Functional foods attracting more attention across LATAM: Naturex

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Premyuda Yospim
© Getty Images / Premyuda Yospim
Increased interest in functional foods and beverages across Central and South America is helping to drive Naturex’s sales of its health and wellness ingredients, as well as its natural colors and preservatives.

Speaking with FoodNavigator-LATAM, Marcelo Braga, Sales VP & GM for Naturex in Latin America, said that functional foods are becoming more and more important, and companies are investing in R&D.

“For Naturex, we have a strong commitment to that category and we have the ability to make real claims,”​ he said. “There’s huge interest in botanical extracts across Latin America, like hibiscus for the Mexican market and acerola for Brazil, but attaining regulatory approval is a long process that can take two years.”

One particular area of innovation is around flavored water with added health benefits, he said.

The French company also offers a range of natural colors for food and beverage formulators, and while demand for natural colors is increasing it is not at the same speed as seen in other markets, said Braga.

“New products are always launched with natural colors, and there’s some reformulation of established products,” ​he said. 

Regulatory challenges

The main categories for Naturex in LATAM are colors and preservatives, health and wellness, and some botanicals, said Braga.

For health and wellness, the main challenge is regulatory, he said, and noted that Naturex has invested in internal regulatory department to achieve regulatory approval.

Rosemary © Getty Images ckarlie
Naturex launched XtraBlend RN at the IFT18 Expo in Chicago: The EDTA replacer is based on rosemary and spinach. Image © Getty Images ckarlie

The company is also seeing increased demand for clean label solutions, but expectations change slightly depending on the country, he said. “In Mexico clean label is not just about removing artificial ingredients, but it’s about a simplified label. So it’s easy to talk about rosemary and acerola and those types of ingredients.”

This is also where ingredients like XtraBlend RN fit in. It was launched at the IFT18 Expo in Chicago recently as an EDTA replacer. Based on rosemary and spinach, the ingredient is the result of a major research program conducted by Naturex that explored the chelating and free radical scavenging properties of more than 400 botanicals.

Naturex in LATAM

Braga heads up operations for Naturex across LATAM, which includes three sales offices (Santiago, Sao Paulo, and Mexico City) and two factories: one in Manaus, Brazil​, and a second in Linares, about 200 miles south of the Chilean capital of Santiago.

The Chilean facility is a center of excellence for quillaia​, and is located close to where the broadleaf evergreen soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria​) grows naturally. Quillaia as an ingredient is used as a natural foaming agent and emulsifier.

In Latin America, the instant drink market is a huge opportunity for quillaia. The ingredient helps to create a ring of foam on the top of the glass, providing a fresh-squeezed effect that’s particularly attractive to kids. It’s also a great opportunity to replace allergenic foaming agents (egg albumin, caseins, and gelatin among others) with a cost effective solution.

Quillaia is sourced in accordance with Naturex’s “Pathfinder” sustainability program.

“Sustainability is a core strategy for the company, and our customers like the sustainability message,” ​said Braga.

Doubling growth in LATAM

Speaking with FoodNavigator-LATAM previously​, Braga explained that LATAM currently represents around 8% of Naturex’s global sales, and the company would like to double this figure in the coming years.

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”.

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