The Danish ingredients supplier has long worked with food manufacturers to find cost-effective ways of making processed and packaged foods that still meet consumers sensory expectations.
But Conny Twisttmann, application director at Danisco, told FoodNavigator.com that it is now sharpening its focus on different levels of cost effectiveness. The new programme, aimed at Latin America first of all but with scope to roll out elsewhere, aims to help deliver safe and nutritious food for people who would otherwise not be able to buy products.
Twisttmann described the category as ‘affordable food’ – one step up form ‘survival foods’ which are usually provided by NGOs and government aid programmes. The need for affordable food is driven by growing urbanisation. As people move to the cities in search of work, they no longer such good access to foods grown in the countryside.
Lack of infrastructure and the high numbers of people in cities mean it is often not feasible for food to be transported into cities and still remain fresh and safe to eat. The task of delivering food to people in cities requires products to have a certain shelf-life. “You need time, not a day or two.”
“They are aimed at people who may have rotten foods otherwise,” said Twisttmann, adding that there is a food safety aspect to them being able to go into a shop and buy food, rather than have to prepare it from scratch.
Local resources for local market
Part of Danisco’s programme involves optimising recipes. For instance, it may be able to supply emulsifiers and enzymes that can allow for higher yielding or lower quality wheat to be used in baked goods.
It looks at the raw materials that are available in the market, and tries to find ways to work. Milk products are always locally sourced, since they do not travel or keep well.
However it also looks at the entire production process to see if it can come up with ways to reduce costs. For instance, if it can help develop a dairy product that is stable at ambient temperatures, that removes the cost of chilling; if a product does not need to be cooked, that saves costs too.
Twisttman said Danisco’s customer base for this programme is a mix of multinationals and local food providers.
“We have good contacts with the multinationals, and they see need for affordable food market. Now we want more intense dialogue with local manufacturers.”
To enable this dialogue in Latin America, it has translated information into Spanish and Portuguese, and has produced some white papers on solutions specific to that market.
Not the nutrition transition
As developing countries become more affluent, there is a tendency for people with newly acquired spending power to hanker after Western style foods and more meat and dairy foods. Researchers have pointed out that this trend can bring increased incidence of obesity and ‘Western’ diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
But Twisttmann said that the affordable foods category is for “people who have nothing more to spend”, and covers basic proteins, fats and carbohydrates. “These are the lowest income groups.”
Moreover, with growing economies only part of the population currently only able to eat affordable foods will move up to a middle class income – and there are newcomers to the group.
This means that delivering safe and affordable food to people in poor cities is likely to remain a long-term challenge.