Kerry Ingredients & Flavours acquires Durban-based FlavourCraft

Kerry Ingredients & Flavours today confirmed that is has completed the acquisition of the Durban-based flavours company, FlavourCraft, for an undisclosed sum. This sees Kerry expand its presence not just in South Africa, serving food manufacturers in the country, but across the African continent.

Established in 1993, FlavourCraft specialises in the design and manufacture of flavours for meats, soups, sauces, dressings and savoury snacks in the South African and sub-Saharan markets, particularly in Nigeria.

Commenting on the deal Ryan Ponquett Managing Director of FlavourCraft said: “FlavourCraft and Kerry Ingredients & Flavours are a perfect fit, with the same views around creating market-leading flavour ingredients. By teaming up with a like-minded global player, our South African customers and those across the continent will gain access to Kerry’s huge taste, ingredients and applications knowledge. This will enable them to bring consumer-preferred products to market faster and at better value.”

Kerry’s Africa Zone Director Bart van Schie said: “This acquisition represents a clear illustration of Kerry’s commitment to developing our business not just in South Africa, but further afield. FlavourCraft’s product portfolio, knowledge and customer base in South Africa, Nigeria and across West Africa will be an asset to us and will support our expansion plans across the continent.”

The FlavourCraft deal also provides Kerry with a major manufacturing facility in Africa, a 4000 square metre factory outside Durban, and brings with it a first class customer and application centre, providing local research and development capability, which will enable Kerry to expand its capability in developing and producing ingredients to meet local market needs.

This latest acquisition complements another recently made by Kerry in South Africa – that of Cargill’s flavour business. Taken together these acquisitions, backed by Kerry’s market leading technologies and R&D capabilities, create a powerful flavours force in the region.

“These really are exciting times for Kerry in South Africa, and we are very much looking forward to working with our new colleagues. Integrating FlavourCraft into our business provides a well established platform for us to apply our expertise in creating consumer-preferred taste solutions for our food and beverage customers in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa”, concluded Bart van Schie.

More on FlavourCraft …. an article written by editor, Brenda Neall, back in 2007, and published in SA Food Review, but it does give some idea of why FlavourCraft has been snapped up by Kerry!

FlavourCraft flies

FlavourCraft, the Durban-based flavour house, is South Africa’s largest independent flavour company that’s currently enjoying very tasty times. Brenda Neall caught up with CEO Ryan Ponquett recently.

I meet Ryan Ponquett at his company’s stylish HQ and flavour lab in Kloof, far removed from FlavourCraft’s metastasising factory down Field’s Hill in New Germany, where he’s poring over the hi-tech intricacies of a state-of-the-art gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer with colleague Martin Dovey, a PhD in organic chemistry.

This is the very nub of FlavourCraft, where thousands of individual aroma chemicals are dissected, isolated and unraveled and ultimately married and conjoined to create a conjugal array of flavours.

‘You can’t develop flavours with a smelly factory next door – we have to do this work in an odour-free environment where we can identify things that are the very heart of a flavour,’ says Ponquett.

‘With around a thousand aroma chemicals in our library, and every flavour having more-or-less 30 components, we simply had to invest in this sort of technology. And ultimately, this advanced R&D capability and the fact we took the vital strategic step to make our own top notes rather than buying them in – that we’re chemists first and foremost and have a fundamental understanding of flavour chemistry – has worked really well for us.’

That would be some understatement.

Ponquett, as a young organic chemist with a passion to enter the world of flavours, worked with the late Piet Theron, the man who developed the Imana Foods product formulations. Today Imana is a leading producer of soy mince, soups and stock cubes, but it was born in a double garage only 15 years ago. Ponquett’s brief for Imana was to set up and develop an ancillary business to manufacture hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP), a key ingredient of many savoury products.

Meeting the challenge

It was a remit that Ponquett took very seriously. He gathered a team of highly talented people around him, notably, Kneale Harris, a genius on systems for the operations side, and Kim van der Merwe, a passionately-committed perfectionist for the technical sales.

From raw and rudimentary beginnings, FlavourCraft can today be classified as a world-class provider of flavourings and food formulations to the savoury and confectionery food markets. It has evolved into the biggest private flavour player in South Africa and the foremost savoury flavour producer on the continent. In but 11 years, this team has seen the company’s sales swell from around R4 million to R150 million pa.

