Homegrown PT Foodex Inti Ingredients (FOODEX) is a leading seasonings and food ingredients manufacturer in Indonesia. Despite the challenges posed by the new normal, FOODEX has continued to pump in new investments and focus on supplying its customers with the right ingredients following the constantly evolving consumer demand during this period.
FOODEX continues to invest during the pandemic
Although the pandemic set and create a visible impact in Indonesia during the mid-2020, FOODEX has continued to acquire FSSC 22000:2005 in that same year, thereby effectively placing it as one of the top tier Seasonings and Ingredients manufacturer from Indonesia.
In 2020, FOODEX also invested in a state-of-the-art pasteuriser, and with this new technology, it now has 2 heat treatment capability, one is retort and the other being a pasteuriser. Another investment that it did was in acquiring a small sachet machine, which allows it to offer a convenient single serving portioning to its F&B partners. FOODEX is able to adjust to the changing demand of its customers particularly during the pandemic by investing in the right equipments. Food safety certification that it earned in 2020 is also timely as both customers and consumers are increasingly looking for products that are safer to consume and sourced from a facility that ensures proper safety and hygiene for its workers, workplace and its end products.
Growing focus on Fresh Natural Ingredients
The pandemic has certainly led FOODEX to focus more on processing Fresh Natural Ingredients. This is in line with consumer perception that ‘natural’ is always better, safer and healthier. The products that come out from this processing is in the form of cooking paste and sambals (traditional chilli condiment), an important constituent found in a typical Indonesian meal or food.
The advantage of FOODEX is that it is located in Indonesia where the Spice Islands are, thereby supplying it with unlimited variety of herbs and spices, and enabling the company to source for the freshest materials for its products. For example, chillies can be sourced from Central Java and Bogor; Shallots from Brebes Central Java, and spices from Belitung islands. Richard Kusuma, Sales Director of FOODEX said, “To have a stable supply of quality raw materials, we prefer to work directly with the farmers. We do the transfer of knowledge to the farmers, so they have more knowledge in term of technology on how to standardise their operations.”
Once the raw materials arrived in FOODEX, it is further processed into powder or paste form, meaning they are either converted into Seasonings or in Sauce / Sambal condiments. The demand for these simple solutions have increased dramatically from both manufacturing and food services because during the pandemic, consumers prefer to have more natural solutions.
Richard added, “Our partners that are interested in the new solutions come from the Snacks, Processed Meat and Food Service segments. For the food manufacturing partners, they can have the advantage of ordering in big bulk, whilst Food Service partners prefer the products in small sachets. For both packaging sizes, we have them ready in FOODEX.”
FOODEX employs the use of a large cooker to process the fresh materials and then sterilise them into aluminium packaging via the retort or pasteurise process. Briefly, the retort process is sterilisation using a high temperature process, in which the filled aluminium pouch will be heated in the autoclave machine for certain time temperature combination to ensure that it is sterile. In addition, the pasteurisation process also uses lower time temperature combination for high acidity and low water activity content products. This option is available in both bulk or single sachet servings.
For Indonesian sambals, FOODEX currently has a product library of more than 30 sambals although in reality, Indonesia has more than 300 varieties of sambal. As such, FOODEX has ample room for growth in terms of variety.
Sambal production – a chef culinary journey
Manufacturing sambal is not as easy as one might think. It involves extensive R&D, with FOODEX chefs doing the culinary journey to explore the different types of sambals in the country. Richard said, “They visit the places and cities that produce the sambals, and immerse themselves into the rich culture of making them from scratch by hand and tasting them.” Some of the sambal varieties that FOODEX chef has explored include Sambal Matah from Bali, Sambal Rica or Sambal Woku from Manado, and Sambal Bawang from Surabaya.
