Value-Added Organic Seasonings
After a slow debut, organic foods have gained momentum in the U.S. A natural complement to a healthful lifestyle, “The global market for organic food and drink reached $23 billion in 2002,” according to the July 2003 newsletter of Organic Monitor, a U.K.-based marketing, consulting and research firm serving the international organic food industry. Furthermore, the article stated, “North America overtook Europe as the largest market for organic food and drink.”
A new interest in organic products naturally has led to the need for organic seasonings, and Kerry provides seasonings that are certified organic through the Washington State Department of Agriculture (Olympia, Wash.). The company sources organic raw materials and organic suitable raw materials based on guidelines established through the National Organic Program (NOP, USDA). “We also review all technical information supplied by the vendor to assure the raw materials meet both internal and governmental guidelines,” explains Cynthia Sasaki, director of R&D. This review is critical in order to expedite organic certification for finished products.
Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges facing organic food manufacturers has been sourcing 100% organic ingredients from suppliers who also are able to provide the required documentation. Raw materials must meet NOP guidelines, which do not permit the ingredients to be the product of biotechnology, to be exposed to bio-solids or to have undergone irradiation.
The company began manufacturing organic seasonings in 2002, after receiving several key customer requests to do so. Organic seasoning blends can be used in chips and snacks, prepared meals, condiments, meat and poultry, breads, drink mixes, salad dressings, sauces, vegetable seasonings and rice mixes. “Organic seasoning blends can be used in almost any area where a dry seasoning blend is being applied,” says Sasaki. For example, they can be added dry to snack items or mixed with water before being added to dressings and meat marinades. Additionally, their shelflives are similar in length.
One area where organic seasonings may affect the final product is in taste. “If a slight difference in flavor exists, we feel most consumers will accept it as long as it meets their other expectations in quality, price, appearance and functionality. If we feel there is a large difference in flavor, we will look at our list of acceptable raw materials to determine what can be added to enhance the flavor within the organic guidelines,” explains Sasaki.
In one case, Kerry developed an organic chip seasoning requiring a very intense, high-heat flavor profile. After sourcing several types of organic peppers, the profile still was not right, and the next crop of peppers would not be harvested for another nine months. The company’s food scientists looked at “other heat sources, such as spices, to provide the impact required by the customer,” says Sasaki. In another example, the company developed a custom organic blend, only to discover one of the raw materials was not available. “This is when we look to our key vendors for support and functional alternatives,” she says. Organic ingredient sources are limited, so sample turnaround times can be lengthy. However, by working closely with their vendors, Kerry has been able to reduce this waiting time.
The company’s ability to deliver customized, organic seasoning blends in a timely manner makes Kerry a valuable resource to manufacturers of organic foods.For more information:
Kerry Seasonings, Cynthia Sasaki
253-796-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org, Kerry Group