KEY INTERVIEW: Innovating The Nutrition Market with Oats

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25 Oct 2016 --- Today NutritionInsight talks starting up and food industry innovation with José Amorim de Sousa, the CEO of 5ensesinfood. His company is the brains behind the new oat based functional food ingredient, Oatvita, which has already been launched in Spain and Portugal, and now looks set to enter the rest of Europe.

Although the conceptual idea for Oatvita started back in 2006, 5ensesinfood was established in 2012, and was initially supported by a Portuguese start up program. However, the company has recently started to go full throttle, securing a contract of investment, allowing it to start producing the Oatvita product in small quantities from its new factory.

Oatvita, 5ensesinfood’s first and for now, only product is an oat-fermented base, which the company is promoting as a functional food ingredient to be used in the ice cream, yoghurt, drink, juice and dessert food categories. 

Talking about the product in more detail, Amorim de Sousa tells NutritionInsight that Oatvita is  an oat fermented aqueous cream, explaining, “This characteristic distinguishes our ingredient from existing competition, as we don’t know of the existence of any alternative ingredients which are an oat cream that’s also fermented. Existing alternatives tend typically to be dehydrated.”

Because Oatvita extracts the properties of the oat to make a cream during its process, Amorim de Sousa tells us that it’s Click to Enlargeproperties and benefits are related to cholesterol reduction and the balance of intestinal flora due its fiber content.

He adds, “It’s also a soluble fiber, is low in calories, and is clean label and gluten and lactose free. Due to its texture and creamy characteristics, it can also work as a texturizer.”

Due to its composition, Amorim de Sousa explains that Oatvita can naturally benefit healthy and tasty foods, something he believes is inline with todays market trends.

“Oatvita could contribute to a wider range of recipes for end producers to develop for trending markets such as digestive health, weight control, food intolerance, and cholesterol reduction,” he says.

Sold in batches of 1000 liters, the soft oat cream is designed for use in ice cream, yoghurt, dessert, and juice and drinks recipes. Amorim de Sousa tells us that there are pipeline recipes for spices and sauces, but stresses that the aforementioned areas are where the ingredient can really add value to the food industry.

Oatvita is already available in an oat drink product in Portugal and Spain, but the company is expecting commercial expansion to take off in 2017 and 2018.

“We look forward to expanding into Europe. Through our initial contacts and producers located in Portugal and in Spain, we expect to arrive indirectly in other markets like France, Germany, and UK.”

“The process of scaling up the business will take place in the actual pilot factory, working from slow speed up to full speed,” he explains, “We expect to have this happen within 2 or 3 years, with full speed being achieved in the factory in 3 years.”

“After that, further expansion is expected to occur organically, mainly because this is a new ingredient, and because both the process and product is patented. This means we also may face mixed solutions involving licensing partnerships, so, any further expansion will be organically or with these potential partnerships.”

Although for now, the company’s focus remains fixed on this expansion of Oatvita, Amorim de Sousa doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the future innovations the company plans to pilot in the coming years.

“We believe that we have a unique ingredient, and it’s our vision to become a leader in innovation in oat preparation and Click to Enlargeingredients,” he tells us, “so we are very focused on developing this ingredient and then developing concentric products from this space.”

“For example, we have plans to develop a symbiotic ingredient in 2017/18, which will combine Oatvita with micro-encapsulated probiotics,” he explains, “Like Oatvita, this symbiotic ingredient will also be available for use in final applications, like drinks, ice creams or yoghurts. However, as a symbiotic ingredient, it will be a step further from probiotic ingredients. This is the biggest innovation in our pipeline.”

Keen to clarify that these plans fall into a carefully considered business strategy, Amorim de Sousa adds, “However, to achieve that pipeline development, we first have to clearly introduce our initial product, Oatvita, to the market.”

“Once that’s done, which we expect will be in the next couple of years, we will start working on that project.” 

“We have that it in our pipeline and our patent, it’s already considered,” he confirms.

It’s evident that the start up company has clearly thought about how it will fit into an established, competitive and well-funded industry, but Amorim de Sousa also recognizes the challenges his company faces as a newcomer, and in general.

“As a start-up, our first challenges are more related to the ability to have a clear and robust business plan, and about having the right information concerning market trends, financial resourcing, and market penetration (sales are critical). It is also about having the human resources to manage the processes the company’s created.” 

“But after those, the challenges are only related to the market, and by that point they also become opportunities. That why it’s so important to be sensitive and attentive to the market in order to adapt the product to its challenges.”

He names the growing trend for healthy, clean label, lower sugar content, and convenience food as one of the current opportunities in the food industry, and says that today, that it’s more important than ever to understand consumers’ perceptions of products. “Things like authenticity, accurate communication and labeling have become very important,” he says.

“With this in mind, we’re now developing a functional and fitness food recipe with Oatvita for ice cream and yoghurts that we expect to be adopted by major end producers in the near future.”

“So this is what we try to do,” concludes Amorim de Sousa, “We try to cope with trends that we see on the market and these recipe tries to incorporate all of those challenges.”

by Hannah Gardiner

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