SK Chemtrade – a 30-year foodbev ingredient success story

With its vision to be first stop for processors and brand owners in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, SK Chemtrade is rightly celebrating a notable anniversary in a fiercely competitive arena.

With its vision to be first stop for processors and brand owners in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, SK Chemtrade is rightly celebrating a notable anniversary in a fiercely competitive arena.

Mark Ferrao

SA Food Review caught up with MD Mark Ferrao on SK Chemtrade’s vision and growth as a value-added partner of choice as the company turns 30 this year.

“There are so many things that we are grateful for on our journey during the past three decades, not least that we have been able to adapt and refocus our vision to continue offering value to all our clients,” Mark says.

“Listening to our customers’ needs, being dynamic in our approach and continually searching for market relevant value-added technologies, has been our focus over the last three decades.

“Partnering with our clientele and key principals has accelerated the creative flow, from concept to launch. Our principals have been consistent for the last three decades, delivering products, driven by quality.

“As a company, we recently celebrated several wins – even within the difficult business environment created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are extremely proud to hold exclusive distribution agreements with prominent raw material manufacturers and suppliers from Europe, the US and Asia, including highly regarded stalwarts such as IFF, Oterra, Ashland, Nexira and Ransom Naturals.

“This allows us to deliver high-quality products and excellent technical support during a client’s new product development and formulation journey,” Mark enthuses.

Tailor-made and committed to integrity

With a portfolio of world-class speciality food ingredients, ranging from single ingredient and bespoke solutions, (flavours, natural colours, vitamin premixes, botanical extracts and functional components) SK Chemtrade can partner in the creation of a perfectly tailor-made compound or blend for its customers.

Its all-in-one compounds contain a complete basket of key ingredients that can turn a complex idea into a simple reality.

All products supplied by SK Chemtrade are available as either liquid or in powder format and ideal for use during the formulation of beverages, sweet and savoury items, dairy food, confectionery and baked goods, health products and nutraceuticals. 

“Our  highly skilled team of food scientists can bring your idea to life, and we assist our customers by keeping up to date with current market trends so we can make your concept a reality,” Mark explains. “We take out the stress when sourcing your unique requirements, while giving you peace of mind with our quality and safety assurances throughout the process.”

New beverage pilot plant

As a solutions provider and creator, SK Chemtrade offers value-added product development and key functional ingredients to targeted customers. But its offering is so much broader.

“We are incredibly proud of our latest innovation that is having a real and meaningful impact on smaller manufacturers such as craft beverage brands and independents,” notes Ferrao. 

“Our small-scale bottling plant offers customers the benefits of small runs – ideal for SMEs on a tight budget who need to get their products into a niche or specialist food store. We have seen several successes of these small and independent beverage owners going on to great things.

“Our bottling facility can also support large scale manufacturers or retailers in testing new variants or limited release launches.”

Partnering with ingredient leaders

SK Chemtrade is proud to be associated with some of the world’s leading manufacturers in their fields. 

Talking flavours…. “For over 30 years we have worked with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) – regarded as one of the leaders in the development of essential and sensorial experiences for the food and beverage industry.

“Our partnership is built on mutual respect and understanding, and we look forward to continuing to work with IFF to offer their innovative basket of flavours to the food and beverage industry in South African and Zimbabwe,” explains Ferrao.

“One of the highlights for SK Chemtrade was that in October 2022, we secured the distribution rights of all ‘TastePoint by IFF’ flavours to our portfolio.”

When it comes to providing vibrant colours that attract customers to your products, you can utilise the best courtesy of SK Chemtrade’s relationship with Oterra, the world leader in colours from natural sources. 

Talking colours… The deep insights about markets, regulatory requirements, applications, pigments and phytonutrients place Oterra Natural Colours at the forefront of the industry. Its colour portfolio is the largest and most vibrant in the food industry, and its nutraceutical range has scientifically documented health benefits.

“They help manufacturers bring safe and appetising products to consumers at mealtimes as well as any time in between,” adds Ferrao. 

Talking cellulosics… For an economical thickener and stabiliser in food and beverages, Aqualon/Blanose cellulose gum, or sodium carboxymethylcellulose (CMC), from Ashland, is widely used. Aqualon cellulose gum can form strong, oil-resistant films. In beverage concentrates (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and powdered drink mixes, cellulose gum adds a pleasant, clean mouthfeel. Besides modifying the behaviour of water, cellulose gum is useful in suspending solids and modifying the flow and texture. 

Talking nutraceuticals… “We also represent Vitablend, providing innovative nutritional premixes for the fortification of food products, including ingredients like vitamins, minerals, nucleotides, amino acids and other functional ingredients. This portfolio is ideally targeted at products for the food industry, infant nutrition, clinical nutrition, sports drinks and nutritional drinks sectors,” explains Ferrao.

Talking powders… When it comes to powdered speciality food ingredients and staples, including high-grade honey, mustard, molasses, Worcester sauce and vinegar powders, you need look no further.

Sourced from AmTech, these staples can help to enhance sauces, dressings and savoury dips while its sweetener products can be used to add a natural sweet flavour to smoothies, nutritional shakes and meal replacers.

“The entire line of AmTech products can be used in snack foods where liquids can’t be used, such as balsamic vinegar chips, salt and vinegar chips, honey mustard pretzels and honey roasted peanuts,” Ferrao says. 

Talking proteins… “Lastly, we offer a comprehensive portfolio of sustainable, all-natural animal proteins through our relationship with supplier Sonac. The range includes functional, non-functional, colour and fresh meat binding properties with a host of benefits to the processor and manufacturer.

“All products are clean label, allergen (soy), GMO and e-number free – a critical requirement for today’s informed consumer. Using Sonac products has several benefits including reduced cooking losses resulting in higher yields, improved colour, added protein value and a firmer texture whether for processed meat or even meatballs.”

What does the future hold for SK Chemtrade?

“We have always viewed innovation and R&D as the bridge to functional tailor-made applications – particulary for the southern African market and in other regions.

“In 2023, we aim to increase our ability to deliver custom-made compounds and premixes through our FSSC 22000 certified plant in Montague Gardens in Cape Town. We currently hold over 350 tried and tested formulations – from beverage, dairy, bakery, meat alternatives and vegan solutions and functional applications.

“In line with the growing plant-based trends, we are also aimed at developing additional capacity for our value-added, free from and plant-based technologies – particularly around protein shakes, plant-based burgers, falafels and dairy-free ice cream to name a few. 

“As we are constantly networking and engaging with the principals from Europe, America and Asia, we really are at the cutting edge of innovation in developing formulations for our customers in southern Africa.

“Our joint venture, too, with Barentz has escalated our ability to offer premium, high quality, innovative ingredient solutions to the southern African markets and we look forward to continuing along this path with them as our partner,” Mark concludes.