Back to basics with FrieslandCampina Middle East

by Patrick Ryan | Published 1 year ago

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While the world goes crazy for charcoal ice cream and plant-based “dairy”, FrieslandCampina Middle East is revolutionising a kitchen staple – cream. Stefan Hoonhoud, business development manager, Friesland Campina Middle East, speaks to Patrick Ryan about the regional launch of Debic and creating a fool-proof solution for chefs. Words by Melanie Mingas

Stefan Hoonhoud, business development manager, Friesland Campina Middle East

Stefan Hoonhoud, business development manager, Friesland Campina Middle East

Dairy, in all its forms, features heavily in 2018’s major food trend predictions. From charcoal infusions to vegan turmeric ice cream and protein fortified deserts, the overriding theme is naughty and nice. However, while the world goes crazy for cream, one dairy manufacturer is going back to basics.

In 2018, FrieslandCampina Middle East will bring three new dairy products to the regional foodservice market: Culinaire Original, Stand & Overrun and Whipped Cream with Sugar.

Designed by chefs for chefs, the products reduce waste and free culinary teams to be creative in the most testing of environments.

Whether for sweet, savoury, hot or cold, as a base ingredient or a garnish, each creams is designed to provide superior performance and taste.

Stefan Hoonhoud, business development manager, FrieslandCampina Middle East, explains: “This market is dependent on an army of line chefs. If you can offer a product that is high quality and can be whipped or whisked into a sauce, without splitting when it meets acidity, the senior chefs are happy.”

Despite the prominence and long history of fresh cream, innovation has not kept pace with chef creativity and each different use of cream comes with its own set of challenges.

For example, there is not only the issue of availability of fresh cream in the UAE but skill requirements are also higher. Heat can very quickly ruin a dish by over-boiling and curdling, while acidity and alcohol can split fresh cream. Alternative products, such as vegetable fat mixes or DCA cream, don’t offer the same taste profile as fresh or UHT cream and often lack flavour when used in sauces.

With fresh whipping cream, spoilage and waste pose a risk as it is easy to over-whip. Further, fresh and UHT cream that has been whipped, can often be affected by the heat in the kitchen causing it to melt and collapse.

Hoonhoud continues: “Dairy is a core kitchen staple for the majority of operators and chefs and there is complex range and choice within the category – fresh, UHT, DCA, cooking cream, and so on. The category is highly price sensitive while at the same time quality of that supply is a concern for operators.

“Working with chefs, we have created multi-purpose cooking creams that stay fresher for longer, with unique recipes that remove the risks of cooking and whipping to reduce spoilage and waste.”

From grass to plate

Friesland Campina will bring three products from the Debic range to the Middle East market in 2018.

Debic Culinaire Original is a high quality cooking cream, regarded as one of the best on the market. With a rich and creamy taste, it contains 20% milk fat. Boasting unrivalled cooking functionalities, Culinaire Original does not curdle or separate, it thickens rapidly and is freeze-thaw resistant. It is suitable for warm and cold applications, in sauces, dressings and refinement of soups.

Hoonhoud comments: “When you’re working in the kitchen and you add some cream to a dish, it shouldn’t coagulate or split… it should be fool-proof!”

Debic Stand & Overrun, does exactly what it says on the bottle. A high quality cream specifically for baking and whipping, at 35% fat it blends high yields and excellent firmness, is freeze-thaw stable and offers an average overrun of 160%. Developed specifically for pastry applications and decoration, it is suitable for use in piping bags and whipping machines.

Hoonhoud adds: “It’s all in the name – the perfect product with perfect structure.”

The third product, Whipped Cream with Sugar, offers real cream in an easy to use can, designed for a high performance kitchen.

All three products are created by chefs for chefs and are exclusively retailed for foodservice professionals.

Hoonhoud explains: “At Debic we work closely with our member dairy farmers, development teams and culinary advisors to manage the whole process from grass to plate. Only by having full control of the supply chain do we have full control over what goes into our products and thus we can guarantee that they are of the highest quality.”

Full cream ahead

While current focus falls on penetrating the market and building critical mass, in future there is scope to bring FrieslandCampina’s range of desserts to the region, which includes crème brûlée and panna cotta. The range has enjoyed runaway success across Europe since its launch.

Hoonhoud says: “Aside from the product innovations, we want to expand geographically. The UAE is a gateway to the Middle East and we consider it our home market in the region. We have our office here and we have been doing business with our other brands like Rainbow and Frico for a long time. Now, via our distributor MH Enterprise, we have started to sell our food service range directly to hotels, restaurants and catering companies. We are now in conversation with various other distributors in the region for foodservice and with good reach in the HORECA channel.”

Debic is a market-leading brand in Europe, with its prominence in cooking schools helping its reputation among chefs. However, brand awareness in the expatriate cities of the Gulf provides its own set of challenges, as chefs rarely work in the same country as they were born and educated.

In this region, the idea is to build “critical mass” with the new products to allow for larger deliveries and, therefore, a more efficient import processes. The marketing plan includes working with new hotels and restaurants, as well as established properties.

Hoonhoud elaborates: “We sell to 4-star and 5-star hotels and we aim for the upper segment of the market because they still see value in dairy products and don’t want alternatives.”

He continues: “We have a high quality, premium product to offer but it also comes at a premium price and it can be a challenge to educate people on higher quality products, especially in the region at the moment – occupancy is slightly lower and procurement budgets are tighter.

“At the same time, when you sell to the chef they can really appreciate the quality, whereas procurement managers look at the cost. You need to convince them.”

As always, the launches are supported by a number of masterclasses, tastings and demonstrations – a crucial step in explaining the importance of quality over unit price.

Hoonhoud comments: “Whenever people want to have a conversation about how they can use Debic, We have our own chefs and ambassadors who are ready to do that.”

According to a study by IMARC, the global fresh cream market increased by a CAGR of 2.3% from 2009 to 2016, driven by tandem growth in the food manufacturing sector. In the GCC, where cream features heavily in many recipes, Al Masah Capital calculates the foodservice sector is on track to witness values of $29.3 billion by 2020, driven in part, by the development of restaurants in new hotels and retail spaces. Under such conditions, the demand for quality, natural cream is likely to soar.

Hoonhoud concludes: “The success of a professional product is underpinned by its ability to excel in a high pressure kitchen. This is driven by our core value of delivering better nutrition to the world and a good living for our farmers for now and generations to come.”

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