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The ‘Flavour Ambassadors’ is an EFFA  multimedia project launched in 2019 and aimed at sharing the passion and expertise of European flavour professionals. Through the project we aim to give the industry a “voice” and showcase its many facades and the blend of knowledge that is needed to create flavourings that ultimately enrich our food and drinks.

The community of Flavour Ambassadors is comprised of varied industry specialists who are passionate about their profession and volunteered to take part in this EFFA project. Our Flavour Ambassadors represent the different departments of variously sized companies from all over Europe and are of different cultures andbackgrounds. In each episode of the interviews, the ambassadors show the various aspects in the creating process, explain what their role in the flavour house is, what drives and challenges them, and how their expertise contributes to the flavour and food industry in Europe and globally. With professionals ranging from regulatory to sensory and marketing departments, each focuses on their own expertise and added value and together they showcase the complexity of the flavour industry processes.

In this interview, Marketing Team Leader - Agneta Hoffmann explains how the marketing department of a flavour house detects and meets consumers’ needs.

 

Agneta Hoffmann

Marketing Team Leader

Agneta HoffmanWhat is your name and profession?

My name is Agneta Hoffmann. I am a Marketing Professional and I am leading the Flavours Marketing Team at Bell Flavors & Fragrances EMEA.

How do you explain your role in simple terms?

My role as a marketing professional within the flavour industry on the one hand consists of corporate communications for Bell as a company as well as defining and executing our marketing and brand strategy. On the other hand, I am also analysing the market dynamics, customer needs as well as consumer habits and expectations as a foundation for new developments. My aim is to improve the taste and smell of food and beverage products, but also to deliver functional benefits to the products.

How does a typical working day at work look like to you?

If you work in marketing, there is no typical working day, every day has challenges and new tasks. But on a more routine day, I usually sit together with my organisation, or cross functional teams either from marketing, R&D, sales or management and discuss consumer & product trends that are driving the market. Thus, what Bell is able to contribute in taste and smell but also functionally. It’s always an ideation process to start with. We also discuss current projects and develop new concepts for various product categories. Whether this concerns taste, or functionality. Apart from that, I am spending a lot of time carrying out market and trend research in order to understand the underlying consumer insights and predict upcoming dynamics. Those insights will then be transferred into concepts and strategies. 

How does your job contribute to developing high quality food and drinks for everybody to enjoy?

As I am constantly reflecting the consumer needs and market trends, my job does significantly contribute to developing high quality food and drinks for everybody to enjoy. It is my goal and the goal of the whole team to create solutions for the future of food and beverages and in the end, to be part of people’s everyday lives. This is based on delivering benefits for the consumer, in terms of clean labelling and healthy attributes such as reduced sugar, but also relies on selecting high quality, natural ingredients, such as botanical extracts. At the same time, it is very important to create a sense of indulgence with taste profiles, that cater to the specific demands of the consumers. And as I am a consumer on my own, I want to have both, natural and healthy products without compromising on taste. In the end, the vision of our industry is to create sustainable and future-oriented solutions for the growing needs of the food and beverage industry with a strong focus on high quality ingredients and by respecting and forecasting the needs of the consumers.

Do you predict or influence the flavour trends? How?

Finding the taste of tomorrow is very much driven by connecting the dots within trend and market research. Once you have a clear understanding of the industry and its major drivers, you become very passionate and attentive to emerging trends and changes that will lead the industry in the next few years, as you also develop an intuition for trends within taste preferences. I am dealing with consumer insights on a day to day basis, leading a team that is furthermore assigned to an individual business unit and therefore can figure out in-depth taste trends at an early stage.

There are certain flavour trends that will be driving our industry for severe years, such as the naturalness trend and the on-going trend towards ethnic-diverse cuisines. But there are also very specific flavour trends based on short-term consumer hypes and lifestyle trends, that can be predicted on a yearly basis, only. Bell therefore creates its annual flavour and trend forecast which is launched by the beginning of each year. Within this forecast, we are not only predicting major flavour trends for the upcoming period, we also try to influence the market as there are diverse possibilities to reflect trends in very specific taste creations and profiles. Our industry itself therefore is an influencer, too – contributing significantly in delivering new taste profiles based on future outlooks and market expertise.

With whom do you work? How do you perform as a team?

Being the teamleader of the marketing flavours department of course sets the frame for working closely together with the marketing specialists for each business unit of the flavours division. But at Bell, we also engage in cross-segmental teamwork, either including the cooperation with flavourists, application specialists or other functions from R&D or working together with the regulatory team, the global sales team, and management. The advantage of being a mid-tier player therefore is that we can create very flexible teams which not only bring a lot of expertise to the table, but also add diverse models of thinking. Being combined within the passion for taste, that we all share, every role within that team helps us to develop new product solutions and challenge the status quo.

What is the flavour industry for you? What is food to you?

