Swedish design. Simple, functional home furnishing. Affordable prices. With over 375 stores in 47 countries, IKEA knows what customers around the world want for their everyday life at home. Around 640 million of these shoppers also pay a visit to the IKEA food outlets. The selection of drinks available changed greatly this past year. Eight new cold drinks for the beverage stations were developed for the global market in cooperation with an international team from Symrise. The new drinks use natural flavors and extracts.
IKEA has decided to transform its food and beverages range, widening the offer of healthier and more sustainable food. “We know that customers in our markets pay increasing attention to health and want to avoid drinks that contain too much sugar. That’s why we decided to develop options for our soft drinks,” says Henrik Ringdahl, Product Developer for Beverages & Confectionary at IKEA. “The goal was to reduce the sugar content by 50 % and thus also the number of calories. Turning this into a reality was an important challenge that we were able to overcome with Symrise.”
The sugar aspect was at the top of the agenda. But every item in the IKEA world also has to align with all five pillars of what is known as “democratic design.” All products in every section at IKEA are designed according to this principle. Form, function and quality have to be just right. The products should also be produced in a manner that is sustainable yet still affordable for customers. This applies to the IKEA food just as much as it does to dishes, chairs or shelving systems.
“We developed a solid concept by combining lots of small measures,” explains Steve Carter. With 23 years of experience at Symrise, the Senior Flavorist became familiar with every detail of the process during his work on the project. For instance, he ensured that the natural extracts and flavors that IKEA receives as syrups can be mixed with water at a ratio of 1:8. The previous drinks used a ratio of 1:5.5. This means that less weight needs to be transported to produce the same amount of end product – a contribution to sustainability. New packaging was also developed that makes it possible to use the syrup down to the very last drop. The previous packaging used at the beverage stations always left some unused product. Symrise has positioned itself even closer to customers like IKEA with a new production line for syrups in Singapore that is designed to deliver all of their requirements in terms of quality, efficiency, service, sustainability and safety.
Before choosing to go with Symrise, the company contacted several flavor houses with a general briefing. It also assessed trends on the global beverage market, discussed new concepts, took sustainability into consideration and negotiated prices. One important reason why IKEA chose Symrise was the quality of its service. “We are happy for the reliable contacts
with Symrise, they react quickly to requests and ideas,” Henrik Ringdahl says. This direct contact was also important for Henrik. “When we try samples together with the Symrise flavorists in the laboratory or our test kitchen, we can immediately provide feedback and discuss the finer details.”
Symrise was asked to consider traditional Swedish flavors like lingonberry and Swedish raspberry in the development of its recipes. Two additional main drink flavors were added: lemon and pear. IKEA stores offer beverages in these flavors in addition to mineral water. Another four optional flavors are available for the markets, adapted to the preferences of the various countries or regions: apple, green iced tea with citrus flavor, cola and elderflower. The last material provided a challenge in being translated into the right taste profile. Steve Carter initially tried using dried elderflower blossoms to produce the beverage, but was not satisfied with the result. “Instead, we mixed an extract made of fresh blossoms with natural molecules from honey or roses, for example.
This allowed us to achieve a very fresh, flowery flavor that is typical of elderberry and evokes memories of summer,” describes the flavorist. All drinks except those with cola or apple flavors are part of the flavored drinks segment that is currently very popular around the world. “Symrise showed that it has great know-how,” says Carolina Ojapalo, who supports the IKEA Key Account at Symrise. “With our ‘Code of Nature expertise’, fresh extracts and natural flavors, we have the best range of ingredients for these kinds of tasks.” The Brazilian native works in Turku, Finland but often travels internationally. She has been to places like Singapore, China, Japan, many European countries and the United States to familiarize herself with various markets for IKEA.
IKEA also launched three new children’s drinks as well as two iced teas with birch and pine flavors that were developed in cooperation with Symrise. The iced teas are a playful reference to the importance of wood as a raw material for the company. We will continue to work together. And we hope to be able to bring many other products to the market that will provide healthier and sustainable options.