Lesaffre, a family-owned French company best known for Red Star yeast, acquired Delavau in July 2018 for an undisclosed amount. The two businesses are “almost fully integrated” and finalizing details of naming conventions, according to Bill Hanes, VP of marketing and strategy at Lesaffre.
Before purchasing the New Jersey-based company, Lesaffre employed only one food scientist, Hanes told us in September at IBIE in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now the company has a whole team of scientists dedicated to research and development.
Delavau’s marketing and commercial coordinator Barbara Banko added that, by “combining the art and the science,” they can more holistically address many contemporary baking challenges.
Every day, more than one billion people eat or drink a product made with Lesaffre ingredients, continued Hanes, and these days, those consumers are increasingly demanding those products be made ethically and transparently.
From clean label to ‘clear label’
“Bakers want to understand what they can do to improve their products, clean up their labels and get away from the old way of doing things,” he said. “They don’t have the resources for [this research], so food scientists play a critical role.”
Clean label “is still huge,” agreed Banko, but manufacturers are also seeking gluten-free and vegan solutions – two complex issues for products traditionally laden with wheat and dairy.
The broader packaged food industry is ‘on the edge’ of what Hanes called as a ‘clear label’ revolution.
“We’re just really ramping up. I think it’s something you’re going to have to do,” he said. “We already do this stuff, preach this stuff, live this stuff. For us it’s just getting the message out.”
Trending in bakery: pizza and indulgence
Consumer interest in bread is growing – but in specific ways, according to Hanes.
“People are starting to treat bread a little bit like chocolate: they’re cutting it out of their diets, but when they want it, they want something good.”
That shift has buoyed craft pizza and sweet baked goods.
In the wider world of bread, he sees a seismic shift happening:
You've got to think of it like beer. Bread has gotten very industrialized, like beer got very industrialized… flavor left beer, so it opened up the opportunity for all these local breweries to pop up everywhere.
Bread is going through the same thing right now. You’re starting to see a lot more artisans, a lot more craft opportunities, a lot more in-store stuff.
With pizza, you’re starting to see the same exact thing. Instead of big industrial pizzas, the local guys are the [ones] doing different things. Those guys are really starting to explode now.
- Bill Hanes, Lesaffre
Delavau has turned its attention to pizza, notably through the development of a technology that allows frozen pizza producers to omit the susceptor board – the paper circle that allows the consumer to stick a frozen pie straight into the microwave. (Susceptor boards are typically covered in a metallised film that absorbs electromagnetic energy and converts it to heat.) Without it, crusts become soggy. However, Delavau has developed its Encore Plus range of calcium and enzymatic ingredients, which allows producers to make a pizza dough that will crisp in the microwave.
The Encore Plus blend, customized for each product, can proffer a crust with "a tender bite with a slightly crispy edge," Mary Thomas, senior research and development manager at Delavau, told us. "While it is impossible to get all the crispiness which results from using a susceptor board, this technology from Lesaffre yields a product with a pleasant bite and chew and some crispness without using [the] board."
Additionally, eliminating the susceptor board not only saves money but also reduces waste.
The company also works with chain pizzerias, including regional chains, to develop dough consistency across stores.