As Carbery prepares to present its latest in innovative proteins at Food ingredients Europe (FiE), Irishfood speaks to Eimear Blackwell, business development and technical specialist, Carbery Food Ingredients about the opportunities ahead
In the face of a challenging year, business has been strong for Carbery, the manufacturer of nutritional dairy ingredients as well as flavours and cheeses. “The year, so far, has been good. Global dairy markets have been poor and recovery very slow, so this, along with many climate pressures, is impacting our farmer shareholders and we are supporting them through this,” Eimear says.
She cites the success of its FutureProof programme, a sustainability bonus scheme for farmers, and the continuing success of Farm Zero C, the project to create a climate-neutral dairy farm, as just some of 2023’s highlights. “We were also lucky enough to win Irish Exporter of the Year recently. Our digital transformation continues as well as investments in people and facilities. Next year, 2024, priorities will focus on innovation and the launch of our new three-year strategy.”
Innovate and create
One such innovation is Carbery’s market-leading Optipep whey protein hydrolysate range that will be showcased at FiE. The range delivers scientifically supported nutritional and performance benefits and is suitable in a wide variety of applications from bars, snacks, ready-to-drink and powdered beverages. “Protein and applications experts will be at the stand to discuss the opportunities for manufacturers looking to meet demand for healthy, functional, and nutritious foods and beverages,” says Eimear. She says shows such as FiE are hugely important for Carbery as they provide a platform for networking, and opportunities to showcase technical innovations and identify strategic opportunities for growth and collaboration.
Carbery’s nutrition business provides a comprehensive range of advanced whey proteins for infant, sport, clinical nutrition, and mainstream food and beverage markets. Informed by its expertise in infant and performance nutrition, the company has developed new heat-stable Optipep RTD (ready to drink) whey protein ingredients for clinical nutrition and high-performance protein shots. “One of the key benefits of Optipep RTD is its excellent heat stability, delivering great tasting whey protein that can withstand UHT treatment and has a 12-month shelf life in pack. Optipep RTD 9026 for example can deliver up to 15 per cent protein in neutral pH oral nutrition supplements (ONS) to provide optimal nutritional support. The Optipep RTD range is rapidly absorbed and easily digested, made with milk from grass fed cows and suitable for vegetarians.”
The functional-foods sector
The demand for healthier products has seen the global functional-food market valued at US $305bn in 2022 and it is predicted to hit around US $597bn by 20321. “The functional-food sector continues to grow, addressing consumers’ demand for ingredients and foods that support overall health and wellness. In general, busier lifestyles drive the demand for more nutrient-dense, convenient delivery formats like protein bars, gummies, electrolyte gels and ready-to-drink [products] that are backed by scientifically validated ingredients. We see an increase in the demand for pro-, pre- and post-biotics, supporting immune health and adaptogens and nootropics to enhance cognitive function are on the rise.
“As consumers are also more educated about the role their diet has in helping to combat illness and injury, they seek out products that are more protein and antioxidant rich, and interest in fermented ingredients that can support microbiome diversity is steadily increasing. Ongoing scientific research around the additional health-promoting benefits of dairy proteins and the development of bioactive-based whey proteins will create growth and added value in this sector,” says Eimear.
What are the opportunities for Irish manufacturers in this area? “Consumers’ priorities and purchasing behaviour have changed over the years with an increased focus on optimising physical health and supporting immune and gut health. More importance is placed on food and beverage choices, increasing the demand for ingredients with heath promoting benefits like bioactive dairy proteins, wholefoods, mushrooms, seaweed and antioxidants. There is an opportunity for Irish manufacturers to develop more advanced, functional ingredient solutions and expand product formats.”
Earlier this year, the company opened the new Carbery Group Asia Business and Innovation Centre in Singapore. This event coincided with Carbery celebrating the tenth anniversary of the opening of its Synergy flavours-manufacturing site in Thailand. “The objective of opening in Singapore is to fully take advantage of the strong, established and available ecosystems and networks to enable growth across the wider region. This in turn will allow Carbery Group to foster stronger collaboration with industry partners, start-ups, universities, and research institutes, and with strategic key customers. The Centre is just getting off the ground but the team there, led by Gordon Eng, is growing, and the presence of our innovation centre there cements the importance of this region for us – Singapore is a key hub for opportunities across Southeast Asia,” says Eimear.
Sustainability – a team effort
What processes have been introduced across the Carbery group to improve sustainability?
Eimear comments: “Our sustainability programme is extensive and covers many areas of our business including production, operations, procurement, people and supply chain. We have several initiatives in place, but some recent ones would include the formation of Green Teams across our sites, which are employee-driven action teams. We have had a very successful energy reduction and recovery campaign in 2023 with great results and our teams across the world continue to be very involved in their communities carrying out a range of environmental and charity initiatives.
“On the facilities side, we have been innovating in environmental sustainability terms for many years now, Carbery has always prioritised operating efficiently and responsibly. We have exciting projects ongoing in the area of recycled packaging. In recent years our focus has shifted to supporting our farmer shareholders to make the same transition, and the initiatives mentioned above like FutureProof, like Farm Zero C and many more are aimed at helping them to farm more sustainably and secure the future of family dairy farming.”