I. Trend Shift
The paradigm shift from foods to ingredients in the focus on wellness has reached its “tipping point.” Independent market analyst Datamonitor (www.datamonitor.com), London, notes “the 65 percent of consumers who are trying to eat more healthily are no longer focused solely on reducing food intake or on moderating their consumption of perceived ‘dietary evils’ such as fats, sugars and salts.”
According to research provided by Lu Ann Williams, senior analyst for Innova Market Insights (www.innovadatabase.com), Duiven, Netherlands, satiety and appetite suppressants could be the next “magic bullet.” She also cites as big trends “super ingredients,” the “exotic and extreme fruits and extracts,” yet, conversely, “super simple” will be more important to consumers than “super premium.” Other ingredient trends Williams cites involve those which address memory, cognition, skin and beauty.”
Datamonitor’s research further shows a trend toward “positive nutrition” is emerging — consumers are “actively seeking nutrient-rich fresh, organic and functional food and drinks.” So-called superfoods and beverages rich in specific nutrients and phytochemicals such as anti-oxidants are promoted as able to improve health and/or prevent disease.
II. Last Year’s Trends Still Strong
There’s little sign of slowdown for previous ingredient stars, especially soy and omega oils. According to a report by Soyatech LLC (www.soyatech.com), Bar Harbor, Maine, increasing demand for protein will drive up world soy-protein production more than 7 percent per year by 2010, to nearly 4 million metric tons, translating to almost $4 billion. Other reports show double-digit growth for soy foods and ingredients on a global scale.
One carryover trend from last year is that for gluten-free products. The designation was extended to beverages, but the number of launches throughout the category continues to climb, along with sales that are approaching $750 million per year.
Omega oils are finding their way into a broader spectrum of products, and via a number of different sources. Catching up to odorless and flavorless microencapsulated salmon oil are omegas from flax, micro algae, chia and krill.
As omega oils such as DHA and EPA enter the food chain in dairy products, orange juice, cereals, bread and soups, a rush of research is linking the oils to more and more health benefits. In addition to heart health, omegas are proving helpful to immune function, vision, mental health, cognition and even improved outcomes for high-risk pregnancies.
Go With Your Gut
Probiotics have been on the cusp, still primarily associated in consumers’ minds with yogurt and yogurt beverages. But last year saw them segue to other dairy items, such as cheese, then make the jump to bars, breakfast foods and even chocolate.
Three things are pushing the probiotics trend: the recognition of gut health’s importance to obesity management and cancer prevention; the decades-old tradition of gut health-oriented foods and beverages overseas, coupled with the rising immigrant population bringing those traditions with them; and the subsequent fact our current generation of consumers doesn’t seem to have a problem talking about healthy bowel function.
As an example of how strong the probiotic trend is, GMA/FPA, citing separate sources, reported in November that Paris-based Groupe Danone (www.danone.com) posted nearly $2 billion in worldwide sales last year of its Activia yogurt product featuring its patented probiotic bacteria. This figure is up 30 percent over last year’s sales.
According to GMA/FPA, analysts say Activia’s introduction in the U.S. (through its Dannon division) “was one of the most successful product launches in recent food-industry history, with sales expected to reach $300 million this year.” Danone expects Activia and its Danactive brands to account for 40 percent of its yogurt business in 2008.
Last year saw critical mass arrive for weight-management ingredients that target satiety as opposed to caloric balance. Sugar replacers are still big business, but those with added satiety effects, such as inulin, or exotic botanical extracts such as the South Asian fruit Garcinia cambogia, are proving attractive. Garcinia cambogia, shown to suppress appetite and inhibit fat production, is the main ingredient in InterHealth Nutraceuticals (www.interhealthusa.com), Benicia, Calif., CitriMax and Super CitriMax formulations.
Next year could be the year for resistant starch, too. “The outlook for natural resistant starch in 2008 is bright,” states Rhonda Witwer, nutrition business development manager for Bridgewater, N.J.-based National Starch Food Innovation Inc. (www.foodinnovation.com), makers of HiMaize resistant starch from corn. “Its fermentation in the gut is critical for important metabolic benefits, including increased satiety, increased fat burning and increased insulin sensitivity in healthy people as well as individuals with type II diabetics, as well as reduced body fat in animal models. These metabolism benefits differentiate resistant starch from other types of non-fermentable fiber.”
MGP Ingredients Inc. (www.mgpingredients.com), Atchison, Kan., makes its Fibersym resistant starch from wheat. Able to deliver 70 percent total dietary fiber, it has a low water-holding capacity that allows for higher levels of inclusion to achieve labeling benefits as a nearly invisible source of natural fiber. Sweetener giant Tate & Lyle Inc. (www.tateandlyle.com) Decatur, Ill., also recognizes the promise of resistant starch, entering the field with Promitor brand of resistant starch.
