Artisanal trend fuels ingredient innovation

13 Sep 2018

Craft and artisanal food and drink launches have seen a global CAGR of 28% over the past five years, according to Innova Market Insights, and suppliers are responding with investment in authentic, clean label ingredients.

Artisanal trend fuels ingredient innovation

Artisanal products suggest small-scale production, but large manufacturers increasingly are looking for ways to tap into consumer interest, either by acquiring craft producers, or by launching their own premium brands. Words like “handmade” and “hand-cooked” have become more widely used, and more companies are calling out the origin or the minimal processing of ingredients, conjuring an image of homely, authentic, wholesome food. The trend can be seen across product categories, from savoury and sweet snacks to breakfast cereals, beverages, ready meals and more.

The beverage sector has seen one of the most pronounced moves toward artisanal production, from premium spirits and craft beer to cold-brewed coffee and artisan tea brands. For example, the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, has formed partnerships with several craft beer manufacturers over the past few years, and has even launched a business unit dedicated to dealing with premium craft acquisitions. Meanwhile, in the UK alone, the number of trademarks registered for spirits and liqueurs rose 41% last year, according to the law firm RPC, responding to consumer thirst for artisanal brands.

On the ingredients side, flavour houses have responded to shifting consumer tastes with a range of authentic flavour options, from the exotic to the traditional. However, the trend toward natural and plant-based products is most clearly reflected in two big deals in the flavour sector in 2018: IFF’s acquisition of Israeli firm Frutarom; and Givaudan’s agreement to take a 40.6% stake in French natural ingredients specialist Naturex.

The trend for artisanal ingredients extends to fats and oils too, where functionality is a key challenge. Consumers are attracted to fats associated with home use, such as butter and olive oil, but these come with heat stability and shelf life issues. Therefore, suppliers are looking for ways to give manufacturers – and consumers – the best of both worlds. For example, Bunge Loders Croklaan has introduced a plant-based, clean label liquid margarine intended for both industrial and artisanal bakers, based on virgin oils from wheat germ, corn and linseed. It says the margarine adds a natural golden colour and even structure to baked goods, without the need for additives.

Cocoa is another key commodity ingredient that has attracted interest from major players looking to tap into demand for artisanal products. Mintel has predicted that cold-pressed cocoa could be the next big thing in beverages worldwide after the success of cold-pressed coffee in the US, and it suggests cacao nibs could also see a surge in popularity. In Europe, the market researcher says there is significant interest in cocoa and chocolate products that retain more of the nutritional value of cocoa beans, meaning companies could boost the artisanal appeal of their products by highlighting cocoa content and provenance.

With this in mind, Cargill is among those investing in premium chocolate, having made a €12 million investment in a liquid chocolate production line at its Mouscron facility in Belgium in 2018. It says it aims to offer more quality Belgian chocolate to its global customers in the confectionery, bakery and ice cream industries.

As more manufacturers look to profit from the trend for artisanal and craft foods and drink, their success will depend on several factors – most importantly, the authenticity of their ingredients and processes. Ongoing innovation in clean label, naturally derived and minimally processed ingredients is helping to take artisanal products from niche markets into the mainstream.

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