Clean label starches and phosphate replacers: Ulrick & Short’s Asia focus

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Phosphate removal in seafood across Asia is a huge market demand, says Ulrick & Short director
Phosphate removal in seafood across Asia is a huge market demand, says Ulrick & Short director

Related tags: Asia, Starch

Clean label starches and phosphate replacers are the key focus for UK ingredients firm, Ulrick & Short, as it enters the Asia Pacific market for the first time via a distribution partnership in Thailand.

Its distribution agreement with Starch Products Thailand will be signed next week establishing a network covering Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.

Andrew Ulrick, director of Ulrick & Short, said that while the firm has a broad product portfolio including proteins, fibres, egg replacers and emulsifiers, its focus for Asia Pacific will be on clean label starches and phosphate replacers due to market demands.

“The highest demand for clean label ingredients in Asia is from Australia and New Zealand… Thailand would be the next demand driver,”​ Ulrick told FoodNavigator-Asia.

He noted that it’s the sauces sector driving these demands.

Clean label calls are not coming from indigenous manufacturers but rather global players within Asian markets, he said, very often producing for Western markets. The few local Asian companies that are interested in clean label starches are often distributors, he added, rather than food manufacturers.

Ulrick said that “there is also a very strong demand for phosphate replacement in seafood across the Asian markets.” ​This is being underpinned by EU manufacturers looking to reduce or eliminate E-numbers, many of whom source prawns and shrimp from Asian markets, he noted.

The firm’s phosphate replacers are starch-based and also clean label, he said, but for seafood “we have had to tailor the ingredients”​ as previously we have only had phosphate replacers for chicken.

Prawn and shrimps are the main segment drivers but chicken is another set to soar, he added, especially in light of increased poultry trade between Asian markets and the EU.

“On initial investigation, I would say that certainly the easiest demand to fulfil is starches,”​ Ulrick said, but both segments are key areas for the business.

Distribution partner with expertise

Ulrick & Short selected Starch Products Thailand as it is a company with technical expertise, particularly in starches, Ulrick said.

“Our products require a lot of technical input and this is very often on-site,”​ he said, and so it was important to secure an Asia Pacific partner that is technically competent to work with customers directly.

Thailand was also targeted as it is geographically central with reasonable logistics including good seaports, he said, and is also very receptive to foreign investment particularly from Britain.

The country is also a great region to source tapioca, he added, which is the base for a lot of our products. The majority of the company’s tapioca is sourced from Brazil, but Ulrick explained that it is a country increasingly associated genetic modification (GM), especially in corn, and also progressively expensive to source from.

“Thailand however, is completely GM-free and has a far lower raw material cost base which is better for business,”​ he said, and growth in this market is set to soar faster than Brazil.

“The country would ultimately be a good place to have a manufacturing site,”​ he added.

Ulrick did however note that there was no intention to shift sourcing entirely away from Brazil, as the firm aims to maintain geographical balance in its sourcing of ingredients.

While Ulrick & Short is dipping its toes into Asia, Ulrick made clear that it is not a region the company is heavily investing focus in as there are overwhelming opportunities within EU markets still. However, should opportunities arise in Asia, the firm will certainly address them, he added.

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