Key Business Outlooks For 2024 (4/10): Niels E. Hower, BENEO

The year 2023 has brought more international turmoil, supply chain disruption and historic inflation all over the globe, putting a lot of pressure on the baking industry. Concerns about the availability of raw materials, the cost of energy, transport capacity, regulations, labor shortage and purchasing power had companies and professionals worried and looking for solutions.

That is what we see in these interviews with top managers from the most important industry players: the industry fought back and invested in research and development to provide sustainable solutions that address these challenges.

For 2024, representatives of some of the most important equipment and ingredients manufacturing companies talk in unison about sustainability, automation, energy-saving technology, traceability and working for the customers, to make sure their access to good bakery products is unhindered by the setbacks of the world. None of the viewpoints shared with us is lacking in hope, an essential attribute for a long-term winning business.

Conventional food production systems have enjoyed uninterrupted growth over the last few decades. While this trend is expected to continue in the short term, resource constraints may dampen expansion in the long term. Furthermore, the sector is increasingly ripe for disruption.

It is up to the bakers, transporters and retailers to find the right way to stay profitable and capitalize on the market opportunities that await them in 2024.

Niels E. Hower, Member of the Executive Board of Directors at BENEO

Considering the market volatility, the bottleneck of resources, the energy crisis, the increasing prices and workforce scarcity, what does this past year look like for your company when you draw the line?
Like most of the industry affected by the macroeconomic situation, it was not a record year for BENEO. However, we did achieve some important milestones. These included the beginning of construction on our €50 million new faba bean processing plant, which will strengthen the company’s plant-based protein portfolio. Also, BENEO launched barley beta-glucans which offer unique health benefits including impacts on heart health and blood sugar management and can be used in a wide range of bakery applications such as cakes, muffins, bread, and biscuits.

What are your expectations for next year, keeping in mind the legacy of 2023, but also the current challenges?
We believe that demand will bounce back in the coming year and as such, we are putting all our focus on regaining market share. A growth driver for us will be our plant-based protein business. We have a unique product range thanks to the acquisition of Meatless, combined with the start of production of our faba bean concentrates and flours towards the end of the year. BENEO’s faba bean protein concentrate shows high solubility and very good emulsifying properties. It is therefore ideal for use in a wide range of bakery products. Faba bean starch-rich flour, being naturally high in protein, can help boost the protein content in applications such as cereal bars, pasta, snacks, or baked goods.

With the macroeconomic situation improving and our ingredients continuing to meet the demands of key industry trends, we are approaching 2024 with confidence. Making plant-based protein more convenient is one of those trends and, thanks to our Meatless® portfolio, we can help bakers create meat-free pies and pastries with our plant-based chicken chunks. Hybrid products that combine meat and plant-based ingredients are also possible, building a bridge to the plant-based trend for those who are not ready to give up meat entirely.

Digestive wellness and better and fewer carbs are two other top trends for 2024 and we are well placed to help producers make the most of these. As the only plant-based prebiotics, inulin and oligofructose belong to the very few proven prebiotics according to ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics) and can help bakers integrate gut health claims into their products. Also, more and more is being discovered about the benefits of a healthy gut, with a recent study by Jackson et al demonstrating that oligofructose even has a part to play in contributing to mood improvement. Both prebiotic chicory root fibre and our new wholegrain barley flour with beta-glucans have also been shown to support more balanced blood sugar management, again putting our ingredients in a strong position to meet this year’s consumer trends for bakers.

Read the rest of the story in the January / February edition of European Baker & Biscuit.

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