Putting flavour first23 May 2022
These are profoundly changing times in the European flavourings industry – not least for Brussels-based industry trade body, the European Flavour Association (EFFA). Marc van der Duijs, recently appointed president of EFFA and vice-president of flavours platform Europe at International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) tells Martin Morris what those changes are and what impact they could have going forward.
For Marc van der Duijs, a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since he entered the flavourings industry as a trainee in the sales and project department of IFF in the Netherlands back in 1986. Now the vice-president of flavours platform Europe at IFF and president at EFFA (for a two-year term), Van der Duijs has seen substantial change in his industry. As he puts it: “The journey so far has taught me many lessons, which I now humbly strive to bring to the industry in my serving role as EFFA president.”
Representing flavour houses and national flavour associations, EFFA is seen as the voice of the flavours industry in Europe. What this means at the coalface is connecting members across the region, aiming to provide access to information about flavours themselves, as well as flavour-related issues and best practices - a point Van der Duijs is quick to stress.
“At the same time, we want to support a consistent Europe-wide strategy on flavour issues and promote the added value that the flavour industry provides in a united and coordinated way,” he says.
Indeed, the constantly evolving global landscape raises fresh challenges for the industry – whether it is concerns regarding sustainability and traceability, or simply popular beliefs about flavours that are poorly aligned with the scientific facts, according to Van der Duijs. “EFFA provides a steady boat for our members to navigate this fluctuating environment,” he says.
Part of this “fluctuating environment” narrative, of course, has been the recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in general and its implications for global supply chains more specifically.
As Van der Duijs puts it, “During the pandemic the things we take for granted, such as a reliable food supply, were suddenly a challenge due to extensive supply chain disruptions. The entire industry needed to adapt quickly to these new conditions and maintain deliveries of flavourings to food manufacturers.
“We [also] saw an acceleration of specific consumer trends towards healthier diets and international foods and flavours – the latter a kind of compensation for a year of reduced travel.”
He adds: “At EFFA, we support the questions raised by FoodDrinkEurope to the European Commission in their ‘five urgent actions’ call. One: support the food sector workforce. Two: recognise the entire food supply chain as ‘essential’. Three: unblock transport bottlenecks. Four: support struggling businesses; and five: facilitate global trade.
“For us, the main part is the point about recognising the entire food supply chain as an essential industry, including flavourings,” Van der Duijs continues. “As a member of the International Organization of the Flavor Industry (IOFI), EFFA also agrees with IOFI’s published statement, which calls on governments to include facilities that manufacture flavourings as essential businesses.”.”
Projected compound annual growth rate of the global food flavours market for 2021-28.
Fortune Business Insights
When it comes to projected growth for the food flavouring markets, the numbers make for largely positive reading. In its January 2022 report ‘Food Flavors Market Size, Share & Covid-19 Impact Analysis, By Type (Natural and Synthetic), By Application (Bakery, Beverages, Confectionery, Dairy, Convenience Food, Snacks, and Others), and Regional Forecast, 2021–2028’, Fortune Business Insights projected the global food flavours market to reach $20.12bn in value by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 4.64% over the forecast period. And while it grew from $14.30bn in 2020 to an estimated $14.66bn in 2021 – prompted by increasing consumer inclination towards clean-label and organic ingredients likely to propel market development – supply chain issues were never far from the surface, due to differing Covid-19 safety protocol regimes across the globe.
All industries have been facing a global challenge in terms of costs, demand and logistics, according to Van der Duijs and, “for EFFA members, it has been a test of resilience and adaptability”. “What we see is that all companies have done everything in their power to maintain reliable flavour supplies to their customers,” he explains, “so consumers can continue to enjoy high quality food products with excellent taste.”
Growing bottlenecks in the container shipping industry continue to burden suppliers, as efforts to solve supply chain bottlenecks caused by surging demand for retail goods and pandemic-related lockdowns have yet to bear fruit. Indeed, while delays at major US ports, for example, have been especially severe, the knock-on effects are also being felt elsewhere – and they have been getting worse.
A major case in point is the journey time from China’s northern Dalian port to Antwerp, which rose to 88 days in January from 68 days the previous month, due to a combination of congestion and waiting time. This compared with 65 days in January 2021, according to analysis from logistics platform project44. Further complicating matters, given its potential impact on the global economy, has been the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia.
Settle in and maintain
Settling into his new role, Van der Duijs has been quick to state his desire to work with past president Antoine Kastler for continuity purposes, and also with incumbent vice-president Karel Stoschek. In his words, they will be, “looking together towards the future of the association”
Emphasising the importance of continuity and consolidation, Van der Duijs adds: “During Antoine’s presidency, the association developed and consolidated its public affairs and communication functions, moving away from its previous sole focus on the regulatory environment.
“Both functions are now well aligned with our goals to keep our members up to date with the latest best practices and regulatory developments and to serve as a united voice for the flavour industry. I wish to continue working in that direction.”
In the meantime, his work with Stoschek should be seen through the prism of taking the association forwards – a key issue being how EFFA should position itself in relation to two major driving forces, namely the expectations of policymakers as well as consumer demands/trends. “On both sides, we see a movement towards more sustainable, health-conscious diets,” says Van der Duijs. “Flavourings have a big role to play here.”
Central to this are the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork initiatives in particular. As Van der Duijs notes: “One of the main objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice. At the same time, the commission’s initiatives are very broad, ranging from organic production to front-of-pack labelling.
“We are already seeing the impact of this on the ingredients and flavourings industry. EFFA, for example, has developed a guidance document on the new organic regulation in relation to flavourings and a fact sheet on the nutritional value of flavourings.
“We’re part of the conversation to ensure that we as an industry continue to anticipate needs and adapt as necessary to the market, consumer trends and policymaker expectations,” he adds.
Against the backdrop of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork, other issues and initiatives in play include the trend towards sugar reduction, the growing use of plant-based proteins and the role that taste plays as a driver of choice. The big question though is whether the politicians in Brussels actually understand the issues regarding the ingredients and flavour industry.
The European Virtual Flavour Day – organised by EFFA in November 2021 – will have certainly helped, as it provided the perfect opportunity to discuss the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork with policymakers, academia and NGOs, according to Van der Duijs. For example, a sugar-free candy – with a flavouring EFFA called #BetterTogether; a blend of three flavourings – was developed specifically for the event. Each one, according to Van der Duijs, represents a European region and tells a specific story about the ingredients used and the people who developed it.
The big taste enabler
The major takeaway on flavourings is that while they are good on their own, the taste is even better when you put them together.
“The Flavour of Europe is all the countries working together to achieve our objectives. That is what a European Association is about – and it’s the spirit that I want to continue developing with our members,” Van der Duijs says.
“As we discussed in our panel, taste is often mentioned as a main driver of consumer choices. One of the conclusions of the EU’s Eurobarometer on ‘making our food fit for the future’ was that Europeans prioritise taste, food safety and cost over sustainability concerns when purchasing food.
“Consumer trends and policymakers are anticipating these trends with their focus on a more health-conscious and sustainable diet,” he adds. “But, in order for this to be a long-term change, these diets must bring gratification to consumers.” In other words, healthier products must be enjoyable.
By being taste enablers, flavourings can be adapted to provide consumers with the eating experience they are looking for. With Van der Duijs at the helm, that will always be at the forefront of EFFA’s thinking.