Food to me means more than just nutritional intake. It’s an integral part of my daily life, delivering benefits in terms of indulgence, to satisfy cravings or to deliver a healthy halo. My passion for food even has evolved, since I have been working in the flavour industry. It is fascinating, how you can improve the perception of food via use of flavours and extracts – not only from a taste perspective and in terms of smell, but also for functional benefits. Moreover, I am convinced that the flavour industry plays a highly relevant role in creating sustainable solutions for the future of food.

What is it that you like most about your job?

There are several aspects I really like about my job. First of all, it’s the overall passion, creativity and innovative energy within our organisation that drives us to develop new and inspiring solutions. Second, it’s the fascination about consumer insights, to understand what drives their consumption behaviour and what kind of different needs consumers express. To combine that knowledge with market dynamics and current trends to discover future targets is what makes it so interesting for me. I furthermore enjoy to work not only in a global operating team, but also for global operating customers. Being a part of new product developments and seeing the same products being launched on the market simply is fulfilling.

What’s your main contribution in the development of flavours

Creating a deep market understanding is my day-to-day business and also my main contribution in the development of flavours. As explained, I am analysing the different markets in terms of dynamics, needs, consumer insights and taste preferences, as well as target trends. This knowledge will then be put into a measurable content and be used to evaluate segments in order to detect major possibilities for flavour development and to help our customers in creating winning consumer goods. I am anticipating trends by identifying consumer’s aspirations using macro and mega trends, insights from Bell’s global network, sensory profiles as well as regulatory needs and claims. Those detected trends will then be discussed within my organisation and be used for ideation on innovative flavour creations. We will not only use those insights for our proactive developments, but also for customer-initiated projects and product developments. This, in the end, can lead to creating taste profiles for range extensions, recipe adjustments or for developing new markets and target groups. To give an example, at the beginning of the year my team and me were analysing the cross-segmental impact of the craft movement in beverages and how this could be an innovation implication for various food categories. After figuring out the major values of this trend and the perception of the consumer, we convinced our savoury team to engage into the topic which led to the creation of very inspiring snack seasonings that now invigorate the snacking category.

What do you like about marketing in the flavour industry compared to other industries?

What I like most about marketing in the flavour industry is, that its very versatile. I am not only promoting one final product, I am covering diverse market segments creating product solutions and services. Our approach is to be our customers partner and to develop products in close cooperation, which also means that as a marketer, I am involved in many marketing and product strategies and can be creative in many ways. Furthermore, every part of marketing within the flavour industry is very consumer-related, as food and beverages in general are a highly emotional topic. I also enjoy that the flavour and FMCG industry is very future-oriented and trend-driven.

How did you discover the flavour industry yourself?

My impression of the flavour industry has always been positive. The industry itself is exceptionally forward-looking, driven by constant learnings and contributing in developments for future nutrition. I am also impressed by the way the whole industry engages in actions to increase sustainability and ensures and sets values for its employees. Additionally, this industry, contrary to many others, is very passionate and enthusiastic. The people working in this sector are fascinated by their job and aim for giving their best – either to create the most innovative products, or to ensure the utmost safety. The level of teamwork therefore is very high, creating cross-divisional engagement and collaborative efforts.

For how long have you worked in the industry? Why did you choose this career? 

I have been working in the flavour industry for more than 7 years, now. Being creative as well as analytical has always been one of my main qualities, so it affected my career and future plans at a very early stage. Working in marketing combines all the characteristics that drive me: creativity in terms of developing new marketing, brand or product strategies, but also analytics for evaluating the markets, consumer trends and insights. One of the advantages of working in marketing is that you always learn something new and can adapt to change at a very early stage. You are furthermore able to work on very diverse projects. This makes my job varied and fascinating. My decision to work for Bell and within the FMCG sector was equally driven by my high interest and passion for food and the way, great tasting and functional products can influence consumers sense of wellbeing. Thus, it’s basically about bringing together the two most favourable features for me: creativity and food.

Which training did you receive before and during your career in the flavour industry?

When I started my career in the flavour industry, I was extensively trained on the creation, production and regulatory as well as quality ensuring methods of flavours and extracts. At Bell we also take part in internal sensory trainings each week, by default. Hence, ensuring that the whole team has the same understanding of taste descriptors and raw materials as base of our industry. Being an integral part of our corporate values, Bell also offers internal and external trainings for me and my colleagues on project management, application technology, regulatory changes and others. In addition to these standard trainings, I am able to take part in various leadership trainings, as Bell implemented a dedicated career path programme. This represents a great opportunity for professional development and constantly extending my knowledge. It further provides an important foundation to keep track in this fast-moving industry.

Would you choose the same career path again? Why?

From what I experienced in my career, so far, I would choose the same path again. Working in this industry is not only exciting due to the variety of fields you can explore, it is also driven by constant changes, new trends and needs – which is a main driving force for marketers and creative people. And above all, it’s an industry everyone can relate to, as we are all consumers on our own.