In the past few years, ingredient trends completed a full merging of taste and health – gone are the days when the consumer will accept anything less than excellent flavor in a good-for-you product. The sudden surge in demand for ingredients such as red and purple fruits and vegetables loaded with antioxidants proves the rule. Just think of where such items as pomegranates and berries are today compared to even a few years ago.
Health-conscious consumers are increasingly enjoying food and drink products to supplement health care. Increased travel is exposing consumers to a wider range of ethnic foods and exotic flavors. The “reward factor,” acting as compensation for a demanding society, inspires more indulgent flavors with an emphasis on intense taste.
“Today’s consumers are open to a wider range of influences than they were 20 or even 10 years ago,” says Scott Mortensen, senior marketing manager of International Flavors & Fragrances Global/North America Beverages (www.iff.com), New York. “They think, act and wish to be treated as individuals which creates increased market segmentation. The range of flavors used in the food and beverage industry has diversified greatly in recent years and will continue to do so.”
Old flavors with new personalities
According to Mortensen, we can look for old flavors to take on new personae in 2008. “As consumers become more sophisticated in their taste preferences, we see an increase in familiar flavors being defined in different ways. For example, lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit are now expanding into Meyer lemon, yuzu, key lime, kaffir lime, blood orange, Valencia orange, mandarin orange and more.”
Herbs, spices and botanicals can be expected to expand beyond the tea segment and provide a unique taste experience. “While we currently have mint, cinnamon, ginger and honey, this field is moving into rooibos, lemongrass, clove, parsley mint, jasmine, saffron and others,” adds Mortensen. “There’s an entire group of exotic flavors right on the horizon, including tres leches, roasted Jamaican pineapple, tamarind, mojito, plantain, wasabi and many more.
“Fruits with high antioxidant value are poised to break out of the niche segment. Consumers desire for well being will drive the superfruit flavors açai, acerola, mangosteen, goji, jabotacaba and passion fruit into the mainstream over the next few years.”
In what applications are we most likely to see new ingredients appear? According to Mortensen, “Consumer preference is driven by the benefits of electrolyte replenishment and the energy rush. Functional drinks are predicted to grow 40 percent, reaching 9 billion liters by 2011.”
Many consumers caught up in a busy lifestyle are looking for tastier and more convenient ways to take advantage of vitamins, minerals and newly researched phytochemicals, especially when it comes to beverages. That was the reasoning of Lori Mulligan and Lynne Gerhards, founders of Pure Inventions LLC. (www.pureinventions.com), Little Silver, N.J.
Their innovative contributions to nutrition for the New Year arrive in the form of “superfood” extracts that can transform almost any beverage into a potent source of phytochemicals. Concentrating several cups of exotic fruits, cocoa, and green tea into a dropper, the extracts can be added to hot or cold water, creating a healthy alternative to the high-calorie sugar-based drinks currently on the market. They also can be added to a variety of foods such as yogurt or oatmeal for a delicious breakfast or on-the-go snack.
For processors, “superfruit” concentrates can be a valuable nutrient boost. “Achieving sufficient levels of nutrients in food and beverage products in order to make valid health claims, can pose a challenge to processors (i.e. label declaration), says Markus Eckert, vice president of technical (flavors) at Mastertaste (www.mastertaste.com), Teterboro, N.J.
Mastertaste’s new NutraFlavors, available in freeze-dried crystals, spray-dried powders and emulsions, contain juice, extracts and nutrients from fruits like cranberry and grape. They add no artificial colors, solvents, chemically-modified food starches or synthetic preservatives, and deliver high levels of valuable nutrients as an integrated part of the flavor system. “With NutraFlavors, manufacturers can use the great superfruit flavors they incorporate in their products to also deliver the full health benefits of the fruit itself, says Eckert.”
Ingredients to take to heart
With baby boomers entering their seniority, the big health issues, such as heart health, are driving the creation of many innovative products. According to Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs & communications manager for Cargill Health & Nutrition, (www.cargill.com), Minneapolis, some up-and-coming food issues for the coming year include: heart health, whole grains, weight and energy management.
Cargill has created a number of ingredients designed to aid manufactures in addressing these issues. “CoroWise brand plant sterols are an in-demand ingredient for a growing number of foods and beverages. Plant sterols have been clinically shown to lower LDL cholesterol, are backed by an FDA heart-health claim and are recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program.”
Barliv, another Cargill product in commercial development, is a high-purity, beta-glucan soluble fiber from barley. SaltWise sodium reduction system allows food manufacturers to reduce sodium levels by 25 to 50 percent, and the company’s Clear Valley brand of solid shortenings provide high-quality taste and performance with 0g of trans fat per serving.
Americans accept and even expect to see more whole grains and dietary fiber in their daily fare for the New Year. But that doesn’t mean they want to taste the fiber. Cargill’s Oliggo-Fiber is a source of inulin and oligofructose, fructose polymers often referred to as “invisible fiber” because they can be incorporated into almost any food or beverage without affecting taste or texture. “Research indicates that inulin may enhance dietary calcium absorption, particularly among preteens and postmenopausal women, adds Stauffer.