Other “prebiotic” fibers and starches, such as oligosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin, also are trending up. “It’s pretty clear the industry is moving to incorporate more natural fibers within their formulas,” notes Darren Schubert, vice president of Grain Millers Inc. (www.grainmillers.com), Eugene, Ore. “This is because the industry is beginning to realize the potential of food ingredients and their relation to long-term health. Today’s R&D teams are focusing more on this and processing with more natural or organic, chemical-free ingredients.” Schubert also notes the rising interest in oat fiber and oat bran, “not just because of its high content of insoluble fiber and beta glucans, but the other key health benefits.”
II. Red Hot Reds and Purples and Blues
This trend is backed up by Michael Hughes, market analyst for Datamonitor: “Exotic, highly fashionable fruits such as açai berries, goji berries and pomegranates have all risen in popularity,” he writes. “Pomegranate is currently one of the most fashionable superfood ingredients. In the period January 2005 to May 2007, there had already been a 500 percent increase in the number of products using pomegranate…compared to 1999-2004. Right now, pomegranate is the hot ingredient, but is likely to be superseded given that new ingredients are being continuously touted. Monitoring these developments will be vital if industry players are going to fully capitalize on the superfoods movement.”
The class of polyphenolic antioxidants known as anthocyanins are what give red, purple and blue fruits and veggies their color. “Anthocyanins are one of the exciting polyphenolic compounds we’ve been studying in our laboratories looking at brain function, dementia and aging,” says James Joseph, Ph.D., director of neuroscience laboratory for the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Tufts University, Boston.
“Anthocyanins as part of a food matrix appear to get across the blood brain barrier better than isolated flavonoid fractions (in) a pill or an extract,” Joseph adds. “There may be specific receptor sites for anthocyanins and other polyphenols in the brain.”
"Demand for superfruit ingredients has grown rapidly, and these extracts offer beverage manufacturers a way to add antioxidant activity and other healthful properties to their finished products," says George Pontiakos, president and CEO of BI Nutraceuticals (www.binutraceuticals.com), Long Beach, Calif.
Perhaps the best bellwether of interest for these nutraceutical-rich juices is the new pomegranate blueberry juice from Minute Maid (www.minutemaid.com), Houston. Targeting mental performance (“Help Nourish Your Brain”), it completes the trend trifecta by including 50mg of Martek Biosciences life’sDHA omega 3 per 8-oz. serving.
It’s not just fruits. Tomatoes — the main and most familiar source of lycopene — played a big part of the red fruit revolution, drawing some of the earliest attention to the part color plays in nutrition. So much so we also have to add the new crops of colorful carrots in purples, reds and yellows, as well as arrivistes such as scarlet sweet corn, bred with added anthocyanins, to the edible rainbow revolution.
Mintel International Group Ltd.’s (www.mintel.com) Global New Products Database forecasts continued action in what it terms "Amazonia" — products and ingredients sourced from Brazil and the rainforest. For example, launches of foods containing açaí and cupuaçu grew by more than 70 percent in the first half of 2007, according to the research group. In fact, as many açaí and cupuaçu beverages were introduced in the first half of 2007 as in all of 2006.
Açai, the exotic Amazon berry that was the top-trend ingredient of 2006, spent last year popping up in multiple products, especially food (as opposed to bars and beverages). “We introduced North Americans to açai seven years ago, offering açai in a frozen pulp pack and as a powdered supplement to the natural foods industry,” says Laura Leinweber, director of communications of Sambazon (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif. “A year and a half ago we entered conventional grocery stores and are now offering product lines of açai in organic bottled juices, sorbets and smoothies.” The ingredient also is appearing in instant oatmeal formulations and RTE cereals.
Goji, reported as an up-and-coming trend last spring (see “Healthy Out West,” www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2007/079.html) are still moving forward. Beverage processors are taking advantage of goji’s antioxidant profile, specifically its high content of the carotenoids beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Indicative of the attraction the little rose-colored berries from Asia have is St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Inc.’s (www.anheuser-busch.com) new energy drink, 180 Red with Goji. It’s described as having a “slightly sweet cherry taste balanced with subtle tartness.” The berries also are becoming popular additions to cereals and bars.
Mangosteen in juice form was one of the big emerging superfruits of 2006/2007, thanks in part to companies such as Adam’s 100% Inc. (www.mangosteens.com), San Francisco, and Xango LLC. (www.xango.com), Lehi, Utah.
Xango began marketing the juice of the Southeast Asian fruit a few years ago as a supplement. The fruit’s deep burgundy rind and ivory-colored, lychee-like pulp is rich in xanthone antioxidants. Research shows xanthones may maintain intestinal health, strengthen the immune system, help support cartilage and joint function and protect the respiratory system.
Two big South American superfruits coming up are acerola and camu camu. Acerola was popular as a supplement a generation ago. The sour, bright-red cherrylike fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. It’s just now making a comeback as a beverage ingredient and could break big in 2008 or later.
Camu camu is also a vitamin C bonanza — in fact, the reddish-purple fruit has more C per gram than any other fruit. It also provides amino acids, beta-carotene, iron, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin and thiamine. Camu camu’s ability to balance the nutrition profile of some formulations makes it a serious contender for future Top Superfruit.
