Fibers and proteins among Naturex’s expansion and diversification strategy

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24 Nov 2017 --- Over the past months, Naturex has moved to boost its presence in the natural nutrition market with the acquisition of Swedish Oat Fiber, a specialized manufacturer of oat dietary fibers, oils and proteins, as well as the signing of a global distribution agreement via its Open Innovation program (Ingenium) with a Colorado-based start-up, MycoTechnology, for their PureTaste, shiitake mushroom plant protein created by patent-pending fungi fermentation technology.

NutritionInsight spoke with Olivier Rigaud, CEO at Naturex, about the company’s recent acquisitions and how these fit in with the company’s portfolios and growth strategies.

Acquisition fits well within portfolio
There are a number of drivers behind the Swedish Oat Fiber acquisition, Rigaud notes.

“The first is that oat beta glucan fiber fits very well within the Naturex portfolio for cardiovascular health ingredients,” Rigaud notes. “Our current offer already includes some very effective ingredients that are primarily aimed at heart health, such as cocoa flavanols from the Open Innovation agreement that we made with Barry Callebaut a year ago, in which we also gained an approved EFSA claim.”

“But I’m also thinking about some of our other extracts, such as the Aronia berry, where we are investing in a lot of science around blood flow. In addition to these, we also have some traditional olive leaf extracts,” Rigaud says. “Oat dietary fibers complement the current Naturex offering in the nutrition segment as they support healthy claims on cholesterol levels. This is highly complementary to the functionalities that we are providing with our current ingredient portfolio.”

“The second important driver behind this acquisition is that dietary fiber is part of a balanced diet. We all know that most consumers in the developed world don’t eat enough fiber. We see a huge opportunity for oat dietary fiber, versus more sophisticated soluble fibers,” Rigaud continues.

In that context, there are some regulation changes being made today, primarily in the US, so that oat fibers are now really recognized as dietary fibers, Rigaud notes, adding that Naturex sees real opportunities to develop the business when compared to ingredients such as inulin.

Click to Enlarge“The Swedish Oat Fiber portfolio will complement this offering with high-content, protein-rich flours that are minimally processed. We are eager to build up a specialty, high-end plant-based protein portfolio. Finally, we can leverage oat oils via the personal care division. We are already a big player in natural oils for cosmetics today, and this can make for a great new addition to the Naturex oil portfolio,” Rigaud says.

Pushing into nutrition and food markets
Naturex’s intention is to leverage the company’s international sales network and application lab network, which currently counts 11 worldwide, to further develop and promote oat ingredients, Rigaud says.

“We see this as a growth business where we can leverage our commercial footprint, keeping in mind that it’s a very good fit with our current organization. We have an interest in pushing into both the nutrition and food markets, in both the proteins and oat flour fraction space,” Rigaud states. 

To this end, Naturex has made three acquisitions this year and its approach is targeted at complementing its four categories: natural colors, natural preservatives, fruit & vegetables and nutrition.

“Of the three we recently accomplished, two are fruit & vegetable based and the third is in nutrition. We are of course still attending to and strengthening the traditional Naturex categories. But we are also eager to build up a specialty natural fibers and high-end plant-based protein portfolio based on our internal organic research,” Rigaud notes.

Synergies between portfolios
There is a strong rationale behind the platforms Naturex works with, Rigaud asserts. “Either they combine synergies on sourcing, processing or extraction, or very often on the commercial positioning. The fruit & vegetables platform is not just a direct go-to-market area,” he explains.

“Fruits and vegetables are very good sources of natural colors or antioxidants for preservation. For example, acerola is a natural source of vitamin C for nutrition but can also be used as a very strong antioxidant for preservation in bakery products,” Rigaud adds. “Turmeric is a very trendy product in the nutrition space today for joint health, but it is also an important ingredient for natural colors. We have many products like that.”

“This is where the combined expertise of our strong position in antioxidants, as well as colors and phytoactives, is helping us to resolve many issues. We are increasingly taking a solutions approach to helping customers to develop products. I would also add that today the border between nutraceuticals and functional foods is blurring,” Rigaud notes.

“Our multidisciplinary background is really helping us to grow and develop into that natural nutritional space,” Rigaud points out. “This is where we are adding value, always bearing in mind our mission of having customers move from artificial to natural ingredients.”

Speaking on the company’s innovation pipeline, Rigaud points out Naturex’s decision to reenergize the pipeline a couple of years ago with a target of 5 percent of its turnover spending going back into R&D, most of which is focused on research.

“Last year we launched six additional clinical studies; this year it will be eight. We have over 15 studies running at the moment that will come to a conclusion in the next couple of years,” he states. 

Confidence in ingredients sector
Naturex sees a lot of creativity and is attuned to the way that consumers are changing their habits around transparency and sustainability, according to Rigaud.

“What we see today is that you need to provide good and transparent products, but this isn’t always enough,” Rigaud notes. “The sense of purpose that consumers are looking for is becoming more important; I think that sustainability is really becoming key in terms of consumer behavior. I see this as a big challenge and opportunity for the food ingredient industry to undertake, while still remaining affordable.”

“We are up to the challenge of increasing transparency to meet consumer demands. It is a matter of credibility in the face of the scandals that compromise transparency,” Rigaud adds. “Naturex is going very far in terms of backward integration, whether it’s supporting the farming communities themselves or teaching better cultivation and farming practices.”

“Profit sharing is key in order to ensure that the product is sustainable from the farmers’ perspective, but it is also about ensuring environmental sustainability, supporting the local communities and ensuring that the product is processed in the right way. Today we have more and more customers visiting the fields with us to understand how our raw materials are grown and produced at our facilities,” Rigaud concludes.

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