Food Marketing and Technology Magazine, India had an opportunity to interview Amit Hirani, Managing Director, IMCD India. He talks about the investments in technical labs and technical resources so as to provide superior products to suit consumers taste.

The company is committed to innovative products to meet food producers needs.

1. Kushalchand Sons was acquired by IMCD in 2015. It has been six years. What are your thoughts on the growth of IMCD India so far?

It has been six and a half years since Kushalchand Sons was acquired by IMCD. Ever since then, the Food & Nutrition business and other business segments have grown multifold due to both organic and inorganic growth. IMCD made three other major acquisitions in Pharma, Coatings and Construction and Advanced Materials segment. We have also added many new Principals in key focus areas to strengthen fields where we were either not present or were trying to establish a foothold. We have made major investments in our technical laboratories and in technical resources to provide solutions and innovative concepts to our customers.

2. Could you please enlighten the readers about IMCD including its values and mission?

IMCD’s purpose is to create opportunities that go beyond the possible.

Our values comprise of: Freedom to act, entrepreneurial, integrity and trust, partnership, financial discipline.

Our mission and purpose are to be committed to distribute safe, reliable, superior quality products to customers, consistently on-time, duly ensuring fulfilment of statutory & regulatory requirements, exceeding customer expectations with continuous improvement.

3. The application of your products is in different business sectors. How much revenue comes from the food and nutrition industry in ratio terms?

Out of the 6 business segments where we are currently present in India, Food and Nutrition is the 3rd largest and contributes around 20% to India’s total revenue.

4. There is a trend of bringing regional cuisine for mass consumption. How challenging is it to suite the palate of diverse people in a country such as India?

India is a country of diverse ethnicity and culture, where the taste changes every 100 kms. It is extremely challenging for companies to launch products that suit the taste of every individual. The market is continuously evolving and accordingly the manufacturers too are continuously innovating. Manufacturers are trying many things, one of them being bringing regional cuisines to the consumers.

5. How do you view the food start-ups and their ability to take risk with taste and texture?

Taste and texture are very strong attributes that start-ups look into when it comes to launching their products. For instance, start-ups in plant-based meat analogues are exploring vegan meat products which have texture like real meat. They have benchmarks like that of US based “Beyond Meat” or “Impossible Burger”. Similar is the case with start-ups in confectionery, bakery, or other F&B categories. An eggless cake manufacturer will always want to have ingredients or formulations that will be as good as egg-based cake or industry benchmark for cake in terms of texture and taste.

However, a wrong choice of Flavour(s) or Texturant(s) can have a negative impact both on the product and the image of the start-up company. Hence, to mitigate risks associated with formulation, prototype, packaging, logistics etc., most start-ups appoint distribution and formulation specialists to take care of the risks where they do not have any expertise.

6. How important is sustainable and technical expertise to IMCD while advising and supporting your customers?

Both sustainable and technical expertise are very close to IMCD group, and we want to become THE Go-To distributor for sustainable products. Recently, our IMCD Brazil team in collaboration with a key supplier, was tasked with approving an ingredient that would produce an appealing gummy with a 100% pectin base. With their expertise and innovation, the team was able to supervise trials and provide technical and commercial support, creating a gummy that was 100% pectin-based and had the desired sensory profile. Similarly in India, one of our customers wanted to develop vegan based meat analogues and reached out to us for concept development and ingredients. We introduced them to special binders such as methyl cellulose that helps the burger patty to stay intact with good freeze-thaw as well as heat stability. The customer has now commercialised this ingredient with us and his product – the vegan meat analogues has now started selling in the market.

We take pride in the technical expertise and knowledge we possess locally and within the group across all the sectors we operate. Our expertise and knowledge help us to provide sound recommendations and solutions to our esteemed customers.

7. What are your thoughts on plant-based ingredients?

Plant based ingredients have a great future in the processed food industry especially in the meat and nutrition industry. Consumers these days are extremely health conscious and are better aware of sustainability. They are looking for healthier and tastier solutions from the food industry. Success of companies like “Impossible Foods” “Beyond Meat” etc. clearly show that the consumers are choosing healthier options of plant-based meats to conventional meat. In view of the global demand, many plant-based ingredient companies are increasing their production capacities.

8. What was the extent of disruption in your business due to Covid? What did you do differently right from motivating staff to managing business?

Our staff means everything to us, they are our largest and best asset, and we take extreme pride in them. During Covid, we extended all possible support to our staff by shifting to a work from home routine and equipping them to work more seamlessly by providing extensive IT support. Their physical and mental wellbeing were taken care off through multiple webinars and panel discussions. We also extended sanitised transport facilities throughout the lockdowns for their safe commute between their home and office. We provided our employees and their families with Covid linked insurance in addition to the regular medical insurance. Moreover, we sponsored both doses of covid vaccination for all our employees and their spouses. Fun events like Housie, Power-breaks, Talent@home, etc. were organised to keep our employee’s morale high and boost their motivation levels. 

At IMCD India, we did not see any major disruption in business last year and this year has been a phenomenal year so far despite disruptions due to Covid. As for managing the business, our team carried out exhaustive discussions with our clients on their future requirements, basis which we could procure volumes from our principals despite global supply challenges. Proper inventory management and good relations with our principals and customers has resulted in an amazing year for us so far.

9. Your message to food start-ups.

India is still a virgin market in terms of processed food. There is ample and more scope for start-up companies. My message to start-up companies would be – Be creative and innovative with focus on health, nutrition, hygiene & convenience, and I am pretty sure that success will be within your reach.