The Taste Tomorrow survey shows that consumers are interested in both keeping the old and embracing the new. They worship tradition and love innovation. Equally. This is a global phenomenon. At Puratos we believe that tradition provides a solid foundation for future innovation. As Puratos is a global company, it is important to acknowledge local preferences and trends, when developing new products. Regional R&D manager of Asia-Pacific Paul Baisier shares his view on the topic of innovation.
When it comes to consumer needs and taste preferences there are major differences throughout the world. That is why at Puratos, geographic regions have their own R&D departments. For Asia-Pacific we have a local R&D community in each of the nine countries where Puratos has a production facility. On top of that, we have a regional R&D team of 7 people at our Asia Development Center in Guangzhou. And we also have a strategic research division that is doing specific Asia-oriented fundamental research.
Asian society is a young and modern society. The average age in Asia (and China in specific) is lower than the average age in Europe or in the USA. Also, economic reality is more promising in Asia. This combination of factors strongly affects consumer behaviour. Young, future-oriented and optimistic consumers have different product needs and wishes. On-the-go snack items are extremely popular. Asian consumers are open to experimental tastes and textures and interested in international eating habits. However, Western products need some adaptation to succeed. Food safety is also a rising demand, evolving from many food scandals happening in China over the last years.
Speed of innovation
New products can quickly become a trend, but can also disappear with the same speed of arrival. So for our teams that are working on food innovations, we need to be aware of upcoming trends, develop fast, and implement fast. This requires good streamlining of market research & marketing, efficient and dynamic R&D teams, and flexible project teams to launch and roll-out products.
We have our own sensorial lab - called the "sensolab" - at our disposal. The lab tests are coordinated by our inhouse flavourist and sensorial expert. We train our own staff to test new developed products, even before "real" consumer evaluation takes place. We also have our own Sensobox, a mobile sensory lab, for external consumer research and validation. We have a regional innovation center and an industrial competence center (ICC) where we study processes, to improve recipes and process parameters for our large account customers.
Customised products & flavours
Although we follow the global Puratos Group’s guidelines, we actually have quite some freedom to customise our products. Based on local consumer needs and customer understanding, and also based on the creativity of our local Asian researchers. These local innovators, together with local bakery expertise, can lead to original new developments and approaches. Our R&D department in Asia-Pacific focuses on Asian ingredients and applications. We work with specific local ingredients (like flavours, colours, fruits), which are more in line with the Asian consumer and customer needs.
Sweet flavours & flamboyant colours
Asian consumers prefer more soft and moist textures in their products, tend to like more pronounced and sweet flavour profiles, and more colourful & fancy application appearances. Copy-paste of e.g. European bread items, without any "customisation" or "localization" to Asian standards, is the best way to guarantee failure. Crusty European breads are niche products in Asia, but once you "transfer" these breads into more soft and sweet applications, with more original designs, on-the-go snacking concepts, or original filled applications, the chance of success is much higher.
Local adaptation in all product categories
We see local Asian adjustments in all product categories. For our fillings we work with exotic local fruits and for our patisserie mixes with special tea or herb extracts. We develop specific bread improvers, to upgrade more traditional bread items into the desired texture and flavour profile, being more moist, soft and sweet. But even within the Asia-Pacific region we see local adaptations:
- In Malaysia and Thailand we developed Tauro bread mixes, for very specific violet sweet buns.
- In Indonesia we developed cream fillings, with very exotic flavour profiles, such as durian, mango, sarikaya, talas.
- In Thailand we produce very colourful and tasty compounds, for chocolate coating purpose, for example for colourful donut decoration.
Typically Asian fermented foods
One of our latest Asian research fields covers specific sourdoughs, derived from authentic Chinese fermented food applications, to be applied in Chinese steamed buns and other bakery applications. We closely work together with Universities on this project. That way we can combine the expertise of the academic field with our own in-house bakery and flavour experience, targeting very typical Chinese bread applications and providing a taste profile in line with Chinese consumer demands.