Case study: Combining our capabilities for a three-way win

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We brought together our newly united technical and creation strengths to swiftly solve a regulatory, taste and nutrition challenge for Alpura, a dairy customer in Mexico.

Nutritious strawberry-flavored milk drinks for young children

Mexico has some of the most stringent nutritional food labeling regulations in the world. Its NOM-051 regulations require brands to add warning labels to food and drink products that contain sugar, salt, fat, or calorie content above the applicable thresholds, as well as to products with added caffeine and certain sweeteners. These regulations were introduced in 2020 in an effort to combat growing obesity; more than 34% of people aged 5-19 in Mexico are overweight or obese, according to researchers.

For Mexican food and drink producers, the challenge is to develop nutritious products that do not require NOM-051 warning labels while ensuring that these products remain shelf-stable and offer an appealing taste for consumers. This is especially important for companies whose products are designed for children or adolescents, such as dairy company Alpura. Among Alpura’s offering are strawberry-, chocolate- and vanilla-flavored milks aimed at children aged 5-12. To support the health and well-being of these children as they grow, Alpura aims for these milks to be as nutritious as possible.

Redesigning the formulation

In the fourth quarter of 2022, Alpura began experiencing issues with the formulation for its strawberry-flavored milk, including the vitamin premix. Introduced to reduce fat and sugars, this formulation was releasing more off-notes than expected. There were also stability issues with the strawberry flavor, which significantly diminished after approximately two months. Finally, Alpura was also experiencing color inconsistencies and delivery and process issues. To continue providing Mexican children with nutritious milk that offered an appealing strawberry taste over the whole of its shelf life, Alpura needed to adjust its formulation across all ingredients.

Combining our capabilities

In 2022, Alpura invited us to develop a new vitamin premix solution to eliminate the off-notes in its strawberry-flavored milk. Our collaboration was based on transparency as well as rigorous assessment: we supported Alpura with multiple rounds of testing, adjusting the premixes as needed. After several industrial trials in February and April 2023, Alpura approved a formulation containing our premix solution in May 2023.

This new formulation was free of off-notes and generated less aftertaste, and validation analyses showed that its nutritional value was maintained throughout its shelf life. Nevertheless, Alpura wanted to further improve the strawberry flavor before re-launching the product. With dsm-firmenich just established, the TTH Business Unit saw an opportunity to contribute our newly combined capabilities to the flavor part of the solution. Specifically, the Ingredient Solutions division (formed primarily from former DSM) invited the Taste division (formed primarily from former Firmenich) to create a new strawberry flavor with greater stability than Alpura’s existing one. Speed was a key aspect of this part of the collaboration: Alpura needed to review our strawberry-flavor proposals against other contenders as quickly as possible.

Alpura needed to review our strawberry-flavor proposals against other contenders as quickly as possible. Again, the recent merger meant both divisions could collaborate efficiently on this.

Isela Flores

With their improved consistency and taste, dsm-firmenich’s vitamin premix and strawberry flavor are enabling us to bring our nutritious strawberry-flavored milk to more children in Mexico.

Isela Flores R&D Manager, Alpura

A clear favorite

In May 2023, we developed five potential flavor solutions for Alpura’s strawberry-flavored milk. To test their taste performance, we ran a consumer study with children from Alpura’s target age group (5-12). From this study, we selected and fine-tuned two strawberry flavors. Alpura selected one of these as a candidate for its final industrial trial. We delivered 8-12 kilograms of our proposed flavor in one week for this trial, which took around one month to complete. In July, Alpura confirmed that consumers preferred our strawberry flavor to the others under review.

We delivered the first batches of both premix and flavor to Alpura in August 2023. Alpura then commercially relaunched the newly formulated strawberry-flavored milk in September to coincide with the start of the new school year. The milk is sold in Mexico, as well as other Central American countries such as Guatemala. It is rich in proteins and fortified with seven vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, and zinc), as well as having reduced sugar content (1.4 g added sugars per 100 ml). It does not require any NOM-051 warning labels.

A three-way win

The solution we developed for Alpura is a three-way win, offering the following benefits:

Nutrition (the essential):

Alpura’s newly formulated strawberry-flavored milk is fortified with eight vitamins and minerals, and its improved taste encourages more consumers to enjoy the health benefits of these essential micronutrients

Taste (the desirable):

The milk has an appealing flavor without off-notes that remains stable throughout its shelf-life

Reduced waste (the sustainable):

Because the new strawberry flavor is more shelf-stable, the newly formulated milk is more likely to be fully consumed before the end of its shelf-life

One of many cross-selling successes to come

This cross-selling success was one of several that the dsm-firmenich merger unlocked for TTH. The strong match between the former Taste & Beyond and Food & Beverage teams allowed us to deliver many benefits to the market. With our combined science-based heritage, biotech knowledge, creation and application capabilities, and close customer relationships, we can offer end-to-end, integrated propositions.

By accelerating product development, reducing time to market, and helping products stand out on the shelves, these solutions increase our customers' success – as well as encouraging consumers to make healthier choices. TTH will be responsible for generating 60% of the total growth synergies that dsm-firmenich has promised to deliver through the merger. We will continue to own the outcome and deliver toward this target, including by cross-selling our full portfolio to bring more products and solutions to our existing customers. Following our first commercial synergy successes, our development pipeline is now filling up with requests from a wide variety of customers across the world, active in a range of segments.

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