It is vital that the yeast industry is not forgotten in European sugar and energy policies if Euro-firms are to remain competitive on an increasingly international stage, according to the Confederation of European Union Yeast Manufacturers (COFALEC).
Marc Casier, the newly re-elected president of the confederation, told Food Navigator that the EU yeast industry faced many challenges, ranging from availability of raw materials to meeting industry and consumer expectations for safe and nutritious food.
He said the abolishment of the sugar quota by 2020 posed a concern for the sector as sugar is its main raw material. He said this, as well as European policies on energy use, could well determine the industry’s ability to remain competitive as overseas players from markets like China gained notable momentum.
Casier said that it was increasingly important for the food industry as a whole to maintain and strengthen its relationships with the new Commission as it "faced major changes to the food supply chain".
He flagged the abolishment of the sugar quota system as principle amongst these changes. “Yeast is grown on a base of sugar and it is therefore essential that we have a sustainable, safe and cost effective supply of such a key raw material,” he said.
Last year the European Council issued a mandate to scrap EU sugar quotas by 2017 , which was then delayed until 2020. Some say ending the quota will enable producers to meet demand – which currently exceeds production – and therefore lower prices of the commodity. However, others have expressed concern that abolishing the quotas would concentrate control of the sugar supply in the hands of a few big firms.
Casier said questions remained about how this would play out for the yeast industry. "Will there be enough raw material? Can we buy on the international market?"
A world view
Casier insisted a global stance was crucial for the European market since it exported about a third of its one million tonnes of annual yeast production to countries outside of the Union. He added that these points would be the basis of his three-year plan for the association.
He said a number of Chinese companies were creeping up the yeast ranks, but that the biggest global yeast player was French firm Lesaffre. In terms of per-capita users, Germany came out on top globally, although China would likely top the tables if this was calculated by quantity consumed alone, he said. Although France may be expected to figure highly in this ranking, in fact Eastern European countries like Poland were eating more products like bread per capita.
This month, the federation announced the addition of Croatia to its membership, after the country gained entrance into the European Union in 2013. Casier said the new member wanted to “integrate better”, as well as gain support on the regulations it must now adhere to.
Casier said that Europe’s regulation on corporate energy allowances designed to tackle emissions were “much more, shall we say, severe” than elsewhere in the world.
“I fully agree that we have to set the highest environmental standards, but we have to maintain competitiveness,” he said.