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National Starch explains Innovation

02-Feb-2005

Innovation is the watchword in National Starch's rebranded image but what does this really mean and what does the company hope to achieve from its makeover, asks Philippa Nuttall?

Since 1 January the ICI specialty starch subsidiary has been known globally as National Starch Food Innovation , instead of National Starch and Chemical.

This change was aimed at moving away from any chemical connotations and towards a "clean label" image, Laurent Michoud, marketing director for Europe, told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.

 

"The word chemical didn't reflect our presence in the food industry," he said, adding that there was a need to sound more "natural", to emphasize the natural roots of starch in maize, rice and tapioca. Hence also the change in color of the logo from red to green.

 

"We know the new innovation slogan is a bit arrogant, but it helps focus attention on the fact we are in the starch business yet also going into new areas," said Michoud.

 

He said that the company's aim was to become the "partner of choice" for the food industry.

 

The company, though, is keen to point out that innovation is nothing new and that it has in fact been a leader in the specialty starch business since the 1940s.

 

The recent makeover was carried out with no real extra budget, but rather as part of the company's growing emphasis on marketing.

 

"The company's marketing budget increases each year," said Michoud, adding that this worked out at a budget increase of about 15 percent over the last two years and about 50 percent in terms of staff. There are now around 15 people who are focused mainly on marketing at the firm.

 

As National Starch's newly launched website states, the company judges that there are three global trends influencing the food ingredient business: convenience; indulgence and pleasure; health and well being.

 

Texture will be the big growth area in convenience foods, said Michoud, helping foods adapt to new forms of packaging or differing portion sizes. Indeed, 20 percent of new food product launches in the EU use textual description - such as crisp or creamy - as a selling point.

 

"Historically, foods have been sold in lots of flavors and texture will now play a key role in product growth."

 

Organic, meanwhile, is a growing interest in the health and well being sector in both the US and Europe, as are the "low-in" and "free from" categories.

 

One of National Starch's innovation springboards will be "wholesome, natural ingredient solutions", which has come out of a UK customer-led trend that wants to see "kitchen cupboard ingredients" on their labels.

 

In other words, the time is ripe for food manufacturers to remove modified starch from their labels and replace it with a more natural starch alternative. This is where Novation functional native starches - like Novation Prima that was launched last summer - come in.

 

The company also wants to focus attention on its nutrition range, particularly Hi-Maize, an ingredient that is suitable for staples such as bread. Many of the company's customers, according to Michoud, like Hi-Maize because it has a wealth of published scientific research behind it, meaning that a customer can, if he wants, state the health benefits of the ingredients of the product's packaging.

 

The innovation starch market is increasing at a confident 10-20 percent a year. Outside the EU and the US, Asia - and particularly China - is a growth market for National Starch. The company has recently built a plant in Shanghai - which started production at start of 2005 - to serve this potentially huge market. The 68,000-square-metre plant produces speciality food starch ingredients from corn, tapioca, potatoes and rice, as well as pharmaceutical grade starches for medical applications.

 

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