At a time when job security is shaky and employees seem to switch companies as frequently as Silvio Berlusconi must switch PR consultants, Roquette's Didier Videau is a refreshing change.
Videau, market development director for Roquette Nutrition Business's European region, has steadfastly worked his way up the company for the past 24 years. Having studied chemical engineering and an MBA (Master in Business Administration) at Lille University, he joined as a laboratory development manager in charge of non-food markets.
Currently he is at the helm of Roquette's technical sales team, which consists of 25 chemical engineers. He covers all the product areas Roquette is active in, from baked goods and beverages to meat and fish products and sauces, dressings and soups.
"Now in the commercial sales business I'm in charge of the relationship with the customer in terms of development," he says.
Expansion in Europe
So what's been on his mind recently? In Europe, the watchword has been expansion, with new sales offices opening in Turkey and Denmark.
But there's more. "Roquette continues to intensify its activities in growth countries, where consumption of starch products currently seems to be five to 20 times lower than it is in western Europe, making them a target for the future. Another aim is to strengthen our business in south-east Asia, India, America and Russia."
His focus isn't just on geographical growth, but on making the most of the latest product development and research for customers. "The group is focused on nutrition and health and plant-based chemistry and devotes 50M to research and development (R&D)," he says.
Lately, he has had to keep pace with Roquette's growing business in glucono deltalactone (GDL), an additive with a range of guises, from an acidifier and coagulant to a baking agent. It's also employed extensively in cheesemaking to curdle milk.
Roquette has boosted capacity at its GDL Cassano Spinola factory in Italy. "The facility is aimed at the growing demand for GDL, notably in cheesemaking applications," says Videau. GDL enables greater efficiency in the process, producing greater yields and it avoids unpleasant 'clumping' effects.
In the arena of nutrition and health, the wildly see-sawing price and availability of animal proteins has led to Roquette's continuous research into alternative proteins. Hence Videau's continued activity surrounding its pea protein Nutralys, which it recently built into VegDelight: a new range of vegetable dessert concepts. "Today we continue to develop Nutralys as a meat protein replacer." The latest move for the product is the launch of a texturised pea protein with a protein content of about 65% called Texta pois 65/70.
Also called a 'meat-extender', textured pea protein can be used to make meat-based and vegetarian ready meals and as a partial substitute for meat in products such as burgers, meatballs and chicken nuggets, says Videau.
One of the main markets he's targeting with Roquette's vegetable proteins is seniors, with protein fortification helping to combat sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss. High protein panacotta dessert concepts for seniors based on Nutralys were launched at Vitafoods 2012 in Geneva in May. Roquette is also working on new pea protein applications for sports people to aid muscle building and recovery, he says.
Another array of promising products is compounds of microalgae, to which Roquette has devoted a specific innovation programme (Algohub). Microalgae are seen by the food industry as natural, sustainable and nutritious sources of a range of ingredients.
In this regard, Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals, the joint venture (JV) forged between Roquette and Solazyme in 2010, is yielding significant benefits.
One of the early fruits of the relationship is Almagine HL: a form of flour incorporating microalgae. Phase one of its production has begun in Roquette's Lestrem factory in France, where initial capacity stood at 300t. "We are now working on phase two an expansion to 5,000t," says Videau. "In addition to this, last February Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals and Roquette signed an exclusive agreement for the sale of microalgae-derived food ingredients in Europe, starting with Almagine HL."
Since Videau's task is to link customers with the various solutions Roquette can offer, he's had to keep pretty close to Almagine HL's development. "It has been taken over by Roquette's development team in Europe, where our lab and technical support teams have been developing and testing concepts and recipes."
The ingredient offers nutritional benefits in baked goods systems and functions as a texturiser, but, crucially, can also be an egg replacer. Here is a market offering great potential after EU egg rules banned eggs from battery caged hens being used for ingredients from the beginning of 2012.
A man like him has to be open to turning current trends to his advantage. He's certainly done this in the case of recently soaring prices for guar gum, which is commonly used in bakery for gelling, emulsifying and water-binding. "Bakers are unable to compromise on water absorption, softness or shelf-life and urgently need an alternative," says Videau. "Roquette offers an unusual insoluble fibre [Pea fibre] extracted from the pea. It is a naturally occurring vegetal compound composed of fibre, starch and protein. This gives it gelling and emulsifying properties in addition to water binding capacity."
He's also keeping an eye on the firm's research into soluble fibre's (Nutriose's) effects on satiety, weight management and metabolic syndrome determinants.
As his work is so demanding, you would think he'd want a quiet time when he gets home, but with five children he has another team to manage there. Yet still he finds time to travel from his home in Lille to Britanny to sail. Here, surely, is a man who can multi-task.