The natural ingredients major opened its ‘SpringLabs’ last year - one in Sao Paolo Brazil and the second in Mexico - the latter of which will be fully operational by April, this year. The two labs took around nine months to develop and join a network of 11 around the world, dedicated to working with manufacturers on product concepts, formulation and sensory analysis.
Marcelo Braga, sales vice president and general manager for LATAM at Naturex, said the investment was part of a wider plan to strengthen presence in emerging markets.
“Today, the LATAM region represents around 8% of Naturex’s global sales and we would like to double this figure in the coming years,” he told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
The broader goal, he said, was to have 25% of total global sales coming from emerging markets -Latin America and Asia Pacific - and therefore it was important LATAM generated around half of this.
Braga said revenues in LATAM had already increased 13.1% for Q4 2017 and Naturex was confident this growth would be “long-lasting”.
The primary goal of each lab, he said, was to work closely with manufacturers on product ideas and address challenges associated with working with natural ingredients.
“The biggest challenge in developing natural solutions and making the switch away from synthetic is related to shelf life; like heat, light and pH sensitivity.”
From a technical perspective, product stability was always the primary concern, he said.
Braga said the labs gave Naturex the space to develop concepts and prototypes with manufacturers that solved such challenges - involvement that was increasingly becoming ‘the norm’.
“I believe a large number of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies rely on ingredient suppliers as their main source of knowledge for product development, and also count on them to understand new trends and bring agility to new developments or formulation processes.”
“…The ultimate goal is to speed up customer development processes and solve time-to-market issues,” he said.
Asked how long product development typically took at the labs, Braga said: “It is pretty difficult to generalize and set a target for a full product development because we need to consider not only technical challenges but also marketing momentum and regulatory rules in the region, but I would say that, in general, it usually takes about 6-18 months to develop a new product with natural ingredients.”
Amazon sourcing ‘trendy’
Braga said interest for natural ingredients in LATAM was extremely varied and covered all categories - food, beverages and nutraceuticals. Manufacturers were interested in functional ingredients; botanicals; natural colors; fruits; vegetables - “all kinds of ingredients”, he said.
“Naturalness is no longer a rising trend, but a well-established way of thinking and living. But in this competitive market, differentiation is key to attracting consumers’ attention.”
Asked if companies were interested in sourcing locally, he said: “In some cases, there is an interest in developing formulas with local ingredients. For example, products from the Amazon are very trendy at the moment.”