Speaking at the Food Ingredients India expo in Mumbai on Wednesday, Koen van Praet, managing director for Beneo Asia-Pacific, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the approval by regulators for use of oligo fructose had come in early this year.
Baby food market opens up
“We received [final] approval some time after the Food Safety and Standards Authority gave approval for its use in other applications. We didn’t made this public, but we did inform our trusted partners,” said Van Praet.
Beneo had announced in August last year that oligofructose had been approved for use for more products in India, and had previously been approved for bakery items, including sweets, dairy products, cereals and chocolates, as well as meat applications.
However, the Indian Ministry of Health had still not yet cleared the fibre for infant milk powder.
The infant foods segment in India is a key market for Beneo. India accounts for 7% of the world’s infant formula market, according to UBIC Consulting, and the market is growing at double-digit annual percentage rates.
“This has really given us an edge within the Indian market. It is the only fibre from a vegetable source that is approved for infant foods in India,” Van Praet revealed.
The new Indian parent
Breast milk contains oligosaccharides and, Beneo claims to be the only company on the market able to provide an economical vegetable source replacement with oligofructose in infant formula. “So with oligofructose, your infant formula comes very close to mother’s milk,” said Van Praet
“The Indian market is yet to develop but there is no margin as to how much Indian parents are ready to spend on their children. Safety and wellness is also of great concern to them.”
Company research shows that when babies take infant milk formula with oligofructose, the frequency of them falling ill is greatly reduced.
Beneo already works with Nestlé, Danone, Abbott, and Mead Johnson globally for their infant milk formula products. Within India, it is already working with Nestlé and Van Praet says the company plans to partners with other companies soon.
Adults not so easy
Derived from chicory root, oligofructose is a soluble prebiotic dietary fibre. At levels of five grams each day, it is claimed to stimulate and increase the bifidobacteria, or prebiotic effect.
Due to its moderately sweet taste, oligofructose is said to be able to partly replace sugar in some products, and in combination with high intensity sweeteners it provides balanced sweetness.
Van Praet said that the company always had a four-year horizon to crack at least the bakery segment in India. “We had always outlined this time period as the market takes time to understand and develop.”
He added that India’s adult segment is more difficult to crack because the products it targets, such as cereals and cereal bars, are not a major category in the country.
“We are working on different projects. Once the retail sector is better organised and we get better distribution in hypermarkets, you will definitely see products with our ingredient on the shelves,” he said.
A report from the Indian Council of Medical Research said that fibreenriched food will steadily gain importance in India as Western style diets, which are typically processed or refined and low in fibre, tend to influence food in urban India.