The word ‘premiumisation’ has crept into food and beverage literature and has been used extensively to describe a movement in these sectors, but what does this word actually mean?   

Companies in these sectors have manufactured, sold and delivered the highest quality offerings with the technology available and have built their reputation by doing so. However, at some time in the last 15 to 20 years, there has been a paradigm shift due to consumers seeking lower priced products manufactured by counties with lower costs and hence driving up demand. So, which came first, quality changes or consumer demand? This is classic chicken or the egg?  

Whatever caused this shift, retailers were taking advantage by placing these lower priced items increasingly at the front of the shop in order to lure customers in. Consumers were delighted to see prices come down as they were thinking ‘why go for the higher priced items when the lower cost version will do?’ To keep pace, existing manufacturers scrambled to release budget options which ultimately meant more sacrifices (often in quality of flavours, ingredients and packaging) in order to compete.   

With the input from the Millennial generation and aided by a focus on health and wellbeing brought on by the pandemic, there was a significant movement towards higher quality products – better flavours and nutrition from ‘all natural’ ingredients.  These products not only have to taste better and be healthier for you, but they also have to look superior to the budget options. This is premiumisation: products that look, taste and are better for you. These are all items that consumers are willing to pay extra for.   

Flavourtech, an Australian manufacturer of food and beverage process systems, has been assisting manufacturers around the world in providing the means to produce the best quality with the highest levels of natural flavours and active ingredients for over 35 years.  Examples of such products are in the instant coffee, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee and tea, low and no-alcohol wines and beers production, and the natural flavours industry. Flavourtech realised early on that the best way to obtain the best from products, whether it be flavour or active ingredients is to obtain it from processing the raw material where it is freshest and best (eg. flavour from roasted beans, tea leaves, flavour recovery and protection for award winning wines and beers). Their process involves capturing these notes as early as possible, storing and protecting them, by utilising much shorter residence times to reduce the thermal impact and so maintain the quality.  

Take for example coffee, in particular, instant and RTD coffee, where there are many in the market.  It is consumed either hot or cold, socially at work or at home, or on the move. So, what is premiumisation of instant / RTD coffee? The answer is capturing the real and natural roast and ground (R&G) flavours from the roasted bean and carrying them forward to the end product, eg to produce a higher quality powder or canned coffee with greater flavour.  

Flavourtech’s core technology, the Spinning Cone Column (SCC), part of the Integrated Extraction System (IES), is used to capture these R&G notes from the roasted beans themselves (where it is freshest and best) by the use of food grade steam. These natural notes are then placed back at the end of the process, intact, not damaged in any way from the rest of the manufacturing process, to provide the highest quality instant or RTD coffee. This means that the single origin flavours of the coffee such as Ethiopian or Guatemalan are retained and can be tasted in the final instant coffee.  

The Flavourtech IES process can and does assist instant coffee producers maintain the flavours from the raw material with the ability to control temperature and thus reducing the thermal impact of the coffee. The unique processing involves: 

  • Roasted coffee beans are milled under a blanket of cold water through the Slurry Preparation Module. The water acts as a carrier for these volatile aroma components and carries (with the slurry) to the Spinning Cone Column (SCC). 
  • Brewing or extraction temperatures of 100oC occur in the SCC, for only 30 seconds (compare this to other techniques where it could be in the many minutes to hours). The slurry, consisting of the beans and water all pass through from the top of the column to the bottom in 30 seconds, steam under vacuum is used to brew the coffee as well strip out the natural aroma from the beans and slurry where it leaves the SCC, condensed and stored in a chilled vessel. These are the natural and desirable R&G notes. 
  • Post the SCC, if further high temperature extraction is required then their Rotating Disc Column (RDC) can help, to further extract out the solids. But the time of extraction is only 20 minutes, compared to traditional processes that can take hours. The process involves rotating baffles and a continuous flow of the coffee slurry, all performed post the SCC where the R&G flavour notes have been previously removed. 
  • The slurry then enters a Clarification Module to separate the coffee beans from the aqueous extract.  
  • This extract can then be used for RTD with the natural flavours (captured as shown above) added back to produce a full-flavoured beverage or can be concentrated through Flavourtech’s unique Centritherm® evaporator (CT) to produce a concentrate. The CT has only one second heat contact time on the product and the low evaporation temperature of 50°C means no damage to the tea/coffee colour, bioactives or the flavours.
  • The coffee concentrate can also be mixed with the aroma and spray or freeze dried to produce a powder with the highest level of R&G coffee flavours. 
  • The IES can also handle cold-brew coffee quickly, is automated and continuously producing consistent results. 

Premiumisation not only offers more choice to the consumer but it also offers a higher quality of product, better nutrition and better flavours. The winner from this is evident – it is the consumer themselves.  

There are manufacturers already with the latest technologies to meet this movement head-on, providing people with more choice, more health and with better flavours. If you would like to be one of the premiumisation leaders then please contact Flavourtech.   

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