Any developer tasked with reformulating a product knows that clever sourcing of ingredients can generate better flavours, new experiences, and sustainable benefits. But in practice, getting to that point requires vast technical expertise.
A decision to remove sugar, or dairy, or palm oil, may tick a number of healthy, ethical, or eco-related boxes, and keep marketing departments purring with pleasure. But for developers it can create huge complications. The world of ingredients is vast, varied and fraught with regulatory differences between countries, and a challenging supply chain. So a decision to remove an ingredient may be a simple one, what to replace it with is where the trouble starts.
Azelis solves problems like this all day, every day. “Within the UK and across the Azelis group, there’s a depth of specialist technical knowledge,” says Alie Coppolella, Market Manager at Azelis. “We solve problems, but we also give inspiration and ideas. When we have new ingredients introduced to us, we evaluate them. We do a lot of groundwork in terms of how they perform, and how they work with our other ingredients. In theory it’s two plus two equals eight, and our customers may not have time or the resources to do this important evaluation.”
Alie says working alongside Azelis often means the “work has already been done. If a developer comes to the table and says: ‘I’ve got a problem that needs solving’ we’ve probably been halfway down the track already. We had a customer recently who was trying to make a yoghurt based drink but was having a problem with suspension of insolubles. We knew how to fix it, because we’d found an answer before.”
She says it’s a “nice little example that shows how a developer doesn’t have to spend an awful lot of their time doing the same work that has already been done in our in our development kitchen. This customer originally came to us about stabilising the drink. However in addition we introduced an ingredient to provide improved whitening and opacity, and they were delighted with this.”
Post-lockdown, working together can feel like a remote experience, but Azelis firmly believes in close collaboration, another little thing that has a big impact.
“I think we’re very much ahead of the game in terms of how we work technically with our customers, as a team in the UK, and using the knowledge across the wider group,” says Azelis Business Manager Joe Yeates. “Competitors might have specialist knowledge in certain areas, but we’re working right across the board in all different applications. We work collaboratively with customers.”
Alie says Azelis recently had a “bespoke innovation day with a customer which gave them a lot more knowledge than they’d expected on the day. It’s about having that collaborative approach, looking at how we can propose solutions for customers. Ultimately it’s going to lead to the customers being more successful in the market, because we’re offering them the answers to issues with texture, flavour, health and cost. Our tailored solutions provide a holistic approach to address all these key challenges.”
Responsiveness is also “vital in such a remote world,” says Joe. “We were talking to a customer about the supply chain challenges they faced, such as sourcing hard to find ingredients because the raw materials were in short supply. They struggled to source the specific ingredient they needed, so we worked with them to find the closest match and secure them a supply. They had approached the market and spoke to five different manufacturers and distributors, and we were the one that came back quickly saying “Yes, let’s work on this together, let’s find out what you’re using it for and select an alternative that got them out of a hole.”
Of course there are commercial reasons for this approach, but he adds “you’re not going to grow the business unless you’re willing to help customers. I think we’re very sensitive to customer needs. We have a very consultative approach, understanding what the customer is working on, making suggestions to enhance their products.
“Often we’re going on a journey with a customer to somewhere they didn’t expect. It’s important to go on this journey with the customer, engage with them, focusing on their needs. We have such a wide portfolio of products and a wide knowledge base we can bring together, to help them with whatever they’re working on, whether it’s for now, or in the future. We can generally deliver exactly what the customer is looking for.”
Alie suggests that, increasingly, what they are looking for is the “holy grail” of food development, which in 2023 typically means “all health, sustainability, clean label and allergen requirements are met without increased cost.”
But taste, she cautions, “is paramount. If a customer has an established product that sells well, the last thing they want to do is, for the sake of modest savings, is impact the taste, because sales could be negatively affected. A customer may buy a cheaper reformulated product once, but they won’t buy it again. Maintaining taste and mouthfeel is crucial.”
All this will be on display when Azelis takes part in Tastes of Better in October. “We’re working along the ideas of brunch items, so a brunch buffet, and then an afternoon tea buffet. Meaning guests can come to the morning and the afternoon session to see different things.”
As for what’s on the menu, it is still being considered, but Alie says “we will have familiar favourites reimagined to meet future objectives, health trends, and cost. These are all long term challenges developers are facing, and I believe they will want to partner with a business that’s going to be around for the long term. One that does all the little things we’ve talked about very well, so the finished product has the best possible chance of having a big impact.”
Meet Azelis at the Food Matters Live: Tastes of Better series, an opportunity for ingredient innovators to showcase first-hand their latest ingredient, flavour and colour innovations to our UK audience of brands, manufacturers, retailers, foodservice and QSRs.