Each sambal will have their own unique taste specific to the local cities’ taste bud. He added, “Once our team found delicious and tasty sambals, they will then have to translate them to a taste that is acceptable for the general consumers. They will also need to translate the production from traditional process into standard manufacturing. Once we have developed the products, then we will promote them to our customers so they can launch it together with their creation. We often call them Sambal Nusantara meaning the Archipelago Sambal, because Indonesia has many islands from Sabang (in Aceh) until Merauke (in Papua).”
Sambals produced by FOODEX has a shelf life of up to 1 year in room temperature and is popular with the food services as topping or dipping ingredients, as well as for manufacturers from the snacks and processed meat industries.
FOODEX looking into export to the US
Currently, its Natural Processed products are well accepted domestically and in neighbouring countries. It is in the midst of introducing these products to the US market. Research conducted by FOODEX showed that US consumers are eager to try and explore exotic spicy food from Asia, and “we are confident that our Sambal and Sauces will be well accepted there.” Based on an earlier report in 2019, up to 16% of American consumers were aware of sambal, with 7% having tried it before.
FOODEX also produces Indonesian cooking paste, which has gained tremendous interest lately. “While our chefs and R&D team explore the local sambals, they’re also introduced to the different regional cooking and tradition. They will then bring the experiences to our Marketing, and then formulate a prototype based on the research that they gathered. Popular flavors that FOODEX have created include Rendang, Soto, Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) or Satay Peanut Sauce, which are some of the delicious Indonesian flavors that are already known to the world.
Growing demand from the Food Services
FOODEX also worked closely with domestic small & medium-sized (SME) home cooking / catering / chain restaurants with the goal to elevate their current operation.
Richard said, “We are developing many premixes like soup broth and base seasonings that can be used to standardise and elevate their process so they can have a standard, safe and controllable (in terms of quality and consistency) food products. This segment is called UMKM or SME, where usually the restaurants are owned by mom & pop stores but they want to upgrade their food quality from home cooking to restaurant equivalent.
FOODEX seasonings, sauces, sambals or condiments can be catered to everyone requirements, and they are natural products with no artificial preservatives.
FOODEX working closely with partners; ensure strict safety protocol at workplace
COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to a food/ingredient manufacturer especially in Indonesia. To overcome the challenges and succeed in this market, FOODEX adopts an open communication with its partners. “We are there to listen and to support our partners in any way, be it to manage their stocks, to have a buffer in our place or to produce urgently for their needs.”
At the same time, FOODEX also ensures the safety and health of all its employees by implementing strict protocols and measurements. “This way we can ensure that supply to our customers are not disrupted despite the logistic and production challenges faced by many food and ingredients processors during this pandemic period,” added Richard.
The Future: Plant-Based Meat, Natural Ingredients, Fusion Food
Apart from natural ingredients, the company is also now seriously looking at the up and coming plant-based meat category. According to Richard, the company’s R&D is already developing several prototypes but no further details were provided.
Demand for natural processed ingredients also grow during the pandemic as consumers prefer to consume natural products which they perceive as safer and healthy.
New trends are also developing as a result of the pandemic and this include proliferation of traditional ‘nostalgic’ flavors that reminded consumers of their grandma’s cooking. As people spend more time at home due to lockdowns, they have more free time to explore traditional cooking, and even share their food online with their families and friends.
The future is still uncertain but FOODEX predicts that the pandemic has made “each country to explore and value their own traditional foods. Local foodies and millennials have also ventured deeper to understand their own local cuisines. This rising trend has led to many food manufacturers and food service operators to add local taste, flavors or menus to their offerings.”
Richard concluded that “when the pandemic becomes endemic, there will be more fusion of local with international flavors.” For example, FOODEX has launched 2 types of Korean topokki in sauce and powder seasonings for restaurants in Indonesia. This topokki is unique to Indonesia as it has its own ‘fusion’ flavor so that it can be well-accepted by domestic consumers. This success might probably follow the same old success of ‘Rendang’ Burger which has been launched umpteen times in many established food joints in countries both inside and outside Indonesia.
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