"We have seven production plants on five continents," Ted Nixon, CEO of US caramel colour company DD Williamson, told FoodNavigator.com. Based in Kentucky, the company started producing caramel colours in 1865. Today, it has over 70 different types on its product line with little sign of a reduction in pace.
"Regardless of economic conditions people still eat," said Nixon, referring to the stability of the company financial results, despite a general downturn in the American economy.
"Business is good and volume is up - particularly in non-US markets," added Nixon.
"Asia and Africa are new markets for us - although we've exported products to Asia and Africa for many years, we have only relatively recently set up production facilities in these geographical areas."
A further contributory factor to DD Williamson 's staying power could probably be found in Nixon's words: "We have the edge on competition because we focus on quality and service - the improvement of quality is a priority for us."
But does the Kentucky caramel supplier just concentrate on the big fish? "The company produces a range of caramel colours for basically any brown food product - from pet food to soy sauce. We supply in a wide range of sizes from 5 kilos for the small companies, all the way up to 80 tonnes for the biggest."
"The North American market is important for us - we have a good, stable market share," he added. Success in a near saturated domain could be linked to the efforts that the company puts in to research and development with clients. After all, New Product Development (NPD) is a crucial element for survival in today's competitive environment.
"R&D is an important issue for us - we constantly interact with the R&D centres of manufacturers - from the evolution of older products to the creation of new."
The strategy of combining R&D activity with quality plays a significant role for DD Williamson in markets across the world, and the Asian market is no exception. "As Chinese producers start thinking about exporting to other markets, regulatory specifications are clearly of importance. The quality of products is paramount if the exportation of food products from China is to grow."
So in which direction is R&D activity at the caramel company heading at the moment? " Currently, one of the key areas is natural colours." In 2000, the company associated itself with Colormaker, a US company specialising in the blending of natural colours. "Straight natural colours do not offer the most suitable or economical product. By offering customers a blend we provide a targeted, potentially more economical product. "
The fact that DD Williamson has taken a natural route is clearly linked to the natural trend currently traversing Europe and the United States. Manufacturers are keen to follow a path apparently carved out by a consumer keen to ingest all that is healthy. Where the food manufacturer goes, the ingredients supplier will follow.