Three years in development Q.Pearl variants 'for broad food processing and specific confectionery applications' are, said the Dutch-based firm that currently invests 7 per cent of sales in R&D, based on non-hygroscopic particulates that provide flavour stability and high process resistance, including humidity, high temperatures and physical shear.
"This product has been designed to withstand conditions of food processing. The beauty is that it's a tool to give the 'visual' and flavour stability to the final product," Quest R&D manager, Fabio Campanile tells FoodNavigator.com.
Rolled out on a global level, and a keen eye on EU25, Russia, the US and Japan, the flavours firm has an eye on the $73.2 billion world confectionery market, recently growing at a steady 4 per cent. The Europeans account for 42 per cent of revenues for confectionery worldwide, overtaking the Americas as the leading segment in 1998, estimates market research firm Global Information.
In a deal worth £249 million (€369m) ICI last week sold the food ingredients arm of its struggling flavour and fragrance business Quest to acquisitive Irish ingredients group Kerry, giving the flavours operation room to concentrate on the core business.
The deal, announced in early March, came only weeks after ICI announced a 4 per cent dip in food sales at Quest for the fourth quarter. The flavours company has been troubled by lost business dating back to 2002 and the impact of software problems.
ICI is confident that shaking off the ingredients arm of Quest, as well as imminent restructuring plans expected to have a cash cost of £11 million, will restore profitability to Quest's core flavour and fragrance businesses.
"At Naarden, The Netherlands we have just completed a €25million new creative centre that is wholly flavour orientated. This is the first of many investments," a spokesperson for Quest said to FoodNavigator.com at the time.
ICI said this week that it expects total net proceeds after tax and other costs from the deal of about £206 million (€305 million), which will be used to reduce indebtedness.
But the flavours subsidiary of the UK chemicals giant still has its work cut out. Announcing first quarter results for 2004 last week, ICI said that sales for Quest for the quarter fell by over 4 per cent, although profit rose to £13m from £9m compared to the same period in 2003 on the back of improved margins. Growth in flavours was offset by lower sales for food ingredients.
According to Campanile, Quest is currently in talks with major customers and already working with key accounts for the Q.Pearl variants that 'release it [the flavour] for maximum taste impact, either instantly or over a prolonged period, as with chewing gum.'
Business development manager at Quest Ernst van den Berg adds: "Q.Pearl makes it possible to reduce flavour fading and oxidation as well as reduce formation of off-notes and preserve freshness."
Comparing the new Quest flavour system to other technologies on the market, Campanile claims that many manufacturing technologies are applied to produce encapsulated flavours, such as melt extrusion, compaction, agglomeration, shell-core systems, flaking of natural foods and spray drying, but all of the resulting products suffer from one or more deficiencies.
"Systems like spray drying, compaction and vegetable flakes may not withstand conditions where high levels of water and heat are applied, posing a risk of flavour or particle instability, as well as having restricted functionality in terms of flavour release."
Agglomerates may pose a risk of dusting, consequently resulting in poor flavour barriers and not stable to typical blending operations. Melt extrudates, even if they show very good barrier properties in dry conditions, tend to be very hygroscopic and unstable in typical processing conditions. Shell-core systems, such as coacervates, are costly and generally limited to lypophillic flavours, he added.