Univar is a world leader in the distribution and application of food ingredients, and related technical services. It uses its global network to provide insight and expertise to grow its customers' business. Gary Abraham, EMEA commercial manager, speaks to Ingredients Insight about pervasive trends in the industry this year and spotting the next gap in the market.
Gary Abraham: It has been an exciting year so far for consumer trend developments in the food industry. Of course, there has been a consistent demand, as expected, for gluten-free and clean-label food products, which we expect to carry through to 2017 and beyond. Further to this, 2016 was labelled 'Year of the Pulse' by WHO, which we have been proud to support with our portfolio of clean-label pulse flours and proteins.
Sugar reduction/replacement has also been a much talked about requirement this year, which we think is going to sustain itself as more than a trend moving forward. With several taxes and campaigns to remove sugar in foods, sweetener solutions are growing and we have extended our portfolio throughout the year to cover the broad range of solutions available.
Elsewhere, sports nutrition and protein enrichment has become such a focal point for consumers that we have dedicated resources internally to focus on this booming subindustry.
Health is a very personal subject and means many different things to individual consumers. Univar understands that it needs to offer an extensive variety of ingredients to please the majority of consumer requirements. We have markedly focused our ingredient offering, and brought on board some exciting and innovative supply partners and portfolios to ensure that we can offer the most prestigious solutions. Sports nutrition, protein enrichment, sodium reduction, sugar reduction, gluten-free, free-from, vegan, meat replacement, fibre enrichment and lactose reduction are all industry and consumer trends that we are able to satisfy with our dedicated portfolio and technical expertise.
It's hard to distinguish popularity among the ingredients as requirements and trends are so diverse. We know that our protein offering - whey, soy, pulse and more - is always popular as well as our extensive gluten-free solutions - obviously corresponding to the market demands and trends. We've found a definite increase in popularity of our sugar replacement/reduction solutions in the second half of 2016, as well as a general interest in clean-label, 'natural' solutions.
The sports-nutrition market is constantly evolving, so undoubtedly there will be more innovation and niche markets arising over the next 12-18 months that support protein enrichment. Further innovation in sugar replacement will be unsurprising, with more natural and clean-label solutions being in high demand at present. We predict a much bigger demand for vegan solutions in the marketplace in the next 12-18 months, as consumers are increasingly relating good health with plant-based diets.
As previously mentioned, we provide a relevant, dedicated portfolio to our customers, so we try to ensure that our products and portfolios mirror exactly what our consumers and customers are demanding. This knowledge is obtained through consultation and relationship building with our customers.
In line with what we see as important trends in the market place, we are bringing into our portfolio a completely novel algae range, which includes protein and flour. This clean-label solution is going to be at the forefront of vegan innovation and we are very excited to be working with this supply partner. Further to this, we are extending an existing agreement to distribute low-sodium baking powders across EMEA, as well as establishing a new agreement for soy, rapeseed and sunflower lecithin from a leader in the market. We're also introducing a new range of clean-tasting pulse flours and proteins to our portfolio.