DSM acquires dairy flavoring maker First Choice Ingredients for $453M

Dive Brief:

  • Royal DSM will acquire U.S. dairy-based savory flavorings company First Choice Ingredients for $453 million. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter and is subject to regulatory approval.
  • Through this acquisition, DSM gets a company with an estimated $75 million sales in 2021. It also takes control of three manufacturing facilities belonging to First Choice Ingredients and its approximately 100 employees. First Choice Ingredients, in turn, is likely to see growth accelerate through existing DSM supply chains allowing it to expand outside of the U.S.  
  • In recent years, DSM has strengthened its position in trendy categories. It acquired the flavor and fragrance bio-based intermediates business of Amyris in March to build its sustainable aroma business. In 2019, it bought Dutch heritage semi-hard cheese cultures company Royal CSK, bolstering its position in dairy, which is DSM’s single largest segment in food and beverages.

Dive Insight:

First Choice Ingredients is a developer of clean-label concentrated dairy flavors created through natural fermentation and reaction technologies. The ingredients are made for use in both conventional and plant-based dairy applications. This acquisition is in line with both current consumer trends as well as DSM’s growth strategy to create innovative, sustainable ingredients. 

Plant-based products are a popular choice for consumers looking for more environmentally friendly purchases. Dairy alternatives are a key category. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the dairy industry contributes 2% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. FCI’s dairy-based flavorings are concentrated to be 5 to 20 times stronger than the raw ingredients, meaning manufacturers can flavor more with less and reduce their overall impact on the environment.

Similar to sustainable food items, those that have clean labels have seen a surge in interest, which the pandemic has only amplified. Almost two-thirds of consumers say they try to choose foods made from recognizable ingredients, according to research from the International Food Information Council published in June. FCI taps into this trend with the kind of solutions that have become the industry standard rather than as a differentiating quality.

With such a large population of shoppers concerned with how their products are made, it is no surprise that DSM is interested in adding less-chemical-sounding ingredients into its portfolio. The recent acquisition of the Amyris division also expanded its offerings in this category. Amyris is built around its No Compromise brand of clean ingredients.  

While DSM has been busy with M&A, it has also been active in its own innovation. In 2018, it formed a joint venture with Cargill to develop stevia-based sweeteners. In 2019, it announced a partnership with French agro-industrial group Avril to collaborate on developing plant-based protein from non-GMO canola.

This latest acquisition expands DSM’s footprint in another innovative category: fermentation. This technology has been gaining steam as a way to develop proteins. Companies that produce fermented proteins attracted a record amount of funding in 2020, according to a report from The Good Food Institute. The method is becoming a popular way to make everything from meat analogs to ingredients to animal-free dairy and egg proteins.

With hundreds of ingredients, a strong emphasis in R&D and its own proprietary fermentation technology, FCI gives DSM many options to better position itself in categories with high future growth potential.

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