Sensient c.e.o. sees food industry at tipping point

by Keith Nunes
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Paul Manning, president and c.e.o. of Sensient, said natural colors will be a strong emphasis for the company.

CHICAGO — Paul Manning, president and chief executive officer of Sensient Technologies Corp., Milwaukee, Wis., said he has never known a “steady food industry.” Mr. Manning joined the company in 2009 as general manager of the company’s food colors business in North America and as the economic recession was taking hold. He ascended to the position of president and c.e.o. in 2014 and now he is managing the color and flavor supplier as the industry’s product development focus has shifted to products perceived as natural, wholesome and that feature a clean label.

With fiscal 2014 sales of $1.45 billion, Sensient’s core business units are flavors and fragrances and colors. The company employs more than 4,000 worldwide and 60% of its sales come from international business.

Consumer preferences for food and beverage products perceived as natural does not come as a surprise to Mr. Manning. He added that the company has been investing in the development of natural colors for more than 30 years.

Paul Manning, president and c.e.o. of Sensient Technologies Corp.

“Much of what is going to happen in colors has been happening, but I think we are at a tipping point,” Mr. Manning said in an interview with Food Business News during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition. “Natural colors will continue to be a strong emphasis for our company. As you can imagine, food and beverage companies are not going to convert all of their products. Natural colors will continue to be a market driver, but we will also continue to see use in synthetic colors.

“I think flavors are a similar phenomenon. With flavors we are looking at the ability to market and sell solvent-free, minimally processed (products). We have a line of extracts, S.N.O., which stands for Sensient Natural Origins. Not only do you get benefits from a processing standpoint, but it’s also a proprietary ingredient brand for us.”

With regard to flavor trends in the United States, Mr. Manning said look beyond the nation’s borders.

“ … Much of the trend in the U.S. is the influx of a more international taste profile to the palate,” he said. “You are seeing things like Indian basil as a flavor for a beverage. The influx of Indian and Latin American food is important. As the U.S. becomes a more diverse society we will see the pace of those trends get faster.”

He also described consumers as “in a period of discovery.”

“For example, look at chilies,” Mr. Manning said. “Look at the whole basket of what is out there. The millennial movement toward more international influences and experimenting with the foods they choose is going to continue. This means more experiential tastes, with us seeing interest in combinations like chocolate and jalapeño.”

Experiential flavor combinations like chocolate and jalapeño are growing in popularity.

Looking beyond natural and clean label, Sensient views transparency as another key trend. During the I.F.T., the company was promoting its Certasure natural color certification program.

“(Certasure meets) the expectations in the code of regulations and it gives us a framework with which to define our quality standards in the category,” Mr. Manning said.

The program provides full traceability on raw materials and provides the results of Sensient’s testing program for pesticides, heavy metals, microbiologic contamination, adulteration and unauthorized solvents.

“When you look at our natural ingredients business, if there is a problem with an onion we can tell you what field it came from,” Mr. Manning said. “That’s not the case for a lot of ingredients. But as transparency becomes more of an issue it’s going to become the norm.”

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