Demand for nature-identical flavours in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) remains strong, as lower prices override the Western clamour for all-things natural and organic, say exhibitors at FiCEE.
Andrzej Tatrzanski, international project manager for privately-held Polish company Carotex, said that a few years ago Carotex expected Poland to follow its Western neighbours such as Germany and for natural ingredients to start taking root in the industry.
This has not happened, however, mainly because of the price difference between natural or organic ingredients and nature-identical.
Although it depends on what the flavour is, in extreme cases, the price difference could be as much as two to three times more.
"With natural, there is less margin," said Tatrzanski - although Carotex can and does supply natural flavours should a customer request them.
And upping the price of the finished product to make up the difference is not a viable strategy. "The average citizen in Poland still does not have enough income for a top bio product," said Tatrazanski.
Interestingly in colours, which Carotex also supplies, the Polish market has historically used colours from natural sources, such as beta carotene and caramel.
"Mid- and top-shelf products are mostly natural," he said.
He added that the exception is in private label soft drinks, which tend to be synthetic.
Even so, Poland is still less influenced by current concerns over the possible effects of synthetic colours on health, which are sweeping other counties.
Huw Williams, managing director of independent UK flavour firm HE Stringer, told FoodNavigator.com that his company has seen rapid expansion in the UK market as a result of the natural and organic trend.
He said: "There should be no assumption that natural flavours are going to cost more than nature identical. Many natural flavours can cost the same of even less than nature identical equivalents.
"Some can cost significantly more - two to three times more when the raw materials with natural status are in restricted supply, but this is changing on a monthly basis as the raw material supply chain responds to increasing demand."
His 58-year-old flavour company repositioned around four years ago to cater to the expanding naturals niche that is taking the UK and other Western markets by storm.
But Williams is not looking to replicate this success in CEE by targeting manufacturers for the local market.
Rather, Stringer is exhibiting at this weeks' trade show to find clients that manufacturer foods in Eastern Europe for export to the UK, who require UK expertise on natural flavours.
For manufacturers of finished foods intended for the local CEE market, Williams said there is more scope for "traditional" flavours.
Treatt, meanwhile, is at FiCEE to the show to make contact with Polish manufacturers and on a "fact finding" mission to find out about other markets in the region.
Leigh Strachan, business development manager for Treatt, agreed that "the main basis for products in this market is natural identical".
In volume terms, the vast majority of the aromatic chemicals in Treatt's portfolio are nature identical. But globally the company sees increasingly proportions of its sales from its natural and organic portfolio.
Nonetheless, Strachan remains open some natural sales in the CEE market: "Some companies require natural versions for a handful of their clients," she said.
FoodNavigator.com will be reporting from FIEE until Thursday. Look out for more news from the show floor.