SHAKING UP THE MARKET

A SHIFT in consumer attitudes and the demand for high quality ingredients with full traceability has shaken up ingredients trends and the products created for meat products.

Ingredients companies such as Verstegen and Lucas Ingredients say consumer trends are dictating product development, with traditional powdered seasonings making way for liquid sauces and marinades. New products, boasting fresh approaches to existing ideas and others that can be used in more than one product, are constantly being launched into the market as consumers try new taste experiences.

New spin on existing lines

Noel Dawson, retail development manager for Lucas Ingredients, says ingredients add flavour, functionality, texture and attractiveness to meat products. The company, which 'prides itself on producing a comprehensive range of products for today's specialist and professional butcher,' is aiming to introduce new flavour profiles for the sector every season with a new batch due for release in just in time for Foodex Meatex. The company's product lineup is extensive, ranging from seasonings to complete mixes, cures to proteins, and rusks to speciality stuffing blends. A concept the company is keen to promote is that of expanding the use of existing ingredients to show how ingredients can be utilised in different ways. A booklet to help people use their ingredients differently will be published in the summer.

Mr Dawson says: "Lucas predominantly sells into the retail market. There's still a lot of interest in the sausage market and speciality and regional products that sell into that category. In addition, the value-added sector is key for regional products offering alternative and ready meals."

On ingredients trends, he says products like sausages tend to have English-style flavours like pork and onion and pork and leek but says there is more of a global theme in terms of trends for value added products, whether it be Cajun, Mexican or Mediterranean flavours.

Another aim of the company is reduced salt in all its new products. "But we do have to remember that salt is a very important part of the functionality of any meat product. It is the most effective anti-bacterial agent for meat and it promotes shelf life. We have to be aware that by reducing it, it will have an affect on the functionality of the meat."

As one of the sponsors of Meat Trades Journal's Independent's Day being held on Sunday March 19 at Foodex Meatex, Lucas is keen to promote its butchery links.

He said: "This event is aimed at providing a focus for the retail butchery sector at a national event and venue which has, perhaps over the last few years, favoured the larger processor more. The retail butchery trade is growing in importance in the food chain as more consumers realise the diversity and quality of product they have to offer and the work shops in particular will hopefully encourage new entrants and some existing businesses to improve their skills with to help from some of the country's top butchers. As the UK's leading supplier of ingredients into the retail sector, we are pleased to be able to help run this event."

Quality is paramount

Jon Childs, Sales Manager at Verstegen Spices & Sauces UK, says the value of ingredients in new product development is immense. Besides their raw ingredients, the most popular products the company currently supplies are its World Grill herb-oil marinades. These are used on all kinds of meat products including steaks, chicken fillets, burgers and stir-fry ready meals. "With easy application and authentic 'World flavour' profiles, these herb-oils are well suited for themed meat products, but we're finding more and more customers are also using them on vegetables and in bread recipes too."

The company is constantly developing new food flavours in response to food trends. Last year, the company launched its Argentinean Chimichurri range, which includes a new sauce, marinade, spice blend and schnitzel mix. It has proved to be a huge success. "We are about to launch a range of three new 'Bruschetta' mixes (Olivio, Rosso and Verde) which would typically be used on Italian breads, but can also be used as a seasoning for meat dishes too."

Over the last decade, the types of ingredients used for meat products have changed beyond measure, says Mr Childs.

"Naturally, there is still a high demand for traditional dry ingredients, such as sausage and burger seasonings but, where value-added meat products are concerned, we are finding that more customers are moving away from dry ingredients and are now seeing the benefit of using liquid sauces, marinades and herb pastes." More than anything else, he said customers' attitudes towards ingredients have changed, and the demand for high-quality ingredients with full traceability is high on most peoples' requirements.

"We have developed a range a 'Fresh Pastes' for use in minced meat products and sausage production.

"These are pasteurised, E number-free, herb and spice pastes which give fantastic flavour, colour and texture to minced meat products, and have far lower microbacteriological counts than similar dry seasonings, which ultimately means a naturally extended shelf life."

The company sells a selected range of no-added salt or low-salt products, organic herbs and spices, and certain gluten free and vegetarian sauces and marinades. In mainland Europe and soon, to be launched in the UK, Verstegen Spices & Sauces supply a range of herb and spice blends, which are recommended by various national heart foundations and good health institutions, such as Weightwatchers.

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