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The spice of life – why ingredients are set to take off in 2021

Next year will be a watershed year for Australia’s oldest and largest ingredients’ supplier, Langdon, as it marks its 170th birthday. As with any successful business, passion for the product and constant innovation are keys to keeping a brand relevant and at the cutting edge of its industry. That is why Langdon has unveiled a new look featuring a refreshed brand mark, strapline and vision to deliver “A World of Taste”.

Started in 1852 by current CEO, Chris Langdon’s great-great grandfather, Henry Joseph Langdon, the business is 5th generation family-owned and operated and has a reputation for supplying a large range of BRC-accredited ingredients to Australasia’s food manufacturers.

Under Chris Langdon’s watch, the company has expanded to the UK and Ireland, New Zealand, as well as Thailand and Singapore.

“Our modest global footprint brings us closer to emerging food trends and flavour profiles, and gives our customers access to the same pantry of ingredients and flavour profiles, regardless of where their operations are located,” said Langdon. “Our brief was to pay respect to the brand’s long heritage and reputation for ‘safe hands’, balanced with a timeless, global outlook as a food leader.”

As the company approaches 170 years, it wants to show its employees, customers and suppliers that it is continuing to invest in the brand – and the business, according to Langdon. Initiatives such
as the launch of the new Product Development & Culinary Centre and the addition of new high-speed sachet packing lines, demonstrates the company’s confidence that it is continuing to grow and engage customers.

“From the start, we’ve scoured the world for the finest quality ingredients, and today that trusted, global supply network strategy provides year-round surety, and choice of localised flavour profiles,” Langdon said. “Even though COVID has been challenging, 2021 opens the door on an exciting new chapter for the company.”

Product Development (PD) has been at the heart of Langdon for over a decade, but the decision to invest in building one of Australia’s largest culinary centres, marks out its commitment to continuously challenging the way not on the company, but consumers, think about food. PD is especially important to Langdon because of its partnerships with a range of high-end suppliers for functional ingredients such as starches, yeasts, flavours, pre- and probiotics and plant-based substitutes. These functional ingredients are the building blocks for flavour, texture and cooking performance, but need a deep level of application knowledge and collaborative mindset to help customers bring food ideas to life.

The new space will also allow Langdon to host “PD-in-Residence” programs with visiting suppliers, chefs and members of Langdon’s overseas PD teams who will spend time working in Melbourne.

As part of its talent and leadership program, the company makes available one sought-after graduate position for food science, nutrition and business graduates annually. It believes the new centre will further strengthen the company’s ability to attract the brightest food science minds and future leaders to Langdon.

In addition to fully formed, retail-ready solutions, the company is also a specialist in global market insights; food and ingredient trends; recipe development; testing and technical implementation; process and product improvements to deliver clean-label and/or cost benefits; competitor product analysis; and commercial blending and packaging to bring a product to market

“Our aim is to help customers bring their food ideas to life, so whether that’s working with multinationals on process improvements, or providing one-person start-ups with end-to-end assistance from concept development, right through to on-shelf commercialisation. We are here to help,” said Langdon.

The new centre will not only be a new home for Langdon’s PD team, but will be a hub for industry to gather for events where customers and staff can explore ingredient trends, applications and create together.

When travel restrictions allow, Langdon is looking forward to hosting PD-in-Residence programs with some of its exclusive suppliers to improve local food manufacturers’ understanding of functional ingredients.

Designed by a leading architectural firm, who are also responsible for the transformation of sister-business Langdon Coffee Merchants’ Melbourne Sensory Laboratory, the new culinary centre represents a departure from the previous laboratory design.

Spacious and warm with timber and natural materials, Langdon has created a hybrid space that will give the company room to grow and links the PD lab directly to the warehouse and customer service teams. Equipped with the latest food science technology, the Culinary Centre has an inviting home kitchen-like feel that encourages chance encounters between the team and customers to spark innovation and improve knowledge sharing.

Officially opening in February 2021, the Langdon PD team started moving into the new space in December 2020.

And what does Langdon see as the main trends over the next few years? Unsurprisingly, plant-based products are at the top of the list.

“With one third of Australian consumers cutting their meat consumption and embracing flexitarian or vegan diets, plant-based foods have undoubtedly been one of the hottest trends of the past 12 months and looks set to continue,” said Langdon.

Over summer, the Aussie BBQ underwent a makeover with meat alternative sausages and plant-based burgers taking over the grill. Jackfruit sliders, TVP-sausages and plant protein patties derived from pulses such as soy, rice and pea isolates, are not only delivering
vegan friendly meat-alternatives, but have compelling nutritional and functional characteristics.

And the trend for plant based doesn’t stop at meat replacers – savvy manufacturers are ramping up their vegan credentials across all categories. Those brands that can combine clean-label, plant-based claims – with superior taste and texture and cooking performance, will thrive.

“But it’s important to remember that it’s rarely as simple as swapping out one ingredient for another,” said Langdon. “Changes to product formulation can have significant impact on the way that flavour is perceived. Our product development team often needs to do a lot of
work to rebuild mouthfeel, colour
or texture back into the final product once animal-derived products
are removed.”

Another trend is Australians heading towards health and wellnesswith consumers’ preoccupation with wellness continuing into 2021. Herbs and spices associated with natural therapeutic benefits, such as cinnamon, cayenne pepper, turmeric, beetroot powder, garlic and ginger, feature in a myriad of applications. All add flavour, but perhaps more importantly, address consumers’ health agenda.

Trends towards good gut health have created a shift towards natural flavourings and a strong preference for clean-label, vegan-friendly ingredients more broadly. Consumers no longer want to look at a nutritional panel full of e-numbers they don’t recognise as being ‘real food’.

