Product Innovation: A Sustainable Competitive Advantage
By Rinus Heemskerk, Global Head of Product Development and Innovation, Olam Cocoa
A key advantage for Olam Cocoa is being able to support customers in their own regions, with new concept opportunities and existing product refinement to significantly reduce their time to market.
Olam Cocoa currently operates six Cocoa Innovation Centres (CICs) located in the Netherlands, Spain, UK, US, Brazil and Singapore. Our competitive advantage in this space comes from our 47 product development and innovation experts who make up our CIC teams, our ability to support customers directly at our CICs, the physical CIC facilities and the innovative cocoa products that result.
Collaboration with customers
At our CICs, customers are able to experience first-hand the opportunities for collaborative new product development, proof of concept and existing application recipe refinement. Direct access to CIC staff, technical services and test facilities make this possible, allowing customers to participate in one-on-one development sessions and regularly scheduled group seminars. This provides opportunities for the improvement of existing recipes as well as expert resources for new product development.
Manufacturers are also able to work directly with CIC staff to shorten formulation timelines and increase efficiencies for specific development projects, resulting in shorter product development cycles and cost reduction potential.
As consumers become more price conscious, our CIC teams help customers create new products with lower cost-in-use implications. This “Less is More” framework helps manufacturers contain costs without impacting quality by utilising smaller quantities of cocoa powder to achieve the same, or better, results than conventional products.
During the past 12 months we have invested significantly in our CIC premises. This has included the construction of new facilities in Brazil and the US, renovations to our CIC in Spain and ensuring that all of our centres are now supported with the latest technologies for product testing and custom batch application production. In 2017, we expect to further upgrade our North American and UK CIC facilities.
Innovative cocoa products
Over the past year we have launched a number of successful new offerings that exemplify our ability to innovate in order to stay ahead of our competitors. This has included new cocoa powders and new formats and formulations of cocoa liquor and cocoa butter through our strong group of brands, including deZaan, Unicao, Joanes and Macao.
deZaan’s TrueDark, the first, medium brown, dark natural cocoa powder, without alkali processing, is a great example. TrueDark was purposefully crafted to meet increasing customer demand for natural and unadulterated foods and sustainable, transparent and clean labelling. It remedies the previously unresolved issue of colour and flavour reduction that otherwise occurs when non-alkalised cocoa powders are utilised in applications.
As part of the celebrations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Joanesbrand in Brazil and the opening of our new CIC there, we launched AJ11PK, a new, dark black cocoa powder that has no added sodium. Developed for the Brazil and South American markets, this cocoa powder aligns with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) policy to reduce dietary salt intake amongst South American consumers. (Sodium is traditionally added as an alkalising agent during processing for dark cocoa powders to achieve the desired colouration.)
Launched at the 2016 Food Ingredients Asia trade fair in Jakarta, Indonesia, the new M558V cocoa powder was driven by growing market demand in Asian nations where the expansion of more affluent demographic segments is resulting in increased demand for higher-end cocoa and chocolate products. It brings our medium-fat cocoa powder processing technology to the market for the first time in that region, developed and produced in our Jurong factory in Singapore, using cocoa beans from nearby Indonesia. To be utilised mainly in beverages, ice creams and breakfast cereals, M558V opens up new opportunities in Asia, which is now one of the world’s most rapidly expanding cocoa product markets.
Many of our cocoa powder product line developments have stemmed from our ability to produce specialty cocoa powder components in a greater number of our factories, making our supply chain more robust and efficient.
In 2017 we expect further cocoa product developments to include an expanded offering of black cocoa powders and we will also be launching a new brand Huysman with a targeted range of cocoa powders to support the North American and Asia Pacific markets. Due to the exceptional efforts of our product development and innovation teams, the creation of superior, value-added cocoa products that provide improved flavour, superior colour and reliable performance consistency, will remain our focus and continues to set us apart.