Kerry: celebrating 50 years as a leader in sustainable nutrition

Published: 9-Aug-2022

From its origins as a small dairy company in the 1970s in the southwest of Ireland, Kerry has grown to be a fully integrated global leader in sustainable nutrition, health and food and beverage ingredients. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, Kerry’s journey tells a story of vision, science, R&D, advocacy and entrepreneurship

For Kerry, this powerful combination created a unique company whose stated goal is to reach more than two billion consumers with sustainable nutrition solutions by 2030. Given the unprecedented surge in consumer engagement in terms of health and wellness, and although already under way, Kerry’s journey has only just begun.

To meet consumer demands for wellness and nutrition, Kerry places an unwavering focus on uncovering healthy, sustainable, science-backed ingredients and processes.

“Underpinning Kerry’s development has been a strong commitment to find out what consumers truly want in their foods and beverages,” says John Quilter, Global VP of ProActive Health at Kerry. “For decades, the public has been looking for proactive, clean, nutritious products made from ingredients that are backed by science to offer health benefits."

"To do this, we’ve adopted a forward-looking, research-based mode that predicts where consumer needs are headed and aims to get there first.”

Consumers want to take care of their health

Together, health and wellness represent the fulcrum of the collective consumer effort to know more about the foods they purchase. Innova’s research this year, for example, found that 61% of global consumers planned to increase investment in their health during the next 12 months.

In short, more people consider quality, substantiated benefits and sustainable practices when choosing which products to purchase; simply put, they want the brands they support to actively help them to meet their health goals.

Kerry: celebrating 50 years as a leader in sustainable nutrition

Other research confirms this. According to FMCG Gurus, nearly three quarters (74%) of global consumers are now more likely to pay attention to nutritional benefits when purchasing foods and beverages; this further highlights the importance of science-backed ingredients. Of note, almost half of consumers (49%) say they place a high value on sustainable practices in their buying decisions.

Kerry’s ProActive Health portfolio provides an excellent illustration of the company’s overall commitment to providing more sustainable nutrition to billions of consumers by offering solutions that are designed to be healthy, nutritious and tasty.

It’s also worth noting that the company’s growing role as a global provider of ingredients that support health has been made possible by discovering, advocating for, and sourcing, science-backed ingredients. To this end, Kerry’s goals have been advanced by acquisitions of leading companies that fit the company’s vision.

Science-backed proactive health ingredients

An important foundation of this growth has been Kerry’s science-backed development activities, which have been delivered by its 1100-plus staff researchers, scientists and applications experts and via the Kerry Health & Nutrition Institute (KHNI).

The Institute conveys applied nutritional food and beverage research to the world community to support quality products and nutrition. In addition, the KHNI produces detailed research papers that help to guide product developers — and the industry in general — to create offerings designed to meet the shifting needs of consumers in popular health areas: immunity, digestion, cognition, joint soundness, heart health, women’s wellness and muscle strength.

These days, it’s vital for new products to have scientific and sustainable validation whenever possible. The reason: in recent years, consumers have become sceptical of some of the claims made by brands and have stated the need for maximum transparency in terms of food ingredients in the products they purchase.

This also includes both sustainable sourcing and ensuring that new ingredients have long-term viability. Another key concern is whether ingredient suppliers and manufacturers positively support the communities that supply their raw materials.

Kerry: celebrating 50 years as a leader in sustainable nutrition

Kerry is highly cognizant of these needs and has moved to make the delivery of sustainable nutrition solutions a key priority. The company’s extensive portfolio of branded, science-backed ingredients — a complete range that helps manufacturers to create functional foods, beverages and supplements that answer the call for better, healthier and more ethical products — includes the following selection.

  • BC30: a natural spore-forming probiotic ingredient that helps to support digestion, immune health and protein absorption, and is backed by more than 25 published papers.
  • Wellmune: a proprietary baker’s yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan that is clinically proven to help support the immune system. Wellmune Blend is used in Europe in combination with zinc. Zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system and supports the on-pack claim, but Wellmune’s research does the heavy lifting in terms of efficacy.
  • Sporevia: a GRAS, non-GMO and vegan-compliant spore-forming probiotic strain for use in supplements.
  • Eupoly-3 (omega-3 EPA and DHA) is a science-backed, sustainably sourced omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid from fish or algae with exceptional safety, stability and taste that supports heart, brain and eye health.
  • Sensoril Ashwagandha: a patented, plant-based bioactive adaptogen supported by clinical studies and designed to enhance stress tolerance, sleep and cognitive performance.
  • AyuFlex is an extract from the ancient Indian Ayurvedic fruits of Terminalia chebula with research-supported benefits for joint health.
  • LC40 is a probiotic strain isolated from the human breast milk of healthy mothers. It is supported by clinical research to support the immune system of infants, as well as support healthy breastfeeding in women.
  • Caronositol Fertility is a botanical extract combining myoinositol and D-chiroinositol to promote hormonal balance and fertility for women.

