The center, which is staffed by more than 100 applications specialists and technical marketing experts in food, beverage, dietary supplement and personal care, includes laboratories, pilot plants and sensory analysis facilities enabling DSM to work far more closely with customers at every stage of the product development process.
The facility will enable DSM to optimize production processes, improve quality, test new ingredients and develop novel finished product concepts, from sports nutrition bars with zeaxanthin and lutein to enhance visual performance to chocolates or beverages laced with green tea extracts, resveratrol and vitamin E for beauty-from-within.
But it would also help the firm build closer relationships with customers, who are increasingly working with DSM at the earliest stages of product concept development, DSM Nutritional Products North America president Jim Hamilton told journalists during a preview of the new center last week.
“Increasingly we’re doing our own market research to understand where consumers are heading and combining that insight with our science and applications expertise to help customers get innovative products to market more quickly.”
Metabolic health, mental performance and fitness/wellness
While the US dietary supplements market continued to grow throughout the recession, the functional food and drink market had not weathered the storm so well, with a steady drop in the number of new products launched in 2008-10, accepted market segment head for infant nutrition and medical foods Anthony Palmieri.
However, big branded manufacturers were still looking at functional foods because genuine innovation would always be a differentiator, stressed Todd Sitkowski, senior marketing manager.
“I still think most people want to get their nutrition from food not pills.”
For consumers, the hot areas were metabolic health, fitness and wellness, and mental performance, said Jean-Claude Tritsch, director, global technical marketing.
“We are involving our customers from the very beginning, right at the concept stage, starting with health benefits rather than ingredients.”
Visual performance and sports nutrition
Customers visiting the innovation center could see a raft of new concepts in all of the above areas, including new bars targeting an emerging area in sports nutrition, said senior marketing manager Aparna Parikh.
While visual performance might sound niche from a functional foods perspective, DSM had recently pitched concepts featuring Kemin’s FloraGlo lutein and DSM’s OptiSharp zeaxanthin for enhanced contrast, glare tolerance and recovery to major food and beverage manufacturers as well as dietary supplements companies, she said.
“This is an emerging area in sports nutrition. If you’re playing sports in the sunshine, being able to tolerate and recover from glare and see the ball more clearly at pace and from a distance can make a big difference.
“It’s not something you would just eat once before a baseball game, you’d need to take it regularly.”
Battling the bulge
New product concepts on show at Parsippany featuring appetite-busting palm and oat oil emulsion Fabuless were also garnering interest, claimed dietary supplements marketing director Lynda Doyle.
“Fabuless has been doing very well, and more products should be launching this year. To date, most of the launches have been in one shot products or stick packs but we’re working on solutions for bars and other products.”
Meanwhile, a new powdered formulation for partner Provexis’ Fruitflow tomato-extract was expected to launch in second half of this year, while a raft of new concepts – and new ingredients – were also being investigated in the mental function arena, said Tritsch. “Cognition is particularly hot, right now, and we’re got new products in internal pipeline beyond DHA and B vitamins.”
Although the firm did not provide a precise definition of what constituted a ‘new’ product, 20 percent of its revenues were expected to be from innovation/new products by 2020, said Doyle.
“We have bought or invested in companies in order to access new ingredients but we are also doing a lot of work internally on new ingredients and have a huge database of compounds and molecules from natural sources that we’re looking at across multiple health platforms.”
Formulation and applications expertise
While DSM spent a whopping €424m on R&D in 2010 (5.2 percent of net sales), much of which went into new ingredient discovery and development, the investment in the innovation center at Parsippany reflected an increasing commitment to differentiate itself in the market through its formulation and applications expertise, he said.
“A key part of the value we add is in blending, formulation, from how to add [fat-soluble] vitamin E to a beverage without it going cloudy or how to add vitamin A to sugar and retain stability to how to improve the bioavailability of iron.”
Major branded customers in the food and drink world were also turning to DSM because of its expertise in quality and sustainability, said Hamilton.
“If you have a brand and you are interested in quality and innovation, you will be interested in us. You can never buy back your reputation with the money you save on cheap ingredients.”
Meanwhile, sustainability and the desire for ‘cleaner’ labels and natural ingredients was “becoming more and more part of the conversation we’re having with customers and end consumers”, he said.
For more details about the facilities at the new innovation center at Parsippany, look out for our photo gallery, which will be published later this week.