Ingredient suppliers are combing the rainforests, steppes and other exotic locales to find the next generation of trendy ingredients. Companies such as Earthfruits (www.earthfruits.com), South Jordan, Utah; Blue California (www.bluecal-ingredients.com), Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.; PLThomas (www.plthomas.com), Morristown, N.J.; Fona International Inc. (www.fona.com), Geneva, Ill.; and NP Nutra (www.npnutra.com), Hawthorne, Calif., offer such exotics as dragonfruit, cupuaçu, rambutan, camu-camu and yuzu in addition to the current crop of hot exotics such as the now ubiquitous pomegranate and açai.
Since 1984, many studies connected cranberries to health benefits ranging from cholesterol management and cancer and heart-disease protection to fighting cavities. The foremost benefit, though, was cranberry’s “anti-adhesion” effect on certain bacteria via compounds called proanthocyanidins. Because of this, cranberries and cranberry juice gained popularity as fighters of urinary tract infection and, a few years ago, H. pylori-induced stomach ulcers.
However, emerging science is showing cranberries could help protect against flu and lung conditions. According to the Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group (www.oceansprayitg.com), cranberry juice offers a non-specific antiviral effect toward different viruses. The world’s largest cranberry cooperative, Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass.-based Ocean Spray, noted an exponential global demand for cranberry products, especially sweetened dried cranberries, which saw sales rise 30 percent in 2006.
Decas Botanicals Inc. (www.decasbotanical.com), Carver, Mass., has kept pace with both the accelerating science and consumer demand for berry-derived nutraceuticals. The company expanded its expertise beyond cranberries to a full line of berry extract powders and combinations for multiple food and beverage applications. This is in addition to its growing production of enhanced dried cranberries and omega-rich cranberry seed oil.
Tart cherries are another domestic red fruit, are being remarketed for their health properties. According to the Cherry Marketing Institute (www.choosecherries.com), Danville, Calif., they’re not only a strong antioxidant, cherries exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a significant source of melatonin, a hormone-like compound known to regulate sleep and mood. While available fresh for only about eight weeks out of the year, manufacturers and consumers can get tart cherries year round in dried, frozen, or juice forms.
Grapes also are loaded with polyphenolic compounds, including anthocyanins, flavonoids (such as quercetin) and stilbenes (such as resveratrol). Resveratrol is believed to protect against cancer, vascular disease and osteoporosis. It also may help regulate cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal capacity. San Joaquin Valley Concentrates (www.activin.com), Fresno, Calif. The company provides ActiVin water-soluble resveratrol powder, a heat-stable product that can be added to beverages or the liquid portion of a food formulation.
Blueberries, including wild blueberries, have become core players in the antioxidant and berry categories. They saw continued growth in consumer awareness and demand last year, according to the Wild Blueberry Assn. of North America (www.wildblueberries.com), Old Town, Maine. “From consumer research, we know today’s health and wellness-oriented public wants more information about antioxidants than ever before,” notes Ruth Lowenberg, of the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (www.blueberry.org). “They want to know which antioxidants are in their foods and how they work, and want to take their knowledge to another level to go deeper into understanding antioxidant research.”
Currants, once held back by legal issues, were set free in the United States at just the right time. The little berries, as with the other fruits in this category, turned out to be concentrated with antioxidant compounds. Moreover, the popularity of currant juice in Europe made it easier to introduce a growingly worldly American palate to the tart and tiny fruit. As crops in North America expand, so too will currants’ popularity.
IV. Bounty of Botanicals
Meanwhile, the Europeans have taken notice of the burgeoning American interest in botanicals and are bringing over old favorites that are new to these shores. Companies such as Naturex (www.naturex.com), Avignon, France, are promoting both the flavor and health aspects of extracts of elderflower, bergamot, rose hips, fig, juniper, gentian, muscat grape and blood orange.
Those and other combinations of “old” and “new” were profiled by Mark Blumenthal, director of the Austin, Texas-based American Botanical Council (www.herbalgram.org) in a presentation at the Supply Side West International Trade Show and Conference in Las Vegas in November. Blumenthal specifically targeted the emerging trend of “older herbs with new uses” and the ongoing science supporting same.
Other botanicals showing new promise include hibiscus as an antihypertensive, rhubarb – common as a laxative in Germany – as an anti-anxietal, vitamin C-rich rose hips and hops as anti-inflammatories, chokeberries for diabetes management and blood orange for its hesperidin flavonoids and anthocyanins.
Processors continue to recognize the increasing impact health and wellness has on consumers. When Datamonitor surveyed nearly 1,000 global industry executives from the consumer packaged goods industry, health was identified as “the most important of the 10 Datamonitor mega-trends shaping new product development and marketing.” The independent marketing group found nearly two-thirds of consumers take more steps to eat more healthily and “more than half of European and U.S. shoppers use nutritional information on packaging with greater regularity to make food and drink choices.”
Research clearly shows Americans are seeking foods and beverages that fill dual needs for both greater health and more convenience. The good news for processors is modern consumers are more open-minded than ever to having those needs met via unusual and innovative ingredient sources.