Wellness Ingredient Trends 2008

Editor David Feder explains that there are trends in wellness that are so overarching as to be rote; obesity, diabetes and heart disease are really “megatrends.” The ingredient trends within them, however, are where processors will need to focus their energies.

By David Feder, R.D., editor

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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 Right now, pomegranate is the hot ingredient, but is likely to be superseded given that new ingredients are being continuously touted.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.

Tropical Storm

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.

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