Wellness Food Trends for 2009

Condition-based marketing and parental concern for babies and toddlers will provide opportunities for product developers in the year ahead.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Technical Editor

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The concept of friendly bacteria has made Activia and Danactive from Dannon (www.dannon-usa.com) the leading probiotics brands in the U.S. Dannon’s probiotic strains in dairy have a higher chance to survive passage through the GI tract. “In addition, when you consume the probiotic in dairy, you also are consuming a significant amount of protein and vitamins,” notes Miguel Freitas, director of R&D for Dannon USA.

A number of other formulators applying live cultures to bars and cereals. The difficulty is in the fragility of these live organisms, but ingredient manufacturers rapidly are developing the technology to keep friendly microbes alive during processing.

The green revolution(s)

Earlier this year it was Wal-Mart. Now online retail giant Amazon is focusing attention on ecologically friendly packaging. By the end of 2009, eco-friendly/green should become the rule, rather than the fringe, and the theme is especially connected to healthier products. As a result, sustainability is a subject of considerable interest to manufacturers. 

2009 may see efforts to standardize the definition of “green.” At the recent Pack Expo conference in Chicago, a speaker from Nestle touted the environmental friendliness of a plastic-tray baby food product over the previous glass one. The glass jar arguably is more recyclable; by being lighter, the plastic tray takes more soot-spewing trucks off the road. It takes more BTUs to melt sand into glass. But plastic requires petroleum.

Which is the environmentally correct answer?

We should expect also to see bigger growth in the principles of fair trade, which is becoming the norm for coffee, chocolate and bananas.

In the 2005-2006 rush to replace trans fats, many processors turned to palm oil. But the increased use of the oil also led to criticisms of the Malaysian palm oil industry over the conversion of tropical rainforests into plantations. New government and industry efforts are combatting the criticism and ensuring sustainability.

In August, the first Malaysian palm oil plantation was certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s only international association formed to codify sustainable industry practices. United Plantations Bhd received the Certificate of Conformance to RSPO Principles and Criteria. The company allowed investigation of its nine estates, six mills and conservation areas.

“Palm oil producers in Malaysia – along with the Malaysian government – are committed to preserving the country’s natural resources and biodiversity,” said Mohd Salleh Kassim, executive director of the American Palm Oil Council, which represents the Malaysian palm oil industry. “We want our consumers here in the U.S. to know that palm oil purchased in Malaysia is produced in a responsible, environmentally-friendly manner.” And he noted there now is “documentation to back-up our commitment to sustainable practices.”

Dedicated to promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil, the RSPO defines sustainable palm oil as production as “comprised of legal, economically viable, environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial management and operations.”

Several other Malaysian palm oil plantation companies are expected to be certified in the near future.

Gluten-Free: Where To?

Some product categories will be in great demand in 2009. Gluten-free products have been set to evolve from niche to mainstream, but previous predictions for this category have fallen short. While estimates of customers choosing gluten-free products are in the scores of millions, the number of people who have an actual diagnosis of Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is only 1-3 percent of the population.

That gluten-free industry is still capable of significant growth is evident when General Mills (www.generalmills.com), Minneapolis, replaced barley malt syrup in its Rice Chex cereal with molasses and adopted the necessary steps to prevent cross-contamination during production. (Ironically, the predominant gluten intolerance is often limited to wheat gluten.)

Mary’s Gone Crackers (www.marysgonecrackers.com), Gridley, Calif., formulated Sticks and Twigs, a whole-grain, crunchy snack, to be gluten-free. Nevertheless, its popularity among those who are not sensitive to gluten prompted founder Mary Waldner to launch gluten-free Mary’s Gone Cookies, which has developed a similar following with the non-celiac crowd.













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