Interviews

SternLife: “Tailor-Made, Innovative, Great-Tasting Products that Set You Apart from the Competition”

sternlife protein bars
© SternLife

Offering innovative, tailor-made product solutions for functional nutrition and food supplements, Germany-based SternLife is a member of Stern-Wywiol Gruppe with 12 specialist firms in Germany and 20 affiliates abroad and one of Europe’s leading enterprises in the field of food ingredients and lipid technology.

To find out more about what SternLife can offer health, sports and lifestyle brands who want to expand their vegan portfolio, vegconomist talked with Antje Wetzel, Head of Product Development, Marc van Essen, Sales Director, and Tina Höhne from Marketing at the company.  

Who is Sternlife and what does the company stand for?
SternLife is a leading German provider of private label solutions for functional food. Our focus is on the development and production of modern protein and energy bars as well as functional powder products. Functional snacks and capsule products are also part of our product range. Brands and private labels benefit from our comprehensive expertise in the field of health, sports and lifestyle nutrition, and from innovative target group-oriented product ranges.

As a subsidiary of the independent, owner-managed Stern-Wywiol Gruppe, which is one of the most successful internationally operating companies in the world of food & feed ingredients, we draw on synergies within the group. When developing new products, our functional food experts have access to the specialist knowledge of 12 sister companies and around 100 R&D specialists at the Stern Technology Center with its extensive application technology. Our products are manufactured in state-of-the-art, group-owned production facilities at various sites in Germany.

Antje Wetzel Sternlife
Antje Wetzel © SternLife

What advantages do customers get when they choose SternLife?
As a customer, you get tailor-made, innovative and great-tasting products from us that set you apart from the competition in the market, and which generally have high market potential. We are able to specifically address the customer’s brand, target groups and objectives with our concepts.

We combine all of this with a very high quality standard. This comprises first-rate, innovative formulations & ingredients based on sound research, careful development processes, state-of-the-art quality management in our factories, and a very high standard for the quality of our end products. Last but not least, we always work in partnership and closely with our customers. We’re there when you need us.

We offer a wide range of options for functional bars

Does SternLife also develop individual solutions for customers?
All our product offerings are based on the very individual ideas of our customers, and are therefore mostly customized in terms of formulation and composition.

What products and solutions do you offer for the plant-based market?
We offer a wide range of options for functional bars, both conventional and organic. The range extends from low-sugar protein bars to energy bars with cereal content.

We’re also broadly positioned in vegan powder products. From creamy protein shakes as meal replacements to nutritional supplements in powder form, we offer a wide range of options for functional bars.

sternlife products
© SternLife

What are the particular challenges in developing vegan protein bars compared to conventional ones?
One challenge is certainly that the findings from the development of non-vegan protein bars cannot simply be applied to the development of vegan bars. Plant-based proteins require an entirely new approach to formulation development. For the most part, they bring different functional properties, have different swelling capacities and often lower protein contents.

We study new vegetable protein sources in detail, and conduct extensive trials with new raw materials available on the market in order to select the most suitable ingredients for our bars. The composition of other ingredients is also carefully matched, so as to always achieve the best possible sensory profile.

“The quality of plant protein raw materials has improved greatly in recent years”

Another challenge is the development of organic vegan protein bars, because often the requirements “organic” and “vegan” are coupled. Again, certified organic plant proteins have very different properties from conventional ones and also often have a low protein content. In addition, the organic requirements severely restrict the options for the use of flavorings, which would otherwise contribute to the reduction of vegetable by-notes.

sternlife protein bars
© SternLife

Do vegetable proteins influence texture and mouthfeel?
Yes and no. Vegetable proteins have completely different textures and solubility behaviors from milk proteins. Not only is their water-binding capacity higher, which often results in a slightly dry and sandy texture, but vegan proteins also bring strong vegetable notes to the taste.

However, the quality of plant protein raw materials has improved greatly in recent years, and plant proteins are now available that have increasingly pleasant sensory profiles.

Which vegetable protein sources are suitable for use in vegan protein bars?
The classic protein sources for vegan protein bars are certainly soy, pea and rice protein. But here, too, we have seen strong movements on the market in recent years. While soy, as a common allergen, has seen a drop in consumer acceptance, new types of protein sources are gaining in importance. Fava bean protein, for example, features high protein content and a relatively neutral taste.

Are vegan protein bars just as tasty & creamy as conventional ones?
The old prejudice that vegan bars are sandy and dry can increasingly be refuted. The ongoing improvement of raw materials and recipes will continue to help minimize the sensory differences between vegan and conventional bars in the future, thus meeting the growing demand in the vegan category.

We hope that we have taken another step in the right direction with our latest range of vegan protein bars. For those who would like to try them, we’ll finally be back in person at Vitafoods Europe in Geneva (booth K110) this year. Feel free to come by and see for yourself how wonderfully creamy-crunchy and soft the latest generation of vegan bars can be.

More Information at www.sternlife.de.

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