What to Look for in a Premix Supplier?

December 13, 2006

7 Min Read
What to Look for in a Premix Supplier?

Power beverages, energy bars, antioxidant snacks, nutritionally-balanced meal replacements, probiotic-enriched yogurtthe level and scope of fortification and enrichment in products today has evolved tremendously since its inception. Several decades ago, food fortification focused solely on preventing micronutrient deficiency diseases. Todays emphasis is centered on optimum nutrition, health and performance during longer life expectancy. Consumers now are as concerned with health conditions that affect their well-being and longevity of life as they are with maintaining or even increasing their physical and cognitive performance. In short, the audience for fortified foods wants to look and feel their best.

Premix suppliers have supported the respective industry segments during this evolutionary process for both fortified food and beverages, as well as dietary supplements. Whether it is a vitamin/mineral premix for an energy bar or a pre-blend for a multivitamin supplement, premix suppliers have worked closely with consumer product companies to develop nutrient additions to their products, in addition to providing marketing strategies that support food fortification from product development through commercialization. For any company interested in bringing a fortified product to the marketplace there is one basic question: What do I look for in a premix supplier to help me meet my goals and objectives when I want to add nutrients?

First and foremost, a premix supplier must be an expert at blending and have different types of blending technology at its disposal. Todays markets demand that a premix supplier must have the know-how to successfully blend a premix with a broad range of nutrient and functional ingredients within a certain specification range.

That same premix supplier must also be able to blend 20, 30 and sometimes up to 40 or more ingredients into one blend. Clearly, it is not just about vitamins and minerals anymore. Quite often, other ingredients such as amino acids, botanicals, carotenoids, nutraceuticals, nucleotides, colors and flavors are added to the mix. Usually, these ingredients in their current market form dont have the same physical and chemical properties; this type of mix requires that a premix supplier have the expertise to mix these ingredients into a well-distributed, homogenous blend. Lastly, with the growth of lipids and the fact that some of these nutrients and functional ingredients are only available in oil-based or liquid forms, a premix supplier must also have the capabilities to mix a liquid blend as well.

To make a successfully mixed blend, a supplier must start with the proper formulation of the requested components. Many factors are taken into consideration when formulating a blend request from a customer, including the application or end-use of the blend; how the product is processed; shelf-life requirement; type of packaging, shortage conditions; effects of various nutrients on taste and stability; and, desired type and level of ingredients. All of these factors play a critical role on how a blend will be formulated.

The type of market forms of an ingredient to be used in a premix is key to its success in the finished product. A premix supplier must have a knowledgeable technical staff that not only understands the nuances of blend formulation, but also has broad knowledge of market forms to be able to recommend the optimal form of an ingredient for the intended application in the blend and in the end-use product.

There is also the issue of sourcing. The nutritional knowledge of todays consumers goes beyond vitamins and minerals. Premix suppliers are not only seeing consumer product companies adding nutrient and functional ingredients to new product categories for the first time, but also expanding the range and number of these types of ingredients that are added to foods, beverages and supplements. This level of activity requires the supplier to have a broad-based portfolio of ingredients to formulate and blend upon request, as well as a robust process to quickly evaluate and approve new ingredients as needed. In addition, it can be an important competitive asset if a premix supplier is also a basic supplier or has an expertise in a particular ingredient category. It is easier to expand the suppliers product portfolio with ingredients that enhance or compliment the base line of ingredients. This is especially critical as consumer product companies are consolidating ingredient suppliers and are asking their core base of suppliers to provide more products and services.

Among the services companies are expecting is expertise in various markets. More product segments are joining the trend of nutrient addition to enhance the healthfulness of the products. The product segments with the most significant growth today range from functional waters, soy beverages and energy bars to calcium supplements with enhanced nutrients for bone health. The key elements to capturing this growth are having the insight on what health topics are foremost on the consumers mind then identifying and building on the emerging science to support the nutrients to address those particular health benefits. Premix suppliers should be able to translate these health trends into marketable fortification concepts, create blend formulas specific to industry applications (i.e. food, beverage and/or supplement) and be in a position to address any technical service issues that are unique to that industry. In other words, premix suppliers should be able to provide custom solutions to the particular industries they serve.

Having this type of knowledge positions a supplier to be able to bring innovative ideas to the table. What is the latest emerging science in health and nutrition? What new nutrients or nutraceuticals have been identified with this emerging science? What type of market form would provide the optimal delivery system for this new ingredient? How can this new ingredient be added to a specific type of product? How can this new ingredient be processed with other ingredients in a blend? These are all questions that an innovative premix supplier seeks to answer proactively. A premix supplier that operates in this fashion creates opportunities for its customers. This type of premix supplier is in a better position to provide custom solutions for product development needs across the various industries.

Finally, quality products and services are an integral part of being a consistently reliable premix supplier. It is critical to have defined and traceable quality systems, such as GMPs (good manufacturing practices) and ISO certification. A premix suppliers processes and procedures must meet internal standards as well as the expectations of customers. This should apply not only to the ingredients that may be basic to and manufactured by the premix supplier, but also should apply to the many third party raw materials that must be approved and purchased to support a robust nutrient blends business.

Whether the demand is for analytical testing, special packaging requirements or vendor-managed inventory, the quality of valueadded services from a premix supplier can play a critical role in developing customer loyalty. Timing and support to deliver the correct premix can also contribute to the success or failure of a new product launch or the day-to-day business of a well-established company.

To decide what premix supplier is the best fit, consider several questions: Does my premix supplier understand my industry and my business? Which premix supplier is a basic manufacturer of certain nutrients or has the capability to innovate and develop optimal market forms for various types of nutrient blends, both dry and liquid? Which premix supplier has value-added services to help get products to market more efficiently? What premix supplier does not compromise on quality?

You will find that the premix supplier that delivers most consistently on these requirements can provide the greatest longterm value and growth for your business.

Todd L. Sitkowski is a senior commercial manager for the Human Nutrition and Health Industry Unit of DSM Nutritional Products (www.nutraaccess.com), which supports the food, beverage and dietary supplement industries. Prior to his current position, he served as a senior marketing manager for the Custom Products Unit and as an account manager for the Food Industry Unit. Sitkowski has a bachelors degree in business administration from Marquette University, Milwaukee.

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