At the Food Ingredients Indonesia October 2018, AFB interviewed Mr. Harry Boot, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Food and Beverage Solutions, Asia Pacific, about the company long associated with sugar transforming itself into a world leader in sweeteners, starches, fibers, and stabilisers and their role in Asia.
Global Health Issues Led Change
For nearly 150 years, Tate & Lyle was synonymous with cane sugar, but in 2010, the company sold its last sugar refining business and moved into other products. “We’ve completely changed our health focus.” This strategic shift is due to global health problems such as diabetes and obesity, and growing consumer awareness. “People are much more aware of clean labels, what are they eating, drinking, and putting into their bodies.”
Having spent more than 20 years in Asia, he witnessed the region’s big and rapidly growing population with an expanding middle class enjoying increasingly higher disposable income. Consumers today have become more aware and knowledgeable about ways to prevent chronic diseases that have wreaked havoc across the world.
“Over the last 30 years, child obesity rates have gone up by a staggering 48%, and it has gone up 28% for adults. The country with the highest number of obese people is China, having surpassed the US. Their whole lifestyle has changed,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the seventh highest cause of death by 2030 is diabetes. Today, diabetes is the leading disease in China with 108 million diabetics. This is the highest number in the world, but its rising rate is even more worrisome. “These are big issues that all policy makers are working to find ways to combat them as their healthcare bills are going through the roof.” In 2017, Singapore’s Prime Minster said one of his three objectives was to fight against diabetes by working with policy makers and the industry.
“Ultimately, our purpose as a company is ‘Improving Lives for Generations’. We want to help find solutions,” Harry said. The company is cooperating with local governments in Singapore and two schools in China to educate not only children, but also parents and especially grandparents who are their primary caretakers.
“Everyone has to understand about nutrition and exercise. It is not to promote our products, but to create awareness. We all have children, and the most important thing is to see that all of our children are happy and healthy. If you don’t address those issues when they are very young, you have a problem. If you look at the self-confidence of an obese child, or the success of how well they do at school and in their careers, it can dramatically drop.”
From Sugar to Sweeteners, Starches, Fibers and Stabilisers
These health problems are opportunities for Tate & Lyle’s products to make visible changes. “We’ve got the largest portfolio of non- or low-caloric sweeteners. We are one of the largest producers of specialty food starches in the world. We are also the second largest fiber producer in the world. It is a very exciting time now because there are many new key trends around the world like clean labels and new products in the sweeteners portfolio.”
Their product categories around the world are beverages, dairy, and soups, sauces, and dressing being made in more than 40 plants in 28 countries. The Asian market is similar to other regions but there are different preferences in each market. It focuses on dairy products in China, while beverages are strong in Japan and Korea, and its areas of expertise in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are soups, sauces, and dressings.
Growth across the Asia Pacific led to heavy expansion. Their Singapore regional headquarter and application center was doubled in 2017. “It’s where we do a lot of the prototyping, application development, and we’ve further enhanced that capability.” In China, the size of their Shanghai facility has also doubled, and their fiber facility in Nantong tripled.
“Food and taste are very local, so you have to be very close to your customers to understand local tastes and come up with local solutions,” he explained.
If customers with high-sugar content products want to reduce their sugar content to mitigate taxes or offer consumers healthier products, “we look at our portfolio and help them find a solution that does not compromise on the taste which has to remain the same.”
“No other company in the world has the breadth of sweetening portfolio that we do,” said Harry. The company’s rapid expansion was achieved through many partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.
One of their key products is stevia, a natural plant-extracted sweetener that does not raise blood sugar levels, has zero calories, and is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, allowing manufacturers to use less of the product. The company recently acquired a stake in leading stevia expert, Sweet Green Fields (SGF) which increased their production and innovation capacity with a complete research and development team allows them to better serve its global customers. “The challenge with stevia is that it sometimes has a lingering licorice or bitter taste, and some people are very sensitive to it. So we are utilizing SGF’S portfolio in our solutions. One of them is the optimizer or the light test which ultimately gives customers a better cost with a better taste.”
Tate & Lyle has a broad portfolio of dietary fibers that offers a range of nutrition, health, and functional benefits to address your customer’s needs. Award-winning PROMITOR® Soluble Fiber provides fiber enrichment without impacting taste, texture or consumer satisfaction. It has exceptional digestive tolerance, even at high inclusion levels. PROMITOR is a prebiotic fiber that, among other benefits, enhances calcium absorption, important for bone health.
STA-LITE® Polydextrose, available in liquid and powder forms, and manufactured in Nantong, is ideal for replacing sugar in food and beverages as it adds bulk while controlling blood sugar levels after consumption.
When it comes to specialty food starches, CLARIA® Functional Clean-Label Starches are a line of texturants that are certified non-GMO while being identical to their conventional counterparts in terms of appearance, taste, and application. The proprietary technology in CLARIA gives this product a desirable clean taste and color and labels simply as corn starch or tapioca starch. When formulating with CLARIA some applications such as bakeries, dairy, beverages, dressings, and sauces are even superior to those made with traditional starches.
The customized range of HAMULSION® stabilisers helps manufacturers solve their formulation and distribution challenges so that they can optimize their production process and shelf life stability. “Riding on the clean label trend, our HAMULTOP® dairy proteins impart a creamy mouthfeel and prevent syneresis in dairy applications.”
Battling diabetes and obesity is not easy as it requires discipline and willpower to resist delicious foods and beverages, but the availability of these functional products will make it a little easier to win this war.