Tate & Lyle recently acquired an 85% stake in local tapioca starch firm Chaodee Modified Starch, giving direct access to a local tapioca starch production facility in Thailand.
“[A] dedicated production facility [will help us] be better placed to meet increasing demand for tapioca-based texturants, particularly in Asia Pacific, where tapioca is the fastest growing texturant source,” Tate & Lyle Global Texturants Lead Joachim Ziska told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We are continuing to see growth in the Non-GMO trend, the fastest growing clean-label claim among new products globally with launches up 11% over the past five years - in APAC the market is even faster-growing, with launches up 15% over the same period.
“Tapioca starch is inherently Non-GMO, and by growing our tapioca business through this acquisition we can help more customers to tap into the clean-label trend.”
Apart from catering to demand in the APAC region, Thailand was also selected as the hub for Tate & Lyle’s tapioca business due to both raw material availability and local consumer purchasing trends.
“The vast majority - over 90% - of tapioca starch output comes from Thailand, so it was the natural location to secure a dedicated tapioca production facility,” said Ziska.
“In addition, IGD research has shown the top three drivers of product choice for consumers in Thailand are perceptions around quality and taste, and the availability of nutrition information on-pack – [with a majority also wanting to be able to] recognise the ingredients in products they’re buying, [a characteristic] of the clean label trend.
“Our proprietary research has also shown that consumers in Thailand positively associate modified tapioca starches with the clean-label trend, with a majority of those polled considering these ingredients to be plant-based or natural and Non-GMO
Benefits for food manufacturers
Apart from increasingly appealing to consumers for clean label purposes, tapioca starch also inherently carries attributes that make it appealing to many food and beverage manufacturers.
“[Manufacturers] value tapioca’s translucent colour, clean taste and gel-like texture - characteristics that are particularly desirable in categories such as dairy products, bakery fillings, sauces, snacks and noodles,” said Ziska.
“[Tapioca starches can come in] varying levels of shelf stability, suitable for bakery and snacks, beverages, both instant and udon noodles, processed meats and fish, as well as soups and sauces.”
Although the firm remained coy over the names of current manufacturers it is working with, Ziska added that the new production facility in Thailand would see more investment over the next three years to significantly increase capacity for ‘higher functionality starches’.
Health and wellness still major
In addition to clean label and GMO, Ziska also highlighted health and wellness as a major trend in Thailand.
“With obesity rates in Thailand growing, there is a significant drive locally to encourage calorie and sugar reduction, including a sugar tax for beverages - Research shows local consumers support industry reformulation as long as their favourite products remain tasty,” he said.
“Maintaining taste and securing consumer acceptance are the main challenges manufacturers face, and when food and drink brands adapt a recipe to improve its nutrition credentials, often the texture is the more challenging factor to get right - which is why [it is best to seek] expert help and support customers to apply ingredients in recipes, or to use tools such as those in our TEXTURE-VANTAGE suite.”
The focus on health and reformulation undoubtedly increased during COVID-19, and Ziska added that during this period many food and drink manufacturers have innovated to provide additional health benefits, especially those supporting balanced immunity.
“We have helped our customers reformulate many products found on shelves across APAC [even throughout this period], from low sugar sauces, drinks, yoghurts and jams, to healthier crackers, fibre fortified UHT drinks and bakery products to clean label beverages and yoghurts - to name a few,” he said.