I’m confident that many people reading this article will be grappling with the same NPD problem – how to drive functionality and flavor in the kitchen while being sure to have strong provenance or sustainability narrative. The stats speak for themselves: 60% of people in the US say they want to limit ‘bad’ ingredients in their food. 67% are choosing functional products that benefit the body. And 44% are interested in where their food comes from and how it is made. But jumping on these trends is no mean feat. If you are producing a snack bar with cashew nuts, flavored with spices, you may have nailed the taste and texture, but do you have the positive narrative on the benefits received by the farmers to share with consumers? Or maybe your company has the experience to set up sustainability programs to provide those stories, but there’s something missing when it comes to firing up innovation in the kitchen. And we haven’t even added in today’s supply chain headaches, inflation, and the race to net zero.
Navigating sustainable innovation requires a new approach for food and beverage manufacturers. And that means a new approach for their suppliers. It’s why in January 2020 Olam Food Ingredients announced plans to bring together five of our leading ingredients businesses – cocoa, coffee, dairy, nuts and spices - under one new group, ofi, to help our customers to respond to growing demand for food that is better in every sense – natural, healthy, sustainable, and traceable. Today we’ve taken the next step by revealing a new ofi brand.
The identity taps into themes and colors which reflect how we’re driving innovation in all areas of our business from plant to palate to deliver more growth and impact for customers. From investing in farm-level science and technology to deepening our application and R&D expertise. It shows that while we are privileged to carry a strong origination and supply chain heritage of Olam, we also want to shake up the market and bring a fresh perspective.
For example, responding to the growing popularity of spicy flavors by developing new spice blends inspired by the Southwest, modern Mexico, and the Caribbean, some of which use not only our spices, but also our cocoa and coffee sourced by our teams at the heart of growing regions. Or discovering a process to create a chopped onion product that time-pressed consumers can simply scoop from the jar and use in their culinary creations, with no prep needed. This work takes place in our 14 innovation centers around the world, with an additional one due to open in Chicago before the end of the year.
At the farm level, we’re increasingly seeing customers asking how they can reduce their carbon footprint. We’re around two weeks away from the next set of global climate talks and expectation of business is running high. Yet the biggest contributor to a product’s carbon footprint is typically outside of their control, in the third party supply chain. So, if you have a carbon reduction target of say 50%, how can you achieve this if you can’t see where in your supply chain the emissions are coming from? Across multiple ingredients from different origins we can provide ofi customers with a granular carbon footprint via the award winning sustainability insights platform AtSource. We can then establish specific programmes for carbon reduction by working closely with smallholder farmers and other communities across the chain. When we bring all of this together, it underlines our redefined company purpose to ‘Be the Change for Good Food and a Healthy Future’, along with all of our customers, partners and other stakeholders.
Consumers are excited by the idea of more. More flavor, more creativity, healthier and more functional foods, more sustainability impact. As a company, and as a sector, now is the moment to transform ourselves so we can respond to these trends, drive positive change, and unleash the power of good food and ingredients to achieve extraordinary outcomes.