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Customizing Ingredients Becomes the Norm – UPDATE

ingredientsOne of the most persistent marketing themes that we heard at food ingredient trade shows this year was some form of “we customize our ingredients to our customers’ needs.” While this is true for most big ingredient companies, it is no longer very unique and the position no longer differentiates an ingredient company from its competition. In fact, when some ingredient companies say “what makes us different is we customize our products”, the statement has little credibility with customers.

Last spring we wrote a blog post where we reviewed a featured article from FoodProcessing.com, headlined “Ingredient Suppliers Specializing in Customer Mixes of Ingredients.” We heard from quite a few different ingredient manufacturers and marketers saying that they make customized application-specific ingredients for their customers. Many used some form of customized ingredients as a banner in their trade show booths and materials. It is clearly something that customers in the industry have come to expect.

The president of a billion dollar ingredient manufacturer talked to us at length about their efforts in providing customization to their customers. For decades, this company has been blending customized product mixes for customer companies. It’s not just the product customizations that matter. Customizing services are just as important. Indeed, the major ingredient manufacturers are devoting significant resources to delivering customer-specific solutions and programs in areas ranging from transportation and delivery, to inventory control and risk management systems, to customized product packaging.

As is always the case, this marketing theme ends up being all about the customer. Thinking outside the box and delivering enterprise-wide customized services, alongside application specific customized ingredients, can deliver the kind of customer value that creates the very best marketing position.

Reprinted below is our original post on the subject. What are your thoughts on ingredient customization?

Originally posted May 4, 2011

Author: Mark Hughes

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A recent FoodProcessing.com feature was headlined “Ingredient Suppliers Specializing in Custom Mixes of Ingredients.” The article described how many ingredient suppliers have begun to focus on creating customized ingredient blends and mixes for specific customer applications. We have seen and heard the same message from the ingredient manufacturers at the major trade shows over the last few months. Nearly every ingredient company we’ve talked to this year has touted the fact that they make customized application-specific ingredients for their customers, as if this made them unique or differentiated them from other ingredient marketers.

In fact, being able to provide customized ingredient products has become the expected norm in food manufacturing channels. Customer companies are demanding more support from their suppliers, and want resources and information that can help their products succeed. Ingredient suppliers are responding with marketing with an increased focus on their capabilities to provide application-specific ingredient products, mixes and blends.

“Custom ingredients” has almost become a generic term in the industry. Many ingredient suppliers have adopted the term into their corporate name, as well as their marketing. An example is Grande Custom Ingredients Group.

Many ingredient companies are focusing their customization message on individual food channels and category-specific applications, like dairy products. MCT Dairies offers formulated dairy and specialty ingredients, customized for manufacturing customers.

Several ingredient companies are using their customization capabilities to get customer R&D, product development and culinary executives engaged in working with their products. Companies are offering assistance and new online tools to help customers formulate custom ingredients for their specific product applications. Tate & Lyle has launched a new site, called “Your Food Systems,” that provides customers with resources to help support customization.

The focus on customization of ingredients will always be an important marketing message for food ingredient companies. Engagement with R&D and marketing departments will continue to be a key to long-term ingredient sales.

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