Balchem develops and produces premium, specialty ingredients used by food and beverage manufacturers in centrally located manufacturing facilities. “At Balchem, we are committed to making the world a healthier place by delivering trusted, innovative, and science-based solutions to the nutrition, food, sterilization, and energy markets,” says the company.
That may sound simple, but these markets cover a staggering amount of territory. The nutrition and food segments supply innovative ingredients and vital nutrients to food, pharmaceutical, and supplement manufacturers.
It all began in 1967 when chemist Dr. Herbert Weiss contacted chemist and inventor Dr. Leslie Balassa about his invention for coating particles to permit measured nutrient delivery. Dr. Balassa’s patented microencapsulation process led to time-release medicine and valuable treatments for pain relief. But together with a group of investors and entrepreneurs, Balchem would develop many a wide range of encapsulation applications in the years to come.
Microencapsulation uses a proprietary process to apply many thin layers of food-safe coating material to surround and protect the active ingredient until it is ready for use. In pharmaceutical products, this coating dissolves at a certain rate so that the medication can be used by the body gradually, in a more even dose.
The food industry is where this technology really shines, enhancing everything from candy and baked goods to seasoning blends, processed meats, and dough. The process reduces clumping by preventing some ingredients from absorbing humidity, maximizes flavor and shelf life by protecting flavor compounds so that they do not evaporate or break down via heat or oxidation, and can even be used to enhance flavor. Encapsulation can also be used to fortify processed food with vitamins and minerals.
Another food industry term that might mystify the layman is ‘inclusions,’ and this is another area of expertise for Balchem. These processed food ingredients bring spots of flavor, texture, or color to a finished food product. If you have ever had a berry muffin from a coffee shop, you may have noticed that, unlike those in a homemade muffin, these processed berries do not bleed color throughout your treat.
The food inclusions market is booming, particularly for baked goods as consumers show an increased inclination to experiment with new flavors. Customized, processed inclusions are convenient value additions for Balchem’s bakery customers and offer consistent results as well as visual appeal.
Some of Balchem’s product lines include BakeShure® baking ingredients, MeatShure®, ConfecShure®, Jerzee® creaming agents, Richmix® premium creamer, Centennial powdered fats, and more. BakeShure products improve the functional properties of a finished food by optimizing pH, controlling moisture or leavening action, and increasing shelf life. Lipid Nutritional Systems and Creamer Products can be also used to add color, taste, or aroma and enhance textures to improve the entire consumer experience, making creamy foods taste and feel creamier and richer or making foamy whipped toppings feel foamier and fluffier.
The company has been growing as a result of customers appreciating the usefulness of these ingredients. Several recent strategic acquisitions have caused it to expand even more.
In 2014, to complement its existing product lines and strengthen its market position, it acquired the aptly-named SensoryEffects, a manufacturer of award-winning, customized food and beverage ingredients for multinational food and beverage companies.
“The company’s solutions enhance vital sensory properties such as taste, texture, solubility, aroma, and color that make its customers’ products more desirable to the end consumer. SensoryEffects is a leader in powder, solid, and liquid flavor systems, creamer and specialty emulsified powders, cereal-based products, and other functional ingredient food and beverage delivery systems,” said the food and beverage industry news source FoodIngredientsFirst.com regarding the acquisition.
In its next move to expand its already impressive line-up of offerings, Balchem acquired Innovative Food Processors (IFP) Inc., an industry leader with nearly four decades of food ingredient experience. Balchem’s adaptability, technology, and manufacturing capabilities grew significantly since, in addition to microencapsulated food and nutrition ingredients, IFP also made agglomerated ingredients. These ingredients connect particles in such a way that they dissolve readily and smoothly in liquids, a characteristic highly desirable for drink mixes or powdered sauce or gravy packets.
“We are very excited to bring IFP’s ingredient technology, processing capabilities and product portfolio into our company. This acquisition creates a broader ingredient-systems platform for Balchem that will help our customers improve their consumer food and beverage offerings,” said Balchem’s Vice President and General Manager, in a press release at the time.
The most recent acquisition was of Zumbro River Brand, Inc. in 2019. Zumbro specialized in specialty extruded and unique high-protein snacks, cereals, and crisps and also created agglomerated and extruded ingredients for foods and beverages, adding further manufacturing capabilities to Balchem’s arsenal.
Following these additions, Balchem has integrated these acquisitions into one Balchem serving the Human Nutrition and Health markets.
Despite the incredible array of existing products, the company never ceases its research and development, actively partnering with its customers on creating new products with a high level of customization. Over 1,200 people work in more than twenty-six locations sales offices, manufacturing plants, and research and development laboratories to achieve this.
“We provide the service, quality, and technology that enable our customers to win with their customers,” says the company, and it means business. Customers can approach with a vague idea of what they want to achieve and be dazzled by the results or come in with requirements aimed at specific markets like the GMO-free or ‘clean label’ products made for companies whose customers want food without synthetic ingredients.
Balchem prides itself on making the development process as easy and painless as possible by first thoroughly understanding its customers’ objectives and market needs before developing prototypes using its advanced manufacturing capabilities. Low minimum order quantities, excellent customer responsiveness, and getting the product to market quickly all add to the reasons that companies choose Balchem.
Successful ingredients are about more than technical skills, however. Conducting ongoing market research and watching food trends with a keen eye is part of the process.
A number of taste trends are driving ingredient development at the moment. People who are trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle are reducing sugars in their diets, so natural sources of sweetness are in demand. There is a growing market for meal replacement drinks which means that these need palatable flavor bases.
The desire for novel flavors is a huge market driver, with younger people more likely to want to try something different. This has led to flavors inspired by exotic cuisine from around the world – and some unusual combinations. The big trend right now is spiciness combined with sweetness.
Balchem came up with one such combination of sweet and heat that proved to be award-winning: its ‘Spicy Mango Raspberry Fiesta’ is a blend of sweet mango with a kick from red pepper to offset the sweetness and a raspberry swirl for a dash of color. That flavor won the annual most innovative ice cream prototype honor at the 2018 Innovative Ice Cream Flavor Competition trade show hosted by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). And this is not the first recognition of the company’s innovative spirit.
Coming up with new ideas is something that never stops here. In November of last year, the company stated that it would be expanding its dairy since yogurt and similar products continue to be popular and its expertise with ice cream flavor proficiency is readily transferable to this related market. It recently released a new avocado creamer for those who do not consume dairy, and a coffee creamer for customers who are on the Keto diet. This is made from MCT oil (extracted from palm and coconut oils) and collagen.
More growth is on the horizon through both further acquisitions and product line expansions as Balchem carries on in its quest to continuously improve the food experience.