Manufacturers looking to stay ahead of the game are finding the benefits of outsourcing, especially because premixes are offering the latest for health and wellness concerns.
According to Russ Hazen, PhD, premix innovations manager for New York-based Fortitech Premixes by DSM, the outlook of the market for premixes and custom blends continues to be bright. “While the food and beverage market has been flat in recent years, the trend toward niche products targeting specific health conditions will continue to offer opportunities for the continued use of custom premix solutions in the functional foods arena,” he explained.
In addition to consumers looking for products that offer health and wellness benefits, they are focusing on quality. “Consumers are becoming more conscious about nutrient contents and the quality of the products they consume,” added Jayesh Chaudhari, MS, certified nutrition specialist for Illinois-based Prinova Solutions.
According to NutraSolutions.com, “With the wide variety of vitamins, minerals, botanicals and nutraceuticals that can be used to fortify foods and beverages, premixed ingredient systems exist to allow manufacturers benefits and savings that require almost no effort to attain. Premixes also offer manufacturers greater product consistency and greatly reduce the chances of using incorrectly weighed materials during finished product manufacturing, especially when considering that the levels of certain nutrients must be rendered in the microgram range.”
“Manufacturers utilize premixes for multiple reasons but for most, the biggest reasons have to do with the reduction in both purchasing and manufacturing complexity,” according to Alison Raban, certified food scientist with New York-based BI Nutraceuticals. “When a manufacturer purchases a blend versus multiple ingredients, they are eliminating multiple invoices, testing, processing steps and more while reducing labor time. This leads to more efficiency and less waste, resulting in both time and money savings.”
In addition to manufacturing and purchasing efficiencies, premixes are extremely beneficial when working with high potency vitamins and minerals that have a low use level, added Raban. “Premixes ensure even distribution of the actives during manufacturing. Also, premixes can be utilized depending on the batch specifications in some cases, making it easier for production and protecting sensitive actives.”
Prinova Solutions, according to Chaudhari, with its Provia Functional Market Forms (encapsulated, agglomerated, spray dried and micronized), offers raw materials as a single homogenous matrix, which provides the nutritional value it promises without altering the sensory qualities of the finished product. “We ensure that every batch we produce meets the customer specifications and also provide every batch with full certificate of analysis,” he said. “Ultimately, we can deliver a total solution that arrives ready to be packed, pressed, or put into its final retail form.”
In developing and manufacturing a custom premix for an application, there are a number of benefits when working with an ingredient supplier, said Mike Petrushka, general manager, Prinova Solutions. For example, “We simplify inventory management and reduce risk. We have economies of scale that do-it-yourselfers may not be able to achieve since we are constantly pooling nutritional ingredients. This allows manufacturers the luxury of focusing on what they do really well … so, our customers can benefit from us, as we have better control over inventory, shorter turnaround time and provide homogeneous ‘complete’ blends with competitive pricing,” he noted.
Securing Supply Chain
Prinova Solutions is finding cases where its integrated supply chain coupled with the flexibility in its manufacturing and packaging can drive down total system costs, Petrushka added. “Growing categories are looking for speed and responsiveness and they’re looking to offload some of the risk inherent in custom blends and matrices. We are able to simplify inventory maintenance and the manufacturing process. We can reduce risk to customers because we’re able to make and test the batch in-house to ensure that it meets customer specifications before it even leaves our lab.”
“Reliability is intrinsically linked to everything we do, from supply chain and regulatory support to troubleshooting and technical services. As a proactive player, we have the ambition to determine—and meet—our customers’ requirements in advance,” Hazan added. “We’ve established tracking procedures that control and verify product characteristics at every stage of the manufacturing process—from the arrival of raw materials through to storage, production, warehousing, distribution and sales.”
As for BI Nutraceuticals, the company requires that all products be checked at every stage: before, during and after processing. In addition, with its proprietary Protexx HP Green Steam sterilization method and Identilok genus and species verification system, the company offers peace of mind needed when sourcing botanicals and functional ingredients from all the over the world. “Another way to approve raw material is by evaluating at least three different lots of material from the supplier.” “Before approving the material, we make sure that the three different lots of that material should match well in physical, chemical and micro-biological characteristics,” Chaudhari explained.
