The case of Kerry

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Kerry Group hosted a media day at its Innovation Centre in Naas, Ireland, and I had the opportunity to attend on behalf of Dairy Industries International. While involvement with the company has naturally been largely centered around its dairy offerings, it was keen to demonstrate just how much more it does and plan to do, especially in terms of innovation.

As with so many other shows and conferences in recent times, the focus was on the future, with plant-based and sustainability recurrent themes throughout the day. Convenience has been the biggest driver of food innovation in the last 50 years, and alternative proteins are going to be the biggest driver for the next 50, we were told, which is why for Kerry, the spotlight has to be very much in this area. Its focus is to create and supply ingredients that improve the taste and texture of plant-based products, as it wants people to choose them for the taste, rather than because of environmental consciousness or health benefits. At the end of the day, food is more than a functional experience – it is emotional and people are never going to choose foods long term if they don’t bring some kind of joy.

In the ‘Discovery Lab’ – an adaptive space with whiteboards on the walls and a modular format that apparently allows it to be converted to mimic cafés, bars and kiosks depending on the client’s requirements – we were given tasters of the experimentations with ice cream. It merely teased us with dairy here as we were quickly informed that they were all plant-based and using pea protein to mimic the creamy and aerated texture of dairy ice cream.

Similar technologies were used in the three-course tasting menu we were treated to at lunchtime, created by in-house Michelin star chefs. The starter of a plant-based tortellini once again demonstrated an ability to replicate the taste and mouthfeel of dairy-based products, and the subsequent two courses showcased more of the ingredients including texturisers and natural flavourings.

Image: Kathryn Brand

The other topic of the day was food waste, or more specifically, plans to reduce it. With apparently 1,500 times the weight of Golden Gate Bridge of food wasted a year, Kerry is working improve the microbial, textural, and flavour shelf life of products, in line with the UN’s sustainable development goal to halve global food waste by 2030. Expect to see projects in this area from Kerry in the next couple of years as well.

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