flavour.”
Vegan pulled pork and sausage rolls will also be on offer, as well as lo-no alcoholic drinks. “The lo-no movement is a massive part of the current diet transformation,” says Seaborn. “We work on what we call maturation keys, so a lo-no alcohol rum can actually taste like it’s matured in a in a barrel for 10 years. But because lo-no rum hasn’t had this fermentation maturation process, you’ve got to address those gaps. How do you bring that level of complexity? If you take something out, you’ve got to put something back in.”
For DSM-Firmenich, that goes for the planet as well as lo-no rum. “Our purpose is to do good for the environment and enhance wellbeing for the person,” says Ledos. “We really see the need from consumers. There’s a huge dietary shift going on everywhere, they want more nutritious solutions, healthier solutions, and solutions that are more sustainable. And we want to be the ones to help provide them with those.”