What all of these solutions have in common is a dedication to credible science and strong clinical data. This is essential in today’s wellness markets, in which transparency is a must. In addition, Kerry reinforces its commitment to building brand awareness through transparency by telegraphing the benefits of its portfolio of trusted brands via high-quality research and consumer-facing marketing.

Adding BC30 probiotic to traditional foods and beverages: Research shows that consumers want better-for-you options and this is a great space in which to offer products with research-supported digestive health benefits. Food manufacturers are using BC30 in breads by adding it into the mixing and baking process with no effect on taste or texture.

Kerry: celebrating 50 years as a leader in sustainable nutrition

Efficacy is also maintained because of the spore-forming nature of the probiotic: its natural outer shell protects the bacterium, allowing it to survive harsh manufacturing processes such as the extreme heat of baking and transit to the gut.

The result is support delivered to the digestive system with immune health and protein absorption benefits. Further, in excess of 25 published studies demonstrate the attributes of BC30, giving consumers the transparency they demand.

Sustainability: reducing food waste through better preservation

It is important to note that creating functional products is only one part of the challenge in sustainable nutrition: the issue of waste is equally — and critically — important. It is believed that the world produces sufficient food to feed the global population and that half of all food waste can be prevented or reduced by extending its shelf-life.

Many sources of food loss can be addressed directly using preservation solutions. Kerry’s breadth, vertical integration and leading market position in preservation technologies gives the company a market advantage in the food-waste reduction effort.

Ensuring that food reaches the consumer at its very best is the objective and Kerry’s solutions help to maximise shelf life and appeal while minimising food loss.

Making bread last longer: Although meat is the costliest category of wasted food globally, bread represents the largest volume of waste (aside from fruit and vegetables). Kerry’s market-leading position in preservation and protection, and ongoing investment in this space, delivers a market advantage in the race to introduce next-generation preservation solutions into the bread market.

In one example, the company helped a major UK beadmaker add 3 days of shelf-life to their bread products — a remarkable instance of a food protection and preservation synergy that inhibited mould and maintained freshness and appeal.

Analysing the value of those extra 3 days is instructive. The improvement led to an estimated drop in daily bread waste of more than 13,000 kg — equal to 8% of the company’s daily output.

This allowed for an extension of nutritional reach (the number of people fed) of approx. 11%, the equivalent of feeding close to an additional 7500 people daily while maintaining the same energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) and resource-use footprint. From a sustainability viewpoint, this was equivalent to saving in excess of 8300 kg of CO2 and nearly 9.5 million litres of water.

Moreover, Kerry offers a wide range of solutions aimed at protecting and preserving foods and beverages that have zero negative effect on appearance, taste or mouthfeel, which is key for consumers.

Acquisition of new, proactive ingredients

In another strategy, the company seeks to acquire innovative companies in the nutraceutical and functional food space, then leverage their strengths to enhance its established global commercial reach. To this end, recent acquisitions include Biosearch Life of Spain, an industry leader headquartered in Granada.

Biosearch Life employs more than 150 employees who work together to innovate, manufacture and distribute an extensive range of scientifically backed probiotics, botanical extracts and natural omega-3 oils.

According to Mr Quilter: “Biosearch Life broadens [Kerry’s] existing portfolio with the addition of the Hereditum probiotics, greatly expanding our R&D and production capabilities in the probiotic space. The acquisition also gives Kerry access to a range of functional botanical extracts and natural omega-3 oils that address new health-need states, allowing Kerry to enhance its credibility as a leader in science-backed probiotic brands.”

Kerry: celebrating 50 years as a leader in sustainable nutrition

Another recent acquisition is Natreon Inc., a US company specialising in the research, development and marketing of scientifically studied Ayurvedic botanical-branded ingredients for use in dietary supplements and functional food and beverage products.

“Our acquisition of Natreon widens Kerry’s range of branded health ingredients. We are always looking to speak with innovative leaders working to discover new ways to service consumer needs for sustainable, proactive health ingredients and processes. Whether it’s through innovation or acquisitions, it’s all about cocreating exciting new products that deliver the best in preservation, taste and nutrition, with an added focus on safety and quality,” he adds.

Conclusion: a global innovation leader in proactive health ingredients

The final pillar of Kerry’s business is its two-pronged customer-centric approach, at whose heart is a strong desire to be its customers’ most valued partner. To do this, Kerry responds to consumer demand for functional ingredients and strives to help customers reduce food waste through shelf-life extension strategies.

Offering products with health benefits beyond basic nutrition — a core Kerry focus — has contributed much to the company’s success during the last five decades. What’s more, it’s expected to continue doing so for many more to come.

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