Natural ingredients in India: The four hurdles facing suppliers and manufacturers

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Demand for natural colours is growing in India
Demand for natural colours is growing in India

Related tags India

Indian food manufacturers face four fundamental hurdles when it comes to expanding their use of natural ingredients, in addition to the extra cost that they can incur.

As a growing number of Indian consumers seek out healthier products and cleaner labels, especially in the wake of high-profile food safety scandals, opportunities abound for suppliers of ‘natural’ products.

However, Kancor Ingredients vice president of technical innovation V Sasheendran said suppliers and manufacturers in India had to overcome four challenges.

The first is supply chain issues, not only in terms of the seasonality of ingredients, but also contamination threats from pesticides and industrial waste.

“We are working closely with farmers and different groups to educate them about this and tell them what they should be doing, and will have to continue,”​ he said during a presentation at Fi India in Delhi.

He added there could also be process difficulties, especially when trying to create natural ingredients that replicated traditional Indian flavours.

“For example, roasted cumin is very popular in north India, but this is very difficult to replicate industrially on a large scale. It is hard to maintain that roasted note in an extract, and food technologists also want it in dry and liquid forms,”​ he said, adding that his firm had developed proprietary technology to achieve this.

Taste impact

In addition to supply and process, Sasheendran said the third obstacle was application, notably when it came to natural colours – a trending topic in India.

“There is a lot of interest in natural colours but there are also problems around taste impact, PH dependence, and stability and solubility issues.”

He added that his team had been working to tackle these, as well as providing consistent colour profiles, which can offer vary widely within the same ingredient.

Childrens’ products are a particular hot spot for natural colours, he added,

Finally, regulation came under spotlight, amid concerns over interpretation when it came to applying the rules for fresh products, such as chili, to their ingredient forms.

“The industry as a whole needs to represent itself more,”​ he added, noting that initial colourings regulations from the regulator FSSAI only permitted one chlorophyllin, magnesium.

“However, this had stability problems so we had to argue for copper chlorophyllin to be allowed. I think there may be similar problems with emulsion regulations that are coming in to,”​ he warned.

Kancor has four manufacturing sites in India and one in China.

In 2014 French firm Mane took a majority stake in the company.

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