Kerry Foodservice: “Foodservice Outlets Should do More to Communicate What They Are Doing to Protect People, Planet and Society”

Ireland-based Kerry Foodservice offers a range of plant-based solutions for foods and beverages, in particular powders and syrups for drinks. Notably, Kerry recently worked alongside a large chain beverage customer to produce its oat latté-based range.

We spoke with Daniel Sjogren, VP and General Manager for Foodservice, Kerry Europe, to find out more.

Can you tell us about Kerry Foodservice’s plant-based offering for food & beverage professionals?
Plant-based solutions are a strong focus for Kerry’s foodservice team, with focused investments in cheese and beverage applications. Vegan slice is an area where we have taken a market leadership position, with as close of a match to its dairy equivalent under the Kerrymaid brand. We also have a range of vegan-suitable syrups, powders, and liquid bases utilising our Kerry proprietary technologies in beverage applications.

Based on your recent consumer research, what are the top health and nutrition sustainability claims that consumers prioritize when eating and drinking out of home? What other key factors are to be considered?
Across all the six markets surveyed as part of our research, lower sugar, lower fat, and natural preservatives and flavours are the top sustainable nutrition claims for consumers when they are choosing what to eat and drink when eating outside of home. Food and drink that have good protein offerings as well as being non-GMO sourced are the next most important health and nutrition claims.

Kerry blackcurrent drink
© Kerry Foodservice

Eating and drinking more sustainable foods and beverages is perceived as being inextricably linked to eating and drinking healthier food and drink. We know that consumers’ propensity to purchase one food item over another increases significantly if a sustainable nutrition message is added. At the same time, they are also willing to pay more for it. The biggest challenge, apart from the lack of knowledge of this fact, is food and beverage operators’ ability to communicate it to their consumers in an impactful way on their menus.

Could you elaborate on the challenges faced in convincing consumers to opt for plant-based beverages? How is Kerry addressing these challenges?
81% of consumers believe foodservice outlets should do more to communicate what they are doing to protect people, the planet, and society. One of the main ways they see where operators can address this sustainability awareness gap is by offering more plant-based offerings. Plant-based is seen as part of a package of measures that also includes responsibly sourcing products and ingredients, reducing carbon footprint, sourcing locally as well as reducing food waste. Kerry works together with foodservice operators to help them develop their ranges.

At Kerry, we designed menu selects as an experiment to mimic the drink ordering process and understand how consumers order their beverages out of home. We offered them four refreshing beverage options and the results showed that there is great opportunity to drive more sustainable choices through low-cost menu design intervention. 

Kerry group coffee drink
© Kerry Group

We found out that low sugar through lower calories, provenance, and real fruit claims as well as visibility of sustainable options on the beverage menu really resonate with the consumer and all of these can be combined with plant-based offerings to make them more attractive. Actioning these key areas are ways operators can win in this space.

Are there any innovative ingredients or technologies that Kerry is utilizing to bring tasty and healthy plant-based products into foodservice?
Taste is the number one consideration for the foodservice beverage consumer with 55% of European consumers agreeing. However, only 47% of consumers agree these sustainable beverages taste better so there is a job to convince that “better for you” beverages taste better.

Consumers increasingly regard sugar as incompatible with their health and wellness goals. There comes a real opportunity for the foodservice operator to deliver a nutritionally optimised product be that plant-based or otherwise that is as good or better than the product that it should be replacing. 

Kerry Chocolate Raspberry Protein Shake
© Kerry

Our Simply Nature™ range of flavours and extracts lets us really bring beverages to life. Whether familiar or exotic, we are able to ensure the same great taste with every serve. Tastesense™, while mostly used to retain the sweetness in sugar-reduced applications, also encompasses technology for enhancing mouthfeel and masking ‘off-notes’ that may be present in your beverage. Moreover, this product is able to offer water, carbon, calorie, and cost-saving benefits. Our Prodiem™ pea and sunflower blend enables us to bring plant protein claims to beverage ranges. 

Could you provide examples of successful plant-based foodservice offer that Kerry has been involved in?
We have worked with a large chain beverage customer on their oat latté-based winter range, building syrups and powder solutions using Kerry flavour and Tastesense™ technologies that synergise with their oat offering to create the perfectly balanced plant-based beverage offering.

We also have worked on building added functionality into a high street latté range in the past. We brought a pioneering plant protein (our Prodiem™ pea and sunflower blend) to a high-street foodservice latté beverage range.

© Kerry Group

There are significant technology solutions we can utilise to make bases for beverages that are plant-based. For example, we have worked with a large chain in the UK to make a liquid hot chocolate base that was vegan-suitable (from a previous dairy-based one).  The aim was to keep its signature flavour, taste without losing any of the functionality of the product.   

Looking into the future, what do you foresee as the key areas of growth and development in the foodservice beverage industry, particularly with regard to sustainability and the plant-based trend?

  • Embrace sustainability and its value creation possibilities: Consider what factors are important to your consumers and address those in your communication. Every customer is different. It could be reducing sugar, optimizing nutrition, or reducing waste by extending shelf life. 
  • Help consumers connect their beverage choices to benefits for themselves and the environment. Harness creativity and innovation to embed across all elements of your business. Ensure sustainability is integrated into your overall brand strategy and positioning, rather than a stand-alone strategic pillar. This helps build credibility and longer-term associations.  
  • Powerful storytelling. People resonate with real stories and with the passion and belief of a business. Give consumers a peek behind the scenes of unique sustainability practices or the producers’ and growers’ production methods. This will help bring the consumer along the sustainability journey and build better connections to your business and the beverage range you are offering.
  • Make it easy and include sustainability info on menus. Display using visuals, such as certifications, ingredient claims, origin labels, and plant-based and/or carbon emissions. Make the information easy to interpret
  • Be open and authentic – build that trust and transparency and credibility. Illustrating the sustainability benefits of your plant-based offer that ring true to the consumer will be key to engaging them in all your beverage offerings.

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