27 Sep 2022 — The recently launched “Foodology by Univar Solutions” embodies the organization’s commitment to helping shape the “future of food” by providing global brands access to ingredients, formulations, testing resources, regulatory expertise, and supply chain as the world’s population balloons and sustainability becomes increasingly important. In a key interview with Foodology by Univar Solutions, executives examine the distribution and technical innovation needs of food and nutrition ingredients businesses.
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Kevin Hack, global vice president of food ingredients for Foodology by Univar Solutions, examines the ingredients that companies are looking for, the trends to tap into, and the company’s sharp focus on partner collaborations to develop new solutions and diversify new product development.
“The key message is that we are in the food business; we have a complete solution. We have a clean offering and we want customers to know that we have all of the logistical support,” he says.
“We work closely with customers to come up with their next innovative solution that they want to offer to the market. We’ve got a starter recipe that we can offer for whatever that space is and one that is trend relevant, whether it be high fiber, low sugar, plant-based, etc.”
Focusing on food ingredients
Lavanya Venkateswar is leading technical food development initiatives at the Foodology by Univar Solutions’ North America test kitchen at The Hatchery Chicago, a non-profit food and beverage incubator on the city’s West Side.
The partnership between Foodology by Univar Solutions and The Hatchery Chicago raises the bar on creating a chef-inspired food laboratory where businesses ranging from small bakeries to large manufacturers can collaborate with scientists and ingredient specialists.
Keeping on top of food innovation and helping companies create winning products that tap into current and future trends is key.
“Plant-based, sustainability and organic are big trends. We’ve got a complete solution for each of those, and we cover all key themes. A lot of customers are bolting on those offerings to the market because that’s what the consumer is looking for,” she explains.
“We’re constantly looking at what’s happening in the marketplace, and we consider the lens of a consumer.”
For the evolution of clean label, for example, Venkateswar notes the myriad of branches this term now means.
“Clean label is not a new concept, and it has been around for 15 years, at least. But there’s been an evolution of what that means to a consumer such as getting out all the artificial ingredients, needing to see pantry ingredients. It can mean a lot of things.”
“We’re out there educating customers, helping them understand the consumers’ expectations on clean labels. We’re constantly trialing products and coming up with concepts.”
The company has many clean label-orientated live projects that have already gone through the pilot plan and process and are close to launching. “That’s what we’ll see more in 2023, how people will clean up their labels.”
This particularly applies to the plant-based space, where there is beginning to be more scrutiny on cleaning up the label after the initial new product development burst we’ve seen in recent years.
“In an emerging space, like plant-based foods, everybody wants to get there, and everybody wants a piece of the pie. But not everybody has the expertise. So, you might be a regular fluid milk producer or you might be somebody making a beef patty, but it’s a logical line extension for you to get into the plant-based space,” Venkateswar details.
She outlined a recent example when Foodology by Univar Solutions conducted a competitive analysis of a fluid milk producer in the South who wanted to get into the plant-based space.
“We presented all the options from soy milk, which has been around since the early 2000s, to almond milk, which was all the rage ten years ago, to oat milk. You also can consider cashew milk, hemp milk, or a whole range of nut milks,” she continues.
“We took these things to them, did a tasting with their innovation, and went through a whole load of processes. It’s not just ‘do you need soy lecithin or sunflower lecithin to make the finished product?’ It’s walking them through this whole new product. Being able to talk to a partner who knows the ins and outs. That’s the value we bring to them.”
Oat milk innovation
Foodology by Univar Solutions will discuss the power of plant-based milk innovations in its forthcoming webinar.
They are further examining issues like sweetness levels and texture of oat-based alternatives and how plant-based milk alternatives now occupy more grocery store shelf real estate than ever before.
The webinar will include a demonstration of the company’s new food innovation space at The Hatchery.
“The Solution Center is in the Hatchery, which has 55 different private kitchens. Most of them are start-up companies just trying to get their feet on the ground before they’re big enough to go out on their own,” adds Hack.
“We put it there because we feel like Chicago is the epicenter of food in the US.”
Foodology by Univar Solutions’ in-depth webinar will be live on October 4, at 16:00 CEST / 9:00 CT / 14:00 GMT.
Attendees can register for the event here.
By Gaynor Selby
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