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.”
But McCollum also warns of the downside of such a gold rush. “There are newcomers [reb-A suppliers] with ‘paper certificates,’ no validation, no audit reports, suppliers who cannot provide their manufacturing address, so beware. My recommendation is not only to look for GRAS documentation but also to demand independent audit reports of the manufacturing plant in order to ensure the quality of the product.”
Functional starches and fibers, such as inulin and pea flour, are finding their way into more products as consumers seek out more digestive health options.
Dubost sees better-informed consumers “seeking functional health benefits beyond such basics as antioxidant action,” for example. He also predicts “attention to more esoteric functional ingredient properties, such as anti-inflammatory action, will begin to climb.” The anti-inflammatory trend is part of the growing interest in immunity, especially as inflammatory response has been linked to obesity, cancer and heart disease.Function follows form
Such diseases and dysfunctions will continue to be the focus of makers of better-for-you foods, and for an oft-repeated reason: We’re getting older. “There will be more products specifically targeted to the aging population, so they can maintain cognitive and physical function later in life,” Scott Bush, vice president of health and nutrition marketing for Madison, Wis.-based Danisco USA (www.danisco.com).