In an interview at the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago in July, Zallie discussed steps dating back to the 1990s, in some cases, Ingredion has taken to meet customer demand for solutions ranging from non-GMO and cleaner labels to snacking.
Stepped-up demand for non-bioengineered ingredients has benefited Ingredion, Zallie said. This interest was heightened by recent congressional passage of a bill subsequently signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama mandating the labeling of foods containing bioengineered ingredients.
“We have a long-standing protocol of identity-preserved non-GM going back to the seed through the finished product since 1997,” Zallie said. “So we have been kind of pioneers and also at the forefront of non-GM certification, and we have expanded the offerings that we had in specialty starches to now selective sweeteners — glucose, syrups and dextrose. What we sensed a couple years ago was that there was growing interest in non-GM sweeteners, and we needed to find a way to be able to supply those with the same level of certification and integrity as our specialty starches.”
The sweeteners complement Ingredion’s range of specialty starches and stevia.
Ingredion’s scale and large number of operating sites has eased its move into non-GMO ingredients.
“It’s much more complex to transition a large facility,” Zallie said. “For us, we have some flexible manufacturing throughout North America with more than 13 manufacturing facilities of varying size and scope. So what we’ve done is looked strategically at which facility we can flex and put in the IP (identity preserved) non-GM protocol to supply these products. So we’re doing that across our facilities in Mexico as well as in Canada. Our Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., facility has been 100% IP non-GM since for more than 15 years. I think that maybe makes it a little bit easier for us.”
Two areas of Ingredion focus in addition to non-GMO ingredients have been solutions focused on clean labels and gluten-free. In clean label, which Zallie said had been a “hallmark” of the company’s focus for longer than a decade, a number of new products are being introduced this year.
“Those have continued to grow,” he said. “Specifically this year we’re introducing a range of pulse-based proteins under the Vitessence brand.
“In addition to that, we’ve extended our Novation franchise of clean label, functional clean label starches with Novation prima 340 and Novation prima 350.”
The pulse products in particular are Vitessence Pulse CT, fava bean and pea protein concentrates; and Homecraft Pulse CT pea and lentil flour.
The “CT” designation stands for “clean taste,” reflecting success Ingredion has achieved in removing beany-notes inherent in most pulse or bean-based products, Zallie said. The pulse line has found its way into products ranging from healthy to indulgent, he said. Vitessence has been offered as a high protein substitute for dairy, as a protein booster.
The 2015 acquisition of Kerr also has given Ingredion an entry into Simple Foods as a means to learn in a very on trend area and is doing well, Zallie said. Kerr’s products include concentrates and purees from fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Kerr has helped us learn about the simple food ingredient space and has given us insight into how we believe that’s going to continue to grow and evolve,” Zallie said. “We’re very keen to expand our offerings in support of Kerr in what we call the simple ingredient space. We’re looking to help them functionalize further the simple fruits and vegetables that they produce for value-added offerings as well. It’s tremendously on-trend.”
While it may not be growing as quickly at the moment as the market for non-GMO ingredients, gluten-free continues to hold plenty of promise, Zallie said. The quality of finished food products on the market continues to improve, he said.
Ingredion products Zallie identified as examples of how the company serves the gluten-free market include non-GMO tapioca and potato starches, hydrocolloid stabilizing systems from the Ingredion Gum Tech business and pulse-based products.
“Typically gluten-free is not a singular product, magic bullet type of an approach,” he said. “It’s an integrated system or solution.”
Zallie cited snacking as an especially attractive market for Ingredion.
“Overall U.S. food and beverage packaged foods are growing at about 2.9%, snack-based products have been growing about 3.5%, (according to IRI),” he said. “And clearly the interest in more nutritious and healthy snacks has also grown. So again, it fits extremely well with the offerings of the Homecraft pulse-based products, the flours as well as the proteins as well as our specialty starches. It’s the combination of both, and really it’s about protein fortification, modulating texture and giving an eating experience that is going to be either new and fun or nutritious.”
Zallie has been a top executive with Ingredion since 2010 and was a leader at National Starch until that company was acquired by Corn Products International. Over the course of the past year, Zallie’s geographic portfolio of responsibility has shifted. While still responsible for specialty ingredients worldwide, Zallie also heads the company’s total businesses across the Americas. Oversight of South America was added, and he no longer has responsibility for the Europe, Middle East and Asia segment.
The contrast between Ingredion’s North and South American businesses is striking, Zallie said.
“The addition of South America obviously is a large business, about a $1 billion business for Ingredion,” he said. “It’s been an interesting challenge because the North America business has been doing quite well, and our South American business has been facing headwinds related to the macro-economic challenges that exist both in Argentina as well as in Brazil. That all being said there are many commonalities in relationship to the supply chain and relationship to best practice transfer between the two regions, that I have been trying to foster in my first several months into the job.”
Ingredion’s move deeper into ingredients like pulse-based flours and different starches are part of the company’s ongoing target of specialty ingredients accounting for 30% of sales by 2019. The company was at 25% at the end of 2015, Zallie said.
Acquisitions of Penford and Kerr Concentrates in 2015 are part of this effort, but so are internal efforts. Zallie noted a 2014 announcement to spend $100 million on investments in two projects to expand specialty ingredient capacity.
“Both of those are now commissioning — one is already commissioned in the United States, the other is commissioning in about a month or two in Asia Pacific,” he said. “And they are going to help grow our wholesome franchise, our delivery systems franchise and a variety of other specialty ingredients in both locations.”