Non-GMO (genteically modified organism) and allergen/gluten free are also the important criteria for selection of product, Chaudhari noted, adding that a premix scientist’s role is to develop precise, timely, dry and liquid blend formulations that meet customer specifications. “To satisfy customer demands, we need to design a formulation, which is not only compatible with their product, but should also meet their regulatory criteria, i.e. non-GMO status, minimal contaminants and micro-organisms load, allergen/gluten free, natural, etc.”
Of course, time and money savings are considerations, but not at the expense of sacrificing technical expertise, Hazan added. “Throughout each development cycle, Fortitech Premix experts work closely with a customer’s R&D team to address the specific formulation issues that may arise throughout the product development cycle. Our scientists are experts in delivering multiple nutrients in a single premix, while preserving three key elements of a successful end product: taste, stability and texture. Key to our strategy is developing formulations using functional ingredients that serve a dual purpose, i.e., delivering a health benefit while also providing processing advantages, such as better distribution for homogeneity.”
Clean, Sophisticated Blends
Consumer demand has driven the growth of healthier and more “natural” products, with cleaner labels and, while they still want to see the standard nutrients on their packaged food labels, they also want antioxidants and other phytochemicals from all-natural plant sources incorporated into the products they buy.
According Raban, “Although vitamin and mineral premixes still dominate sales, BI Nutraceuticals saw a gain in botanical blends, particularly fruit and vegetable blends.” This can be attributed to the “clean label” trend currently dominating the dietary supplement and food and beverage industries, she continued, with minimal chemicals and contaminants.
“Premix manufacturers can offer a broad range of nutrients, and the best of these suppliers offer a deep understanding of final product manufacturing,” Hazan added. “This expertise allows the custom premix to transform from just a simple blend of materials into a solution to some of the challenges manufacturers are facing. Working closely with your premix provider allows these companies to leverage the vast experience of the premix manufacturer to get the most out of the opportunity for using a premix in your facility.”
Hazan noted that the variety of ingredients being included in complex premixes also continues to expand and has gone from blends of basic vitamin and minerals to much more complicated blends involving macronutrients, as well as colors and flavors. “All premixes require micronutrients–vitamins, minerals, trace elements—in small quantity for growth, maintenance and activity, however, macronutrients–protein, carbohydrates, fats—are sources of energy, which benefit manufacturers that target the active consumers.”
Chaudhari said Prinova Solutions has also seen a large increase in inquiries for formulations for sports nutritional drinks, targeted for sustained energy, with high protein, low carb and clean label concepts. “We’re seeing more customers asking for portion packaging (putting fully tested premixes into portion-sized packages). We’re seeing more desire for complete formulations, which we’re fulfilling with drum to hopper formulations (active ingredients, flavor, sweetener, color and food additives/ excipients) for powdered drinks and tablets/chews,” he explained. “Lately, we have noticed a significant increase in demand for formulations for pre-workout and post-workout concepts, containing BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids), other amino acids with protein and B vitamins for powdered drinks targeted.”
In addition, because premixes are now available in powder form, consumers are able to receive several servings of greens or fruits and vegetables in just one product they would otherwise not be receiving, Raban said. Along with their nutritional appeal, some of these blends may improve color or flavor as well.
Beyond basic nutritional needs, health and wellness blends are gaining recognition. “Requests for formulations to improve the overall nutrient profile of a product or a formulation that is condition-specific continue to be of interest,” Raban explained. “With Baby Boomers being a significant portion of the consumer demographic, formulations that support a healthy aging platform are in demand. These are condition-specific and range from anti-aging to bone/joint health to cardiovascular health, just to name a few,” she said.
“Premix products are helping customers deliver high quality finished products that meet consumers’ expectations,” Hazan added. These finished goods represent an increasing array of forms targeting a variety of target markets. These may be a condition-specific bar application, or a general immunity-supporting beverage, he noted.
Now that the condition-specific line has expanded to target different health concerns, manufacturers are looking to the suppliers to create a custom blend for their product, whether a food, beverage, such as an energy drink, or supplement.
According to Hazan, many companies are evaluating the potential to streamline their businesses. “As they do, the ability to limit inventory, decrease production complexity and consolidate a variety of operations through outsourcing some aspects of production will make the manufacturing of custom blends of materials increasingly popular. This will contribute to the increase in premix opportunities.”
Custom premixes are always improving to ensure the needs of the customer. “As for formulation techniques, the straight-forward answer is that as technology and ingredient options evolve, our ability to develop and utilize innovative formulation techniques will evolve as well,” Hazan concluded. NIE