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A healthier world
31/01/2007 | Channel:
Cargill Health and Food Technologies is focused on accelerating health innovation in food. Libbie Hammond speaks to David Henstrom about the latest developments
David Henstrom currently oversees Cargill Health & Food Technologies' EMEA operations. As a founding member of Cargill's Health & Food Technology business in the late 1990s, David has worked in strategy development, new ingredient development, licensing, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and sales and marketing.
He explained more about the company's history and background, and its position in the market today. "Cargill is a global company operating in the food, agriculture, and risk management, and it develops science-based, health promoting ingredients and ingredient systems for makers of food, dietary and pharmaceutical products," he said.
"With 149,000 employees in 63 countries, the company is committed to using its knowledge and experience to collaborate with customers to help them succeed," he continued. "The Cargill Health & Food Technologies business unit works in our Food Ingredients and Systems Platform. This business has been around for eight years focused on accelerating health innovation in food."
Part of this focus is on the development of what Cargill call 'functional foods', as David explained. "Functional foods in the traditional sense are foods that provide a health benefit above and beyond basic nutrition. Today, I believe we can broaden this to mean 'foods that clearly articulate and deliver a wellness benefit to consumers'."
David continued to tell me more about the company's products and how they are used within the food and beverage market. "Cargill has a number of ingredients/solutions addressing a variety of consumer health needs," he said. "In the heart health area, we have CoroWise phytosterols, Prolisse soy protein isolate, Barliv barley betafiber, and LeciCholine phosphatidylcholine. In the area of joint health we have Regenassure glucosamine and Arthred hydrolyzed collagen. We have a number of other health promoting ingredients as well. Our development efforts are focused on not only providing the ingredient but also on providing forms that can be used in tasty food and beverage products. These ingredients allow CPG companies to make claims in their communication to consumers on the health benefit, thus drawing new users into the category."
Some of these products are very new to the market and some are continuing to grow in use and acceptance. David confirmed that much of the company's work is based around proprietary market research, which is performed both in-house and with some external partners. The company also works in partnership with customers in developing bespoke products.
As a company, Cargill is committed to health and wellness, and one of its primary areas of focus is driving heart health with consumers. David explained how the CoroWise plant sterol product works - a product that was recently released into the European market. "CoroWise plant sterols essentially block the absorption of cholesterol, thus reducing the level of blood cholesterol for consumers in a natural manner. It is structurally similar to cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol, which is a major biomarker for cardiovascular disease. The product is endorsed by allowed health claims in various countries," he said.
Launched in the United States in 2003, CoroWise plant sterols have been clinically shown to lower cholesterol and are approved for use in a variety of foods. Just as cholesterol is present in all animals, plants have a 'sterol' of their own that is a natural cholesterol blocker. To the body, plant sterols look a lot like cholesterol, but they are not absorbed in the body like cholesterol. Therefore, when you digest a meal, plant sterols compete with cholesterol and help to block cholesterol's absorption. Reducing total and LDL 'bad' cholesterol levels in the body are recognised as important ways of reducing one's risk for heart disease. In fact, the efficacy of plant sterols is supported by over 50 years of clinical research indicating that eating plant sterols can lower LDL cholesterol.
In the United States, CoroWise plant sterols have been included in a number of leading consumer products. CoroWise plant sterols can be added to foods and beverages without increasing calories or affecting flavour or texture, making it easy for people to add plant sterols into their daily diets and help reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels.
Cargill's plant sterols are currently approved for use in the EU in yellow fat spreads, yoghurt-type products, milk-based drinks, dressings, mayonnaise, cheese-type products, spicy sauces and rye bread, with other food uses pending.
"Cargill's proprietary marketing research indicates that the majority of consumers in selected European markets think seriously about their health and the nutritional value of what they eat," said David. "Good-tasting, efficacious functional foods are experiencing a greater acceptance by mainstream consumers than ever before. We're committed to promoting heart health by bringing easy-to-formulate forms of CoroWise plant sterols to a broader audience."
David recently appeared at the Health Ingredients Europe exhibition at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, with a presentation that looked at 'Driving Heart Health With Consumers'. In his speech David looked at new, innovative, heart-healthy products and ingredients that food and beverage manufacturers can incorporate into future product launches or reformulations of existing products.
"The presentation enabled me to connect with food and beverage formulators to help them develop the heart-healthy products consumers are seeking," he said. David explained that there are some key ways in which Cargill seeks to work with clients who are looking to increase the functionality of their products through the concept of co-branding. "Co-branding can effectively accelerate the delivery of health innovations in the market through clear messaging to consumers," he said. "When well executed, co-branding very effectively supports the overall reason to believe in the host brand promise - but it does require a full range of services in marketing communication to support each brand personality."
He continued: "You need to get the whole product right in the mind of the consumer. This means answering the questions - do they need the product, do they accept the ingredient, do they understand the benefit, accept the vehicle and trust the brand?" David was keen to emphasise the importance of having an ingredient brand that offered specific rather than general benefits. "The food industry is making strides in delivering functional food solutions that can make a real difference," he said, "but more can and should be done to better communicate the message of benefits to the consumer.
"For example, CoroWise provides the specific advantage of 'a reduction in bad cholesterol', while 'Intel Inside' has no literal claim," he explained. "CoroWise can offer products a unique differentiation and competitive insulation," he continued. "Its message is reinforced by a variety of credible, premium brands, and it is supported by advertising and merchandising, as well as health professional communication and third party endorsements and its own targeted consumer website."
One of the company's partners is wellknown brand Minute Maid, and together they introduced an innovation that is unique to the industry, as David explained: "We delivered the first, water dispersible sterol into orange juice with Minute Maid. Sterols are waxy and had previously been difficult to work with but we cracked the code on this and can now formulate our sterols into most food and beverage products seamlessly and these all come from natural plant sources."
The benefit of well-executed ingredient branding in bringing the benefits delivered by functional foods to the consumer is an area where David speaks frequently. Cargill's studies point out that the bulk of customers in selected European markets genuinely consider the healthfulness or nutritional value of what they eat. "Good tasting, efficacious functional foods are experiencing a greater acceptance by mainstream consumers than ever before," he said.
As a result of more consumers start to think about eating more healthily, the functional food market is experiencing good market growth as David confirmed: "This has continued to grow at more than ten per cent," he said. "The market for cholesterol lowering foods also continues to experience great growth and will continue to substantially outpace that of traditional food."
The dynamic market in which Cargill is located means that David very much enjoys his work, but has to keep one step ahead of the regulator. "Certainly new EU claims legislation is the hot topic in the market," he said. "While this will present some challenges on start-up it should provide benefits to food manufacturers who can demonstrate legitimate health benefits of their products." He concluded: "If I could change anything in this industry it would be the introduction of global, harmonised regulations that appropriately balance the needs of industry and consumers."