With the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting how people live, work and play, the food supply change is adapting to the volatile changes and directives by governments, as experts and legislators make sense of the situation and plan for the safety of people and those on the front lines.
While most of the population practice social distancing by staying in their homes as far as possible, others are working in essential services such as medical, defence and sanitary, who require nutritious meals under time pressure and make-shift conditions.
What can food manufacturers do to help people adjust in this season? How can food products last longer in the disrupted supply chain with stricter border controls and longer delivery time, and yet be familiar to the palates of consumers?
Henrik S. Kristensen, CEO And founder of Blendhub, tells Food News International more about how powders and powdered food can be relevant in this season.
FNI: Which food and drink manufacturing sectors can adapt their factories quickly to incorporate powdered food in their products?
Kristensen: Most manufacturers in the food industry already use powder ingredients and other food based in powder.
Some 40% of the world’s food is powder-based and has been constantly expanding from basic ingredients like flour, coffee, sugar, salt and spices.
Powder is based on drying fresh produce and extending its shelf life and creating truly zero waste products.
In all cases, powder is turned back into fresh produce by either the food industry, in products such as bread, dairy and plant-based beverages, chocolate, cheese, meat products.
It is also used by consumers at home and in restaurants in infant nutrition, soups and sauces in cubes.
While powder-based food is already everywhere, we propose creating nutritional solutions with immediate impact for people and consumer groups in urgent need as a consequence of the Covid19 pandemic.
This is especially in places where less handling of food means less risk of contagions and ease of use and preparation is of great importance, for example in field hospitals.
Therefore we are calling on food producers, ingredient producers, food distributors and brands to collaborate in these efforts to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 on the global food supply chain.
FNI: How can such adaption encourage consumers who find food powders unfamiliar to them?
Kristensen: Covid19 is forcing everyone to think differently and we are offering our current installed capacity and global replication model to support hospitals, medical staff, elderly homes and others with individualized nutrition.
In this context, we are replacing specific meals and providing nutritional replacements aimed at people who need a good combination of nutrients due to their health and age and, furthermore, in emergency conditions where time and less food handling should be a priority to avoid contagion.
Imagine the latest ‘field hospitals’, erected in a conference center for 5,000 patients and medical staff, without a ‘normal’ kitchen, catering and medical grade hygienic setup.
Now, imagine a patient, or bedside doctor taking 100 g of powder in an easy to use sachet, mixed in a shaker or cup with 200 ml of water to provide the full nutrition and energy required, enriched with vitamins and ready to continue the fight.
On a different note, consumer-focused personal nutrition based on understanding of the human genome and adaptations to lifestyles of individual consumers is a booming trend that will progressively extend (even beyond the current crisis).
FNI: Where can powdered food and drinks find quick wins?
Kristensen: Powder-based food is the basis of a large part of products we take every day, because it has a long shelf life and is better preserved (e.g. without need for refrigeration).
In addition, nutritional supplements and basic food substitutes are prepared in powder form to be sent to countries with famines or wars with problems in production and supply.
This way it is possible to feed many people in an easier, faster, safer and cheaper way.
Powder-based foods are not limited to specific geographies or demographics.
On the contrary, with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis globally, longer shelf life, no refrigeration and easy to make food products and ingredients have become essential in every region.
For consumers, powder-based food can offer practical and healthy solutions to elderly people with difficulties in consuming certain fresh foods and with nutritional deficiencies due to their age or illnesses; and also for younger people because, as already mentioned, there is a growing trend towards personalized nutrition.
The booming plant-based trend is also almost entirely powder and is a very important growth segment for powdered food.
In the current situation and later, in light of the economic impact of the crisis, one could expect that basic food products, low cost, nutritious and scalable, will be on the rise in most economies and would therefore reinforce the need for the basic powder-based foods; from flour for bread or tortillas and other bakery products, though dairy (such as milk powder), to coffee, sugar, sweeteners and soup.
FNI: What are the barriers to using powdered products compared to food and beverages for manufacturers and consumers?
Kristensen: There are no technological, regulatory or other essential barriers to using powdered products.
Consumers already consume powder daily and new trends in food and health will probably foster this consumption.
Manufacturers already use powder-based food and powder ingredients in most of their recipes.
At Blendhub, we have already been working on these for 30 years, within a consolidated industry, and with clients among the top food industries and brands all over the world.
The innovation and collaboration we are trying to attract other manufacturers to is to produce closer to raw materials and consumers, reducing costs and environmental impact while leveraging and adapting to the local resources and needs.
I understood the future of food and the expansion of this trend 20 years ago and started investing in a novel delivery model based on our patented world’s first portable powder blending factory, which can be localized anywhere in the world in less than six months, using our global replication model.
Our business and our services are now facilitating local production of any recipe with any ingredients to industry and final consumers – optimizing the global end to end supply chain and making it possible to use local ingredients in nutritional recipes for local consumers in a completely sustainable business model.
This is the direction that we, all producers and manufacturers, should take to be more efficient and agile in production and enable a sustainable and resilient food supply chain.
The conceptual barriers for this model are based on historical perceptions and models that were built on ownership of everything.
Management of large brands that built large factories, solely owned by one company for its own needs.
This is no longer the reality.
Everyone now knows that they cannot do it alone.
Other industries have adapted to services, outsourcing and contingencies while the food industry has been slower to adapt.
This is the opportunity to implement change.
FNI: How can they be overcome?
Kristensen: The current situation due to the Covid19 pandemic should make us reflect and lead to a change of perspective.
It is clear that the agri-food sector must be better prepared to overcome this crisis – and future ones – by making food production more agile and resilient; having more storage capacity; and offering convenience and adequate nutritional value to feed more people in a faster, cost-effective and easier way.
This crisis has made critical deficiencies visible, which leads us to seek collaborations that go beyond the mere supplier-customer relationship and create ties around the mission of ensuring the efficiency of the entire supply chain and securing food for all.