Interviews

AGRANA: “We Offer a Substitute for Methylcellulose Which is in Great Demand in the Organic Sector”

Horst Hartl has been Managing Director of AGRANA Starch since 2009 and is responsible for sales, supply chain management as well as research and development.

After studying agricultural economics at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, he began his career in the Austrian sugar and starch industry and then moved to the agricultural machinery industry, where he worked primarily in Eastern Europe and the former CIS countries. Over the last 25 years, he has built up extensive experience in international sales and marketing, both in the food industry and across agribusiness.

Could you share some of the most significant achievements or developments for Agrana in the plant-based sector during 2023? What were the key drivers behind these successes?
Producers of meat alternatives are searching for the ideal texture without the usage of methylcellulose. One of our focuses in 2023 was to work on solutions with starch products to replace methylcellulose.

Looking ahead to 2024, what are Agrana’s primary goals and strategies in the plant-based industry? Are there any new initiatives or expansions planned?
The clear aim is to grow the production of plant-based products and offer solutions for a wide range of applications. With our pregelatinized starches we offer a substitute for methylcellulose which is in great demand in the organic sector for plant-based products. AGRANA will also continue the development in the area of plant-based proteins as well as label-friendly ingredients. There is a clear trend towards more sustainable food consumption and here we want to make our contribution.

Agrana meatballs
© AGRANA

What role have industry fairs and conferences played in Agrana’s business strategy in the plant-based sector? Are there any particular events in 2023 that were pivotal for your company, and which upcoming events in 2024 do you see as crucial?
Trade fairs continue to play an important role in initiating business and building personal relationships with our customers. A good example is Biofach in Germany to present our organic portfolio as well as Food Ingredients Europe and IFT in the US. At live shows, AGRANA emphasizes great importance to the presentation of its products in special applications that can be tasted by our visitors. Also, the presence on digital platforms is becoming more and more important to spread news about trends and innovations.

Can you share some success stories from Agrana’s recent product developments in the plant-based area? How do these innovations align with current market demands and consumer preferences?
Consumers are increasingly asking for plant-based foods for which AGRANA offers a wide range of ingredients like wheat protein and potato fiber.

“…continuous development to optimize texture, taste, and smell is our top priority”

Wheat protein enhances the protein content and improves the texture and the potato fiber AGENAFIBER® has a positive influence on texture and mouthfeel.

Baguette with spread, AGRANA
Image supplied by AGRANA

From Agrana’s perspective, what are the emerging trends in plant-based product development? How is your company adapting to these trends?
For every consumer, indulgence comes first. For this reason, continuous development to optimize texture, taste, and smell is our top priority. Additionally, consumers are getting more and more keen on ingredients and therefore the development of label-friendly ingredients plays an important role for AGRANA.

How has the feedback from the food industry shaped Agrana’s approach to plant-based products? Are there any specific consumer needs or industry demands that you are focusing on currently?
We provide ingredient solutions for the plant-based industry and support our customers with applications for various areas of use. In the area of meat alternatives, we have worked with our Research & Innovation Center (ARIC) to develop solutions for example for burger patties and meatballs, that do not require methylcellulose.

Focusing on consumer needs and industry demands we are currently working on applications for plant-based cheese alternatives. There are also very interesting and promising developments in this area.

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