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Mega merger two years on: IFF blurs F&B with biotech in gut health advancements

January 9, 2022
Consumer Packaged Goods

Two years after International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF)’s landmark acquisition of DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences (N&B), the company is exploring a wealth of cross-category synergies.

Under its new tagline “Where science and creativity meet,” the company is finding new applications for legacy ingredients and blurring the lines between supplements and F&B.

Gut health is one area of prominent focus as consumers adopted more rigorous hygiene habits during COVID-19, which may have impacted microbiome biodiversity.

FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with Sebastien Guery, vice president for health at IFF, about the company’s new value proposition following the merger, which was officially completed in February.

Through IFF’s acquisition of Frutarom in 2018, it acquired a portfolio of ingredients that provide health benefits, the plant extract business, lipids for infant formula, among others.

The acquisition of DuPont N&B brought biotech components to the table.

The joined portfolios give the new IFF company leadership positions within the Taste, Texture, Scent, Nutrition, Enzymes, Cultures, Soy Proteins and Probiotics ingredient categories.

“The number of industries we are going to impact with this new company is mind-boggling,” Guery states.

Advancing a broad portfolio
While some targeted divestments may come if it seems suitable, they will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Guery affirms that IFF’s strength right now is its ability to serve the broadest portfolio of ingredients.

Exemplifying the scope of products, Guery notes that IFF’s combined portfolios can provide every ingredient in a plant-based burger, right down to the sauce.

“We have emulsifiers and food enzymes that go into the bun – the flavoring and texturizing ingredients to give it a soft feel. Then we have all the ingredients for a vegan patty based on plant proteins.”

In another example, the company provides stabilizers, texturizers and microbes, which can formulate fermented dairy or non-dairy beverages.

“Unless you buy all the segments – like we have – it’s extremely difficult to replicate [this multi-segment breadth of ingredients and technology] by only bolt-on acquisitions.”

A broad portfolio within a single company also provides cross-category opportunities that might have been overlooked in strategic partnerships alone, suggests Guery.

IFF has access to a wide range of plant extracts, microbes, plus prebiotics fibers and human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that it manufactures and develops.

“We should not underestimate the spillover knowledge that can happen as a result of a merger,” noting clear synergies between F&B and supplements that “otherwise would have been missed.”

It is also assessing existing products in a more health-focused light, particularly those that may influence gut health, immunity and metabolic health.

Bridging food and supplements
HMOs are one example of an ingredient with crossover between food and supplements.

“HMOs are an important part of mother’s milk and if infant formula wants to mimic natural breast milk as closely as possible, HMOs will need to be included.”

But its ability to restore and maintain a healthy microbiome is also being explored in adults.

“There were a couple of articles on the use of HMOs in adults that reduced the dysbiotic state.”

In a similar vein, the company is seeing some ingredients widely used in food – such as its Litesse polydextrose from the heritage DuPont N&B portfolio – gain potential applications in the health space.

The ingredient is recognized as a fiber in the US and it has been shown to help rebalance the microbiome, says Guery.

“It also increases the production of butyric acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and other properties that are of interest in the context of human health – and all this with a fiber we’ve been manufacturing for decades.”

Going for the gut In the mid to long-term, IFF will dive further into projects on next-generation probiotics and expand its clinical trial pipeline. With its connections to other systems in the body, gut health presents broad opportunities.

“Gut microbes modulate human health way beyond the gut. They have the capability to impact brain health but also immune health in the case of viral infections. The gut is also relevant in the case of other types of immune-related illnesses such as allergies,” he adds.

Guery underscores that gut health is particularly relevant now in light of new hygiene habits adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We tend to meet less, wash our hands more and use disinfectants constantly. This helps to prevent the spread of pathogens from one individual to another. The bad news is that good microbes are also transferred this way.”

There are now concerns, points out Guery, that these measures may decrease microbial diversity and inadvertently lead to a rise in chronic illness.

Investing in microbiome expertise
Looking to understand these mechanisms more deeply, IFF invests in professional knowledge sharing through its microbiome venture, an initiative across academia and industry to accelerate microbiome expertise.

The company is also making use of advanced analytical tools, such as artificial intelligence, to speed up its development cycle.

“Some of these new tools have allowed us to, not only identify the right organisms faster, but also to look at how we can correlate these organisms with human efficacy and better understand their mechanism of action.”

“Probiotics is definitely a strong focus on our side, but if you start assembling all the ingredients, you realize we have a unique opportunity to potentially transform an industry.”

Innova Market Insights ranked “Gut Glory” sixth in its Top Ten Trends for 2022, emphasizing F&B’s increased focus on microbiome-promoting ingredients.

To read more from this exclusive interview with Sebastien Guery, see page 66 of The World of Food Ingredients.

By Missy Green


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