• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Ingredient, flavour companies can thrive in volatile environments by adapting to preferred tastes – Brifo

African food flavour market set for steady growth at 5.12% CAGR by 2025

Kojo Brifo is the Managing Director of Freddy Hirsch Nigeria and West Africa. In this interview with BusinessDay’s Ibrahim Abubakar, he speaks on the food and flavours industry in Africa, food chain vulnerabilities and the advantages of local sourcing for food manufacturers. Excerpts:

What is the trend in the Food and Flavors market in Africa?

Consumers seek authentic flavors and convenient, better-for-you products, and have a keen interest in familiar, local cuisine. Opportunities lie in launching innovative products inspired by local cuisines, with heat, spice, and smokiness. Some product launches that have catapulted local ingredients to mainstream markets include pepper soup, smoky jollof, and suya.

Nutritional solutions are also in demand post-COVID-19, especially to support physical and mental health.

What are the opportunities in the food and flavour industry in Africa?

The growing inflationary pressure has depleted the purchasing power for many Nigerians and created the need for cost-effective food solutions that satisfy the demand for healthier and more sustainable products. At the same time, food and beverage manufacturers are facing persistent supply challenges, regulatory requirements and the rising costs of fuel, and are closely monitoring operational expenses.

Forward-thinking ingredients and flavour companies are pursuing a value-added reformulation strategy that helps to optimize costs, formulate products sustainably, and advance nutrition, health, and wellness while accelerating speed to market.

Companies are innovating with locally sourced, readily available raw materials like ginger, garlic, onion, and tomato to create authentic and affordable flavours while minimizing FOREX exposure. Examples include African-inspired noodle flavours and traditional spices like pepper soup and Suya Chicken. Bouillons and ingredients like crayfish and locust beans (iru) also enhance food flavours.

Ethnic foods’ are gaining popularity, with a rise in local snacks that meet consumer demands. This is broadly due to the growing multicultural population and increased tourism expeditions to exotic destinations.

Read also: WHO releases guidance to protect children from aggressive food marketing

How important is local sourcing and production for your company?

Local sourcing is crucial for us. We have a farm-to-fork program in Nigeria where we partner with local farmers and processors to develop quality ingredients such ginger, chilli, turmeric, and scent leaf.

Ingredient sustainability and social responsibility is a key strategy for us. Affordability is another strong theme for FMCGs so by using local resources, we are able to create value and provide cost-effective solutions.

The policies on recent subsidy removal and foreign exchange window unification has led to inflation and driven the rise in prices of imported products. We are experiencing increased demand for local food ingredients and are fully vertically integrated to serve this demand in Nigeria.

Where are the vulnerabilities across the food chain in Nigeria, from farm-to-fork and what do you recommend can be done?

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted food supply chains, causing disruptions in farm labor, processing, transport, and logistics. These bottlenecks, resulting from containment measures, affected the flow of food from farms to consumers. Each link in the chain is crucial, and any disruption weakens the entire system. Challenges such as limited storage and processing facilities, distribution issues, and poor transportation infrastructure further compound the problem.

To enhance the food chain, we need sustainable solutions that include innovation, improved technical expertise, and efficient processes to increase farm yield and ensure seamless operations.

What is the benefit of sourcing ingredients and flavours locally?

Most food companies (FMCGs) import ingredients and flavours, to act as base notes in their food development. Unfortunately, the fluctuating dollar-to-naira rates have significantly affected their profit margins. Higher than planned FX rates, long lead time of imported products, loss of potency, and pungency (the products are not as fresh as you would like them to be) are major issues that affect food and flavours importers.

Sourcing locally has so many benefits including customer service, a better quality of product (you get what you ordered), or tailored insight and solutions developed for customers. Our customers also save on Forex and use their Forex for more critical things such as equipment etc. There is also room for real-time product innovation and collaboration, improved product customization, and cheaper prices. And finally, local flavours are readily accessible. Sourcing locally also ensures spices are sourced responsibly and deliver positive outcomes for local communities and the economy in the long run.

What sets your company apart from other players in the market?

We offer a comprehensive range of Culinary, Snack, Dairy, Beverage, Sweet, and Bakery ingredients and flavours, and have become a one-stop solutions provider.

We also deliver technology-based ingredients including stabilizer and texture systems for bakery, beverage, confectionery, dairy, spreads, salad, and mayonnaise.

Our local sourcing and production ensure quality ingredients and sustainable practices. As a local manufacturer, we can supply ingredients in a shorter lead time, provide consumer insights during product innovation and use indigenous ingredients with superior functionality.

How do you prioritize customer satisfaction and meet their expectations?

Consumer trends and local insights guide our R&D strategy. Consumers today are craving for local taste solutions and we are applying a technology-based approach to product development.

Our experienced food scientists, in our state-of-the-art, centre of excellence innovation laboratory, and global partners like Symrise help us solve customer challenges and accelerate product development. We have a manufacturing plant in Lagos, Nigeria, producing food and functional ingredients.

We believe the key to winning is by creating better-for-you and effective solutions for our customers.