Are You Buying Organic Ingredients?

Consumers are buying into organic foods; are you buying organic ingredients?

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Soy ingredients are becoming increasingly familiar to the both the food industry and those in the consumer audience that are interested in organic foods. Soy flours, proteins and fibers should will be among the key ingredients in helping food manufacturers deliver on the healthful outlook for 2005, some capable of adding the bonus of the soy health claim.

Beloit, Wis.-based Nutriant, (a division of Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis., (www.kerryamericas.com) has created certified organic versions of a wide range of naturally processed soy ingredients including one of the very few certified organic soy concentrates and soy isolates available. Whole-grain soy flour from Nutriant affords food manufacturers the opportunity for claims related to both content and health.

Many food processors are handicapped by the lack of certified organic ‘processing aids’ such as stabilizers and emulsifiers. TIC Gums (www.ticgums.com), Belcamp, Md., offers a wide range of 100% percent organic and organic hydrocolloids, individually and in stabilizer blends specially prepared for different food system applications.

Colorado Sweet Gold (www.coloradosweetgold.com), Johnstown, Colo., was the first company in the U.S. to produce organic starch. It now also produces a number variety of other organic ingredients for food processors in the baking industry. The company is certified for the producing organic Bio-Maize fiber, food-grade corn starch, corn germ, glucose and corn gluten meal.

For producers of extruded foods, there is a new certified organic emulsifier called Nu-Rice with complex proteins and unique fats derived from rice bran. Made by St Louis-based Ribus (www.ribus.com), it has the beneficial functional characteristics of emulsifiers derived from high-fat sources, but without the negative effect on bulk density. Nu-Rice is 100% percent natural and non-GMO. It helps for clean up label statements; it may be labeled as “rice extract” when label declaration is required. Snack food manufacturers may use it as a processing aid or as a functional ingredient to add texture and reduce fat.

Organic Prospects

According to Datamonitor, the North American organic market is predicted to continue rapid growth and be worth more than $30 billion by 2007, with a compound annual growth rate of 21% percent between 2002 and 2007. Natural and organic foods and related industries – including supermarkets, restaurants and farming – are poised for a major jump in visibility and popularity in the next decade.

According to Craig “Skip” Julius, executive chef for Nestle’s frozen food division in Solon, Ohio (www.nestle.com), consumers are willing to pay more for organic food; they like to know their chicken is from a cage-free environment and that their mesclun greens came from a named local farm.

Restaurants are catching the wave by proclaiming the heritage of their fare. Some high-end dining establishments, such as Nora and Asia Nora in Washington, are beginning to feature only organic foods. Fast food chains McDonald's and Burger King are already feeling the pressure and are beginning to offer organic items, certified hormone-free, free-range meats and chickens and even some kind of a soy complement.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (www.chipotle.com), Boulder, Colo., named after a smoked jalapeño pepper, promotes what it calls “Food with Integrity.” That mission entails working back along the food chain to discover how foods are produced and how pigs, cows and chickens are raised.

Chipotle became the first, and is now the largest, national restaurant chain to serve naturally raised (without antibiotics or hormones) meats including Niman Ranch pork (Marin County, Calif., www.nimanranch.com), Bell & Evans chicken (www.bellandevans.com) and Meyer Natural Angus Beef (Missoula, Mont., www.meyersnaturalangus.com).

“We have gone from 10% percent to 15% percent organic beans in our offering and expect to have 25% percent organic by the end of this year,” says Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s media relations manager.

These are exciting times for organic. Just as organic food costs consumers more, so will organic ingredients cost food processors more. But with a 21 percent annual growth rate for organic food, a lot of consumers and processors apparently think it’s worth it.

NOTE TO PROCUREMENT

Conventional food manufacturers, accustomed to tapping into an existing supply chain of their commonly used ingredients, find sourcing organic ingredients challenging. Although most conventional ingredients are available with an organic label, suppliers of organic ingredients generally need more time to react.

A majority of the organic ingredient community consists of small to medium-sized entities, and procurement requires a certain amount of coordination. Often, even with available inventory, their supply chains may not be as advanced as large processors from the conventional arena are used to.

For best results:
  • Try to establish a working relationship with a reputable vendor.

  • Seek alternate vendors whenever possible for all and especially for key raw materials.

  • Keep your vendor informed of your business growth, so that the supplier can support you by proactively managing the producers. You will get a lot more by partnering with vendors than by pitting them against each other.

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