Why Seed-to-Shelf Matters So Much

We recently announced the latest evolution of our food colour business, with the addition of Sensient Food Colors Peru S.A.C. —our acquisition of the food colour business from GlobeNatural. This was an important part of our ongoing initiative to innovate across the entire natural colour value chain.

Sensient’s agronomy team checks on colour crops in Europe

Our expansion into Peru enables Sensient to participate earlier in the process flow for annatto and carmine and expands our suite of anthocyanin colour sources as well. However, this announcement is just one piece of our larger initiative. As an example, Sensient is also running a full scale production on a new, high strength red radish. Additionally, we have several similar projects active around the globe. While Sensient is already the most vertically integrated supplier of natural colours today, we still have opportunity to increase the breadth of our involvement in seed-to-shelf programs for colour from natural sources. We believe our agronomy technology and process engineering expertise will provide food and beverage manufacturers with better natural colours if we engage across the value chain.

Why does this matter for food manufacturers?

As consumers around the world transition away from additives in general and especially ingredients viewed as synthetic, it is becoming more critical for Sensient to provide innovation across the natural colour value chain. Here are the four key reasons:
1. TRANSPARENCY: In their recent 2018 Global Food & Drink Trends report, Mintel identified ‘Full Disclosure’ or transparency as their first macro consumer trend. According to the research firm: “In our new post-truth reality, consumers require complete and total transparency from food and drink companies”. Similarly, Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment survey indicates that more than 70% of consumers around the world “feel more positively about companies that are transparent about where and how products were made, raised, and grown”. Obviously, companies must first know where their food colour is grown in order to be transparent about it.
2. COST-IN-USE: Why are natural colours more costly than their synthetic counterparts? In short, it is because colours from botanical sources typically contain less than 2% pigment versus 90% in a synthetic dye. While improving extraction technology can certainly help reduce cost-in-use, the major gains will come from improved colour crop seeds and innovative agricultural practices.
3. SUPPLY AND COST CERTAINTY: While the food colour business has thus far avoided large scale supply disruptions, the industry is no stranger to short-term pricing volatility due to geopolitical disturbances and adverse weather.Sensient is committed to providing a greater level of stability to food manufacturers globally.With global use of natural colours and colouring foods approaching eighty percent, ensuring sufficient supply requires careful long-term planning.

Use of Natural Colour in New Product Launches

%of food & drink product launches using natural colour & colouring food in 2017

Source: Mintel GNPD 2017
seed-shelf-leaves 4. SUSTAINABLE AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE SOURCING: As a company, Sensient Technologies is committed to sustainability. It is certainly possible to initiate agricultural programs that support sustainability efforts without any vertical integration, but from our experience, a greater impact is made when we have a larger, vested presence.

How does agronomy address these issues?

A few years ago, we recognized the key issues outlined above and developed an ambitious agronomy initiative to coincide with the food industry’s transition to colour from natural sources, specifically colour derived from botanicals.
“Sensient’s agronomy program focuses on pigment maximization to drive better performance at given cost-in-use targets. ”tweet-quote
The agronomy initiative has four areas of focus:
Agricultural R&DThe development of innovative farming techniques that will maximize production of colour crops
Seed breedingThe development of colour crops with superior genetics using natural breeding technologies
Seed productionUniform and high quality seeds for planting to maximize the output and meet demand
PlantationsIdentify partners in optimal locations to ensure sustainable and socially responsible farming

seed-green-left-arrowPIGMENT MAXIMIZATIONseed-right-green-arrow

What does the future look like for food colours?

Formulating with natural colour is considered by many to be much more difficult than it is with synthetic versions. As our food colour experts often like to say – “with synthetic, we can get by with the 8-pack crayon set, but when it comes to natural, we need the full 64”. It’s a good way to think about the difference, and it has various implications. There will always be a degree of specialization across the natural colour value chain since a broad range of sources are required. The benefits of improved supply, certainty, cost optimization, and food safety are just too important. Our aim at Sensient is to build on our leadership position by vertically integrating the supply chain. Our newest site constributor and agronomy program leader, Vergel Concibido, will open the doors for greater transparency in our seed-to-shelf story. As always, please reach out to me if you would like to learn more about our program.
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