In his first international interview as Chr. Hansen chief executive, Mauricio Graber explains why he feels the company is uniquely positioned to capitalise on global mega trends shaping the food and beverage sectors.
Mega trend: Global growth of dairy
The first mega-trend that Graber sees Chr. Hansen supporting is the expansion of the dairy category globally. “The category is developed in Western Europe and the US and what we have seen is a tremendous growth and expansion of dairy into China and other parts of Asia, Latin America and increasingly to Eastern Europe [which are] what I would call high growth markets.”
As global dairy expands and production increases, Chr. Hansen can play a role in improving sustainability in the sector, Graber suggested. “Producing more with less is a constant focus for our innovation team. We help our customers to improve yields and productivity, so that they can get more cheese from a litre of milk, for instance. That is a way for us to make a difference in the sector.”
Mega trend: Sustainability and plant-based proteins
Alongside the growth of dairy, Graber also recognises a jump in interest in plant-based alternatives to animal proteins. He does not view this as contradictory and believes that Chr. Hansen is well-placed to develop this area of the market also.
“In anything in the world, you will always find a little bit of the dichotomy,” he observed wryly. “The capabilities that we have in dairy can also support platforms of non-dairy solutions where we use other potential types of proteins, plant-based proteins, to develop products that have a dairy-like taste. When developing plant-based products our capabilities and understanding of dairy play an important role.”
The ingredients supplier already offers some alternative protein solutions and its innovation pipeline reflects the company’s ambitions to develop this area further, the chief executive revealed.
Mega trend: Food waste and fermentation
Through its bio-protection know-how, Chr. Hansen is positioned to offer solutions to food spoilage while also maintaining a clean label profile. The company’s bio-protection products have been developed as an alternative to chemical preservatives.
“Through bio protection we can use good bacteria to reduce food spoilage and making sure that we are able to reduce food waste starting from our knowledge in dairy, but expanding into many other food categories,” Graber explained. “And that’s on food. On beverages, we have seen something that I’m very, very, excited about.” The market has seen “tremendous growth” in the fermented beverage segment – and this represents a significant growth opportunity for Chr. Hansen, he continued.
“I could see us playing a larger role in the future of malted beverages, fermented beverages and solutions for innovation in the beverage category. I’m really excited about that and so is our team is here.”
Mega trend: Health and nutrition
Chr. Hansen’s health and nutrition business is focused on science-based technological solutions and it houses one of the company’s so-called “strategic lighthouses”, the human microbiome (the totality of microbes in and on the human body that can be the source of next generation probiotics).
In health and nutrition, Graber said the company has “three or four key priorities”. In plant health, the group is working on tackling pesticide use in agriculture through microbial solutions, in animal health the company is working to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal farming, and in human health, Graber said, the group has taken “tangible steps” in its probiotics focusing on the “world’s best documented strains”.
Mega trend: Natural colours and clean label
The clean label trend is an overarching theme in Chr. Hansen’s portfolio. This can clearly be seen in the group’s natural colours business, which accounts for about 20% of group sales. The “biggest trend” in colours is the need for natural solutions that perform well, Graber noted.
“When you hear us talk about what makes Chr. Hansen unique, it is really the combination of those things. Our purpose is about precisely that: microbial solutions and natural solutions. I quite like that.”