“Our PD team has been diving into fermented ingredients such as miso and soy powders to create rich, savoury umami notes, as well as promoting good gut health, whilst turmeric, ginger and manuka honey help marketers to push immunity boosting messages,” said Langdon.

Nowhere is the impact of the health agenda more evident than in the breakfast, beverages and snacking categories, where competition is fierce among products claiming sugar-free or low-sugar formulations. To achieve these claims, while still pleasing consumers’ palettes, manufacturers are reliant either on artificial sweeteners, or increasingly on natural sweeteners such as dates, fruit pastes/concentrates, honey, maple syrup or sugar alcohol compounds.

“Savoury categories also have had manufacturers scrambling to offer clean-label nutritional panels. Naturally-derived, plant-based flavours, like those in our Japanese manufactured range are proving particularly popular with our customers here and in the UK and New Zealand, to retain full bodied, yet subtle, savoury flavours, while maintaining – and extending shelf stability and reduced food preparation,” said Langdon. “I’d also expect to see ‘calming’ botanicals creeping into beverages that promise to soothe.”

Another trend is spicy hot food. Whether it’s Mexican habanero chillies, Middle Eastern Harissa paste, or numbing Sichuan peppers, spicy, savoury flavours are set to boom. Unexpected ingredient combinations, often with fruits, chocolate, or botanicals, create contemporary, innovative and spicy flavours that have versatile applications in marinades, rubs, seasonings and coatings.

With access to Australia’s largest plant based pantry, Langdon’s Product Development team is adept at using unexpected ingredient combinations to create specific flavour profiles. Cinnamon and vanilla, for example, can be a great clean label alternative for enhancing sweetness, without increasing sugar content. Likewise, nutritional yeast can be used to provide a nutty, almost parmesan-like flavour – all the while remaining vegan friendly. Then there are herbs and spices.

“While herbs and spices have always been core to the Langdon business, demand is surging as manufacturers respond to cuisine-led trends for spicy, savoury flavours and home cooks look to add flavour, without excess sodium, fat or MSG,” said Langdon. “We expect staple herbs and spices such as oregano, lemongrass and basil to experience steady demand, while previously underutilised herbs and spices will star. For example, innovative uses of hot and numbing ingredients, such as Sichuan pepper or habanero chilli, or innovative pairings of harissa with rose petals, sumac and sesame, lend authentic, sophisticated flavour notes to Asian, Mexican and Moroccan-inspired meals.”

Savvy manufacturers are also rethinking how they access this category with strong growth expected in the Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) culinary herb and infused oils category. Extended shelf life, improved functionality, low wastage and price stability are compelling operational reasons why food manufacturers are making the switch to IQF. Added at the end of the cooking process or sprinkled over ready-made-meals, their bright, natural colour and recognisable texture conveys freshness to
the consumer.

Langdon also sees the trend of Australia’s artisanal spirits market continuing to grow, so too is the use of botanicals such as Macedonian juniper berries, rose petals, coriander seeds, liquorice root and dried citrus peels.

“With distillers competing to add distinctive flavour and aromas to their creations, especially in the fast-growing non-alcoholic category, and the fast growth of the supplements and nutraceuticals category, I expect to see some of the lesser-known botanicals popularised too. We are currently sourcing everything from sloe berries to Siberian Ginseng root,” he said.

And there are other trends that will need looking into over the next few years as the population ages.

“People over the age of 65 will increase globally from 962 million in 2017 to 2.1 billion by 2050 and Australia is not exempt,” he said. “An ageing population brings new challenges for economics and health care, but also creates new opportunities for the food industry, but innovation has been limited to date: less than one per cent of all new product launches in the category  have been directed towards the over 65 market over the past five years. It’s time we pay attention to what we are feeding our ageing population.”

Healthy ageing starts with wholesome nutrition and good gut health, he said. As we age, the gut microbiome becomes less diverse, contributing to inflammation and infections such as urinary tract infections and respiratory conditions. Also, as we age, senses including sight, taste and smell diminish. To ensure our elderly family members get the nutrition they need, taste, appearance and texture of food should become more important, not less.

“An appetite to live life to the fullest, concern for health and wellbeing, plus a willingness to spend money makes this generation a food marketer’s dream,” said Langdon.

Also, consumers’ love of sourdough, soy, kombucha and other fermented flavours will only continue to grow in 2021 as consumers gain appreciation for their ability to add a sophisticated tanginess to food and beverages, but also seek out functional gut-health benefits.

Japanese home-style cooking driven by fermented miso flavours, bright yuzu citrus and matcha will increase in popularity in 2021, likely joined by contemporary takes on Middle-Eastern and Northern African favourites. Expect tart barberry, tangy sumac, rose harissa and za’atar to become new
pantry staples.

“Don’t just expect your miso to stay in the ramen – expect to see more fermented flavours in just about every category next year, including miso-based desserts,” he said.

Finally, another trend are botanicals that denote hyper-local flavours are also on the upswing as food provenance trends. Think flavours like elderflower, rhubarb and nettle that conjure up an English garden, or Sicilian blood orange peels and lavender add sunny, Mediterranean characteristics, and wattle seed, lemon myrtle and Tasmania pepperleaf flakes straight from the Australian bush.

“The success of Australian gins on the global stage has led the resurgence of interest in Australian natives, but we’re also seeing them used in teas, baked goods, syrups, BBQ rubs, dressings, essential oils and kombuchas.

“Once only available via wild harvest, we have been working with a sustainable enterprise who are farming natives to ensure consistency of quality and surety of supply,” said Langdon.

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