The ingredient space has responded to major shifts in consumer habits by turning to M&A to keep up. Earlier this year, International Flavors & Fragrances closed its merger with DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences in a $26.2 billion deal that created a powerhouse in food flavors, fragrances, probiotics, enzymes and food protection.
But IFF isn’t the only ingredients company active on the M&A front. Kerry has made several big deals in recent years — including plant protein provider Pevesa Biotech last year, clean label companies IsoAge Technologies and Biosecur lab in late 2019 and probiotics leader Ganeden in 2017. Last year, Ingredion fully acquired plant-based ingredients company Verdient Foods. And in late 2020, McCormick bought clean and natural flavors provider FONA International for $710 million.
CPGs eager to work with ingredient manufacturers on new product formulations are fueling the buying spree. Ingredion CEO Jim Zallie told Food Dive in February 2020 that the pressure to stay on top of trends and innovation is changing the dynamic between CPGs and ingredient makers.
“I come from an era where large companies had the luxury of being very careful and cautious as it relates to how they would engage with you, what kind of contracts they would want to sign. Those days don’t exist,” Zallie said. “The patience isn’t there on the other side, the recognition is there that that’s not going to win the day” in a rapidly changing food space.
Ingredion’s and Kemin’s acquisitions this week are largely aimed at the same endeavor: ensuring companies have enough clean label ingredients to meet the needs of food manufacturers. This is one of several categories that have gained momentum during the ongoing pandemic as people more closely watch what they eat and drink.
“Consumers are also demanding improved nutrition and cleaner label ingredients,” Giuseppe Abrate, group president of Kemin Food and Human Nutrition. “One of the larger challenges facing the industry today is how to meet the rising demand for protein, better nutrition and cleaner labels, without negatively impacting cost or quality.”
The trick for many clean label formulations is finding a compromise between simple ingredients and the texture, taste, mouthfeel and overall eating experience that consumers expect. For ingredients companies, having a deeper bench of options makes CPGs more likely to want to partner with them if they can address more of these challenges at the same time.
It’s also advantageous for the ingredients company. If they have a gap in their business to fill, it’s often much faster to buy another business instead of investing the time and money to develop their own offerings while food trends are rapidly evolving. Acquisitions also are a quick way to expand a company’s geographical footprint and maximize its portfolio. Zallie said in a statement KaTech’s expertise in food formulation complements Ingredion’s texture business in Europe.
KaTech is a particularly timely acquisition for Ingredion due to its focus on plant-based, dairy and dairy alternatives. Consumers are showing a big appetite for plant-based foods, but challenges exist when it comes to ensuring products have the right taste, mouthfeel and overall satisfaction compared to their conventional counterparts.
KaTech claims to have expertise in areas around texture enhancement, protein protection and enrichment, and mouthfeel improvement, which could help Ingredion be more competitive in the plant-based segment that it has targeted as an area for growth.