Reduced-sodium seasonings and protein coatings power growth at Griffith Foods

The 100-year-old company is relying on salt, sugar and protein solutions to triple its bottom line within a decade.

29 July 2019
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image credit: Getty Images

Health and nutrition are key to future product development at Griffith Foods. The US-headquartered company, which has offices across Europe, Asia and the Americas, specialises in seasonings and coatings, working with QSRs, food processors and retailers to improve the flavour and mouthfeel of products in line with current trends.

Last year, it debuted Never Fry, a coating system designed for the oven that creates the texture of fried foods without the need for actual frying.

This June, the Griffith Europe team were at Snackex showcasing their new Sodium Flex and Sugar Flex toolkits, created to help businesses reduce or remove entirely two major consumer health concerns.

According to a survey by Spoon Guru, 67% of Brits have tried to improve their health and wellbeing in the last 12 months, with 33% of consumers now using sugar substitutes. Everyday table salt (which contains sodium) has also been in the news in the UK after Imperial College London research claimed that lack of government regulation can be linked to 10,000 deaths since 2011. 

“When you add sodium to something, it boosts the flavours,” explains Hans Schinck, VP of sales and marketing for Europe. “We’ve been able to cover that with a combination of different ingredients that take over that role of sodium… It’s really replacing ingredients and being able to play with certain components – flavour enhancers, umami flavours – that do create that functionality but without adding that sodium.”

Schinck says that there’s an opportunity to create more savoury snacks as these are perceived as healthier than sweet options, echoing a view held by bakery ingredient supplier Puratos.

But sugar and sodium aren’t the only nutritional levers the business is pulling, as it aims to double in size and triple its bottom line in eight years.

Protein and fibre

“When we look at consumer developments in Northwestern Europe, we see that one of our large markets is the protein market, so we supply a lot of seasonings, sauces, dressings and marinades to protein processors and producers,” says Schinck.

The protein market is undergoing a seismic change at the moment, as people move away from traditional meat-based sources towards animal-free alternatives.

“That market segment is really going quite fast,” adds Schinck. “We are really tapping into that trend, for example by joining the Green Protein alliance in the Netherlands, which is an industry organisation that has the aspiration to facilitate growth and help consumers find more and better choices.”

One of Griffith’s main technological challenges recently has been how to adapt its seasonings and coatings to work with plant-based proteins, overcoming taste and behavioural differences. Additionally, the company is looking at how to create functional blends that mimic the same sensations as meat.

“That is something that this industry is still looking for: a meat-like texture as well as a meat-like taste and a taste profile that is appealing – that is a technological challenge that we are sinking our teeth into it. Pun intended.”

Another way Griffith is addressing health and nutrition is through a product concept involving adding a vegetable component to a nut coating, creating the indulgence of a nut but with added fibre. Coating systems like this can bolster both protein and fibre in a range of foods, and could potentially extend to other vitamins and minerals, though this is not an area the company is exploring in detail at the moment.

“To be perfectly honest, adding vitamins, if customers want us to do that it’s possible, but I don’t see a big opportunity there in the savoury industry that we’re playing in right now,” says Schinck.

Full of flavour 

While health and nutrition are seen by Griffith as the key to the future, it continues to invest in detailed in-house consumer research on emerging flavours, with the UK and Ireland being one of its main markets, alongside Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland and the Benelux countries.

“We know, for example, exactly what a Dutch consumer is hoping for or looking forward to when it comes down to the flavour profile of a barbecue chicken,” explains Schinck, adding that when it comes to poultry, surprising taste trends include cinnamon, horseradish, soy sauce and pickled veg.

“Another one that stands out is named chilli. Consumers want to not only see a chilli but understand what kind of chilli it is and where it comes from.”

More generally, he notes that exotic flavours are what consumers want in the savoury industry: “For example, in savoury snacks we see a lot of Mexican and Asian influences.”

This is being driven forward by limited-time offers, which have greater scope for exoticism and create buzz.

Clean and clear

Sustainability and transparency in the supply chain is another area of investment for Griffith.

Responding to increased consumer concern surrounding the origin of key ingredients and whether they have been sourced ethically, 85% of the company’s ingredients are currently sourced sustainably.

The ambition it to reach 100% “in the years to come,” supported by technology that that clarifies traceability.

As a complement to that, Schinck notes that cleaning up labels and eliminating ingredients that consumers don’t understand will continue to be an ambition for the business.

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