Wednesday, October 17, 2018
 A New Direction in Infant Nutrition Provides Growth Market for French Dairy Co-operative  

By Kelly Worgan

EPI Ingredients, the dry dairy arm of French dairy co-operative Laita, is ready to take the next step to grow the business and make its mark on the international dry dairy market. With significant investment in human resources, equipment and marketing, EPI has made a commitment to increase its market share. Newly appointed Marketing Manager Mathieu Lucot spoke to FoodIngredientsFirst about rebranding, new markets and investing in the future.


Laita, formed in 2009 by combining three dairy cooperatives in the North Western Brittany region of France, processes some 1.4bn litres of milk per year from its 3,560 dairies. Product is distributed between four divisions, including Consumer Products, the organisation’s leading division, Health & Nutritional Products, Animal Feed/Health and Dry Dairy Ingredients, the second biggest division by volume.

Dry Dairy ingredients, or EPI Ingredients, as the division is known, is fast set to becoming an international name in the booming market for infant nutrition.

“The company has invested some €80m in EPI Ingredients in a bid to bring value to dry ingredients. We have a dedicated marketing team, led by me, and as well as new industrial tools, we are building a new dedicated dry tower specifically for infant nutrition,” Lucot explained.

“The tower is in its first phase of building and it should be ready for the first production in 2017,” he said.

The area that the company is allocating most resources to is infant nutrition. EPI Ingredients has some experience here already and is now ready to take the business to a new level in response to increased global demand for safe, good quality product.

“EPI wanted to build a tower dedicated to infant nutrition because there is a growing trend for product, especially in export markets like China, but also in the Middle East and Africa. These markets will be the future for infant formula and consumers demand quality,” Lucot stressed. “Consumers in these regions are willing to pay for quality product with a good image from Europe. In view of this, EPI is building a drying tower with a conditioning line with the capacity to make 400g and 900g units for these emerging markets.”

The current market trend for infant formula and its explosion in Asia also fits with EPI Ingredients’ strategy to grow in certain Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

“Of course, Europe is a big market for us,” said Lucot. “But whilst Europe is our biggest market and we have big customers here, the decision to export further afield takes the company in a reasonably new direction.

“As well as a new marketing team, EPI has appointed two dedicated sales managers for the Asia region as part of the investment, showing the company’s commitment to developing the business there,” said Lucot.

“In other areas, we currently have no business in the Americas but we are looking to test the market in South America with a view to developing business there, as well.

“Of course when you sell to leading food manufacturers, you know that they will be taking your product all over the world but we now want to be part of that local business,” said Lucot.

As well as infant formula, EPI Ingredients has built a solid name in the world of fermented milk powders that carry a natural acidity and can be used in nutritional products. “We are recognised as a producer of high quality fermented dairy powder ingredients and seen as a specialist on the market, so this is an area that we will focus on, as well as demineralised whey,” said Lucot.

Demineralised whey is a specialised area of dry dairy that physically removes the minerals from whey powder in order to make it mineral-neutral. The minerals can then, if desired, be replaced at the proportions that the manufacturer desires, either for regulatory reasons, or because of taste and functionality preferences. 

“On many occasions, the manufacturer wants the benefits of the whey protein, but without the minerals associated with it. With our 20-strong R&D team and our dedicated applications specialists, we can develop products that suit our customer’s needs in terms of cost, taste, texture and functionalities in many different applications,” explained Lucot.

The company has set the stage for future growth with its new strategy and investment. The new logo and change in corporate identity was created earlier this year, but it will be fully integrated during FiE in Paris in December 2015.

Lucot concludes: “FiE will be the showcase of our new strategy and new identity, including the new logo and website, which will be up by then. This move will fit the new dynamic strategy and say to the world of dry ingredients that we have a new position, and its going to be bigger than before.”

Source: Food Ingredients First


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