Health meets yum: Tasty and healthy must become synonymous, says BASF VP

By Stephen DANIELLS

- Last updated on GMT

Samy Jandali, Vice President, Nutrition & Health, BASF North America
Samy Jandali, Vice President, Nutrition & Health, BASF North America
Opportunities abound in the snacking sector, but tasty and health must become synonymous as consumers increasingly seek out healthy alternatives, says BASF’s Samy Jandali.

“The boundaries between snacks and meals are blurring,”​ Jandali told FoodNavigator-USA during last week’s IFT Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago. In addition, research shows that 50% of consumers are interested in snacks that give health benefits, he said.

Indeed, analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) shows that percentage of energy derived from snacks in the American diet has increased from 12% in the late 1970s to 24% in 2009/10.

The average number of eating occasions per day has increased from 3.9 in the late ‘70s to 5.6 in 2009/10. Data showed that in the late 1970s, 40% of Americans said they had eaten no snacks the previous day, but 30 years on and that number dropped to just 4%. Fifty-six percent of Americans report eating three or more snacks a day.

Jandali noted that the cardinal rule is that taste trumps healthy, “so tasty and healthy must become synonymous. It’s health meets yum.”

Convenience also feeds into the equation, he said, with 36% of healthy snacks being consumed at school or at work. “Vending machines can be an interesting area for this category.”

Trends

Beyond snacking, two other health-orientated trends to watch are weight management and heart health, said Jandali.

“The newest data shows that 67% of Americans are overweight or obese, and the American Medical Association just classified obesity as a disease,” ​he said.

“Consumers are looking for solutions,”​ he added. The company’s Tonalin CLA ingredient has been gaining ground in consumer awareness circles, and a recent analysis by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) reported that the Tonalin brand comprises 60% of all CLA sales in the U.S. and Canada.

The first nationwide product launch containing the ingredient hit shelves earlier this year​, and Jandali confirmed that BASF is working on several projects now.

Heart health remains a major trend, he said, with plant sterols and omega-3s continuing to lead the way. The IFT show in Chicago was the first show where BASF could bring their enlarged omega-3 portfolio, following the acquisitions and integrations of Pronova and Equateq (now BASF Pharma Callanish).

“The science for these ingredients is very compelling,” ​he said. “There are not a lot of areas that have this level of science.”

Energy drinks

With this category expected to double in a short time, Jandali is confident BASF is a one-stop shop for energy manufacturers, with the active ingredients as well ingredients for taste and appearance.

Products are also increasingly using a balance of caffeine and B-vitamins, he noted, with less reliance on caffeine alone, given increasing regulatory scrutiny and consumer concerns of caffeine content.

The company recently launched its latest colorant, Apocarotenal 2 CWD. The nature-identical ingredient is for beverages, dairy and confectionary, and the cold-water-dispersible powder formulation is said to have pH-independent coloring shades and low dosage.

Sustainability

BASF also feels it is starting to differentiate itself and achieve a competitive advantage via its SET (sustainability, eco-efficiency, and traceability) program. The company hosted a symposium during IFT with industry experts from McDonald’s, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Sustainability Consortium.

“We can start with the well-known statistic that by 2050 we will be nine billion people, and we won’t be able to feed them without changing something,”​ said Jandali.

“We truly think we have a job to do as an industry and as BASF.”

The company’s SET program is not a one-dimensional approach, he said, but holistic, and the starting point it the end of the whole chain. The program looks at different elements, including environmental, economic, and social.

“At the end of the day, sustainability must add a value dimension, and help generate revenue,”​ said Jandali. “We have to make sustainability sustainable.”​  

IFSH & co-opportunities

Another area where the company is eager to promote its collaborative approach is as part of the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH), which focuses on nutrition research and food safety.

IFSH was established in 2011 at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), and builds on the vital work of the National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST), a unique research consortium of IIT, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the food industry.

“Both organizations [BASF and IFSH] share a mutual interest in enhancing nutrition and we look forward to a close collaboration,”​ said Armand Paradis, Director of Business Development, IFSH. “BASF’s health ingredients and network of experts combined with IFSH’s research facilities and scientists make a great recipe for success.”

Jandali added that the company’s Newtrition platform was focused on ‘customer-centric innovation’ or “co-opportunities”​.

The company has been investing heavily in people, he said, and has organized its team to be very marketed orientated, with dedicated teams for food, beverage, and dietary supplements.

“We’ve provided dedicated resources for each market sector,”​ he said. “We’ve been hiring experts from the industry so that they can speak the same language as the customers, and we’ve brought people into the organization who have the right skill-sets to solve our customers’ problems.”

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