FlavourCraft’s biggest growth, Ponquett notes, has been largely organic, in tune with the recent good fortunes of the food industry: ‘Our customers have grown and/or moved into new segments and new players have entered the market, but also more competitive offerings have increased our overall market share. The bulk of our turnover is in high-volume, medium-value product, but we also have the flexibility to do the opposite,’ says Ponquett. ‘Our top notes have been critical factors in our success, too – we’d have been dead in this business without them.’

Apart from its scientific and production capabilities, Ponquett stresses the value of ‘very intensive relationships’ that FlavourCraft builds with customers: ‘Companies aren’t islands and need partners who can work with them. In such a competitive sector, we prefer the long-term view of business relationships, where we can focus on holistic supply chain management, and we pride ourselves on an ethical and responsive approach to customer needs,’ he elucidates.

‘We understand margins; we endeavour to get as much as we can from our raw materials and we strip out unnecessary costs. As much as it’s necessary to identify the desirable aspects of flavour, colour, texture and presentation in a particular food product, it’s equally important to identify and remove “waste” that reduces affordability.’

This sharp, optimising eye is ideal for FlavourCraft’s many customers whose target is the African market. Going the extra mile is a Ponquett trait, and he has spent a great deal of time trawling the markets and stores of the African continent, and has built an astute understanding of the taste and food predilections of its diverse populations.

‘I think we can accurately claim to have a rather unique perception of Africa’s multicultural diversity; and we’re pretty good at making and matching flavours and food products for diverse taste preferences in Africa and beyond,’ he comments. ‘Also, our flavours are Halaal and Kosher-certified, which is another big advantage we can offer customers.’

Geared for growth

Ponquett is a rapid talker and an intense interviewee – this is a man whose apparent daily mode is intellectual overdrive. Thus, with my somewhat taxed grey matter in tow, we head down Field’s Hill to the FlavourCraft factory. Adjoining Imana Foods, it has been a work in progress for a few years now and there’s much obvious sign of construction and expansion work on the go.

Another spraydryer is being installed, new packing line bays are awaiting automated packing equipment, the building of a new warehouse extending from the factory is underway and a new eight-ton blender is on order.

‘These are all natural de-bottlenecking extensions to leverage the use of the recently-installed bulk-handling operation that allows our large blenders to receive their charges of ingredients as fast as possible, and push through ever-increasing volumes,’ comments Ponquett.

FlavourCraft, as flavour company, is the real McCoy, and not merely a blender of others’ ingredients. In-house HVP production is one of the base materials from which it builds some of its maillard reaction flavours that are designed to imitate the desirable flavours generated by traditional cooking, technology and capability that’s key to the company’s strength in savoury applications.

From these fundamental building blocks, FlavourCraft develops and offers a range of concentrated flavours. The spray encapsulation of top notes in stabilising matrices ensures volatiles are locked away and retained, that the flavour is protected against oxidation, and chemical reactions between the flavour and other food ingredients is prevented in dry products.

With current blending facilities catering from 25kg to 6 000kg batch sizes, these components are melded to produce full balanced flavours, as well as a wide range of standard and proprietary products which include soups, sauces, and seasonings. Some 1 200 tons/month of product leaves its factory portals.

And watch this space . . . Ponquett says there are big plans ahead; ‘We have a very sophisticated operation, but it’s still under-leveraged. We have established deep foundations and now we’re poised for something big.’

And you can bet on it. Ponquett’s intellect and zest for the flavour game are quite extraordinary, and he doesn’t exactly relax out of hours either. As an ardent horseman, he has recently turned his efforts to dressage, the most demanding of equestrian disciplines. It no doubt appeals to his sense of perfection, and the thrill of ultimate teamwork. And let’s not forget immense enjoyment, too.

‘To win at the expense of enjoyment of life is to miss the point completely, I believe,’ he says. ‘The enjoyment of the race is what makes the effort worthwhile. We try to create and maintain an environment which is stimulating, edifying and rewarding. We get a huge kick out of succeeding, and out of being part of the successful endeavours of our customers. We enjoy people, we enjoy our customers, we enjoy what we do . . . we strive to keep it that way!’