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By Wellness Foods staff | 11/23/2009
The argument can be made that, in an economic meltdown that turned R&D into “Wait and See,” trying to hit on what are the coming health and wellness food trends is merely throwing punches in the dark. The past year’s fiscal fiasco sent many a good company reeling. But the good news is a number of industries — not just food and beverage makers — are starting to stagger back to their feet and focus on ways to improve their positions.
Perhaps the biggest message sent to the food processing industry was the tsunami of a backlash -- by both consumers and feds (in the form of the FDA) -- to the “Smart Choice” front-of-package labeling campaign. This was a wellness foods debacle that led to cereals and snacks -- with half their content as sugar and loaded with artificial colors and flavors -- being touted as health foods.
We won’t point fingers here, but to all the big names that signed on and spent untold dollars, the smaller processors owe you a debt of gratitude. You opened the door for the little guys to not only keep but gain a bigger slice of the healthy pie by doing what they always do: being honest and sincere in creating good-for-you products. Rule No. 1 of any business: Respect the consumer. Now that the doors are cracked, here are the trends forecasted to throw them wide open.
Simple and Sweet
“A recent study Puratos sponsored shows 77 percent of consumers read ingredient statements on packaging and are using nutritional information to make their purchasing decisions,” says Matt Crumpton, vice president of marketing for Puratos USA (www.puratos.com), a Cherry Hill, N.J., maker of bakery and pastry ingredients and flavors. “It is a challenge to the food industry to develop healthier solutions that meet the taste and ingredient expectations of today’s ever-more demanding consumers.”
And what consumers are demanding is clear. “The new consumer mantra when it comes to health and wellness is ‘simple,’” says Kimberly Carson, director of beverage solutions for Sensient Flavors LLC (www.sensient-tech.com), Indianapolis. “Already there are products on grocery store shelves with ‘simple’ and ‘simply’ on the package, referencing both a simplification of the ingredient statement as well as…healthier ingredients.”
Nestle’s Haagen-Dazs capitalized on the fewer-is-better movement with the Five line -- only five ingredients in each variety.
Joy Dubost, principal nutritionist for PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., agrees. “Food labels will continue to focus on ‘greener and cleaner.’ Consumer demand for the least complicated ingredient list on a product will continue to increase, favoring [such qualities] as no additives or preservatives.”
Witness Haagen-Dazs’ Five. The all-natural ice cream, which debuted early this year, is made with only five ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, eggs and the selected flavor of the ice cream variety (vanilla, milk chocolate, coffee, mint, ginger, passion fruit, brown sugar).
This is backed up by Innova Market Insights (www.innovadatabase.com), Duiven, Netherlands. The global consumer research group places simplicity in its top spot for trends to expect for 2010. “The downturn is making people nostalgic for simpler times and simpler foods,” the market research company notes in its just-released, “Top Ten New Food Product Development Trends for 2010” analysis. “The interest in ‘back to basics’ has driven interest in natural and clean-label foods.”
Sweeteners are at an interesting crossroads because of the simplicity trend. Sensient’s Carson notes the clear consumer attitude toward both simple and sweet, highlighting increased focus on natural sweeteners such as agave, stevia, turbinado sugar, honey and cane sugar. “In addition to natural sweeteners, consumers are also driving innovation in the low-sugar beverage area,” she points out. Sensient is meeting this trend with a newly developed portfolio of solutions including natural masking solutions and natural fruit flavors.
On the full-calorie side, sugar is regaining some lost ground at the expense of high-fructose corn syrup. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi launched summertime-only products this year sweetened with cane sugar.
On the low-cal side, consumers who long feared “artificial” sweeteners were elated by the December 2008 FDA approval of plant extract stevia, more precisely its rebaudioside-A extract. “The benefits are undeniable for a non-caloric, natural sweetener that also offers excellent taste,” says Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president of supplier Blue California (www.bluecal-ingredients.com), Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
“2010 is going to be the year of reb-A,” predicts Jordi Ferre, vice president and general manager of PureCircle USA (www.purecircle.com), Oak Brook, Ill. “You’re going to see a number of product intros in beverage